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Energy Efficiency: South Dakota in Top 10 for Home, Bottom 10 for Vehicles

South Dakota is the third-most energy-efficient state in the Lower 48.…if you only count Trump states.

Governing points to a WalletHub report that figures state energy efficiency on home energy efficiency, as measured by total per capita residential energy consumption per annual degree days, and vehicle energy efficiency, as measured by annual vehicle miles driven per gasoline consumption and annual vehicle miles driven per capita.

South Dakota ranks #8 for home energy efficiency—we gobble up a lot of energy, but since WalletHub divides that consumption by degree days, evidently intending to cut people slack for surviving, and since we live in the region with the most degree days in the country (winter’s coming, and that’s what blows up our energy bills), our ranking comes out really good. That ranking thus suggests that, having to use so much energy to survive the winter, we’ve internalized the lessons of our Dust-Bowl forebears and learned to weatherproof our houses, conserve our winter energy, and wear longjohns so we can keep the thermostat down a couple ticks. If we weren’t efficient with our energy, we’d go broke.

That high ranking for energy efficiency may thus be deceiving: we may get more out of each BTU we burn, but each of us still uses more energy to keep our homes livable than we would if we lived in any of 43 other states. If we wiped the continent clean of people and started recolonizing from scratch to optimize our home energy usage, we’d settle Hawaii, California, Florida, the District of Columbia, Nevada, and Arizona first.

Whatever efficiency we’ve adopted out of necessity in home energy use has not translated into efficiency in auto energy. WalletHub ranks us 46th for vehicular efficiency. Our wide open spaces require us to drive a lot, yet we insist on driving less-efficient trucks to cover a greater proportion of those miles than folks in most other states. It’s all those darned smoky Trump-brownshirt trucks….

WalletHub combines our #8 for home energy efficiency and our #46 for auto energy efficiency to rank us #22 overall. Only two states that voted for Trump in 2020, Florida and Utah, ranked higher overall. Everybody else from #2 to #20 was a Biden state in 2020.

Our Biden neighbor Minnesota is just as cold as South Dakota, and its country folk have as many miles to cover and as much lumber and groceries to haul back to the homestead as we do, yet Minnesota manages to rank #2 for home energy efficiency, #26 for auto energy efficiency, and #4 for combined efficiency.


  1. Richard Schriever 2021-10-16 09:07

    That fuel consumption must include non-personal vehicles. Lots of trucks have to cross our wide open prairies to get from one producing and consuming population to another. In addition. our own internal journeys make it a necessity to be able to carry a lot of stuff with us as we go = bigger personal vehicles = fewer longer trips to move our stuff with us.

    This is yet anther peripheral example of the economic concept of the friction of distance. That being, fewer people will make the choice to live where it’s a mile too far from services to make economic sense to travel back and forth.

  2. Porter Lansing 2021-10-16 09:53

    That’s BS, Richard.

    People in SD think they’re “rebels” because they can drive big vehicles and waste energy, just because.

    Anything to thumb their noses at liberals, who are actually working to make their MAGA lives better.

  3. Bonnie B Fairbank 2021-10-16 13:35

    ‘Way back in the Cretaceous, when (and where) I lived in Minnesota, almost every family I knew had some sort of wood burning stove for the winter. One simply could not afford to heat a house, garage, or shop otherwise; this was during the “energy crisis.” Rural MN had trees pretty much everywhere, and, while not great for air quality, industrious people managed to keep warm and plumbing unfrozen with fire wood.

    I don’t know MN conditions and regulations now, but I suspect rural residents still burn a cord or two when it’s 23 below zero during the day.

    I agree with you, Porter Lansing. The two nastiest, smokiest, biggest Chevy beaters I see in Hot Springs have “NOT A LIBERAL” and “DOES NOT PLAY OR WORK WELL WITH DEMOCRATS” and “TRUMP 2020” bumperstickers. Like that’s something to be proud of. Oh, my achin’ head.

  4. Steve Willard 2021-10-16 19:50

    My wife drives a F-150 because she likes to sit up high for visibility. I like the fact that she’s in a truck for safety purposes and living in Pierre, we’ve needed 4 wheel drive plenty over the years. Sometimes a truck is a choice of utility and not a political statement.

  5. John 2021-10-16 19:52

    Much to unpack here. Allow me to try using only 2 weblinks.
    First, electric vehicles are the future, sooner than you think. (See generally the book, The Future is Closer Than you Think). Consumer choices show projections that oil-rich Norway will sell its last internal combustion engine (ICE) car in April 2022. Norwegians are finding it challenging to resell 5-yo Audi ICE vehicles for much more than scrap value. Globally, ICE sales are cratering (blaming chips, not taking responsibility for an inferior product) while EV sales increase exponentially. Conventional ICE vehicle companies are seeing their revenues dry up, which reduces their tardy planning and retooling for EVs. Bankruptcy is clearly a likely future for most ICE companies. Why? Costs. Consumer preferences. And costs. It’s far less expensive to own and operate an EV over an ICE vehicle. Here in rural America — the cost per mile savings is GREATER than that for our urban cousins. We drive more in rural America, often twice as much. So we’ll save more converting to EVs. Unrealistic you huff, recall that Custer hosts its 8th annual Sounds of Silence Tesla rally in 2022. This month the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio. entered a Memorandum of Understanding that conceives of regional planning for EV charging infrastructure. The future is closer than you think.

    Second, consider the studies of Tony Seba & company on 10,000 years of human transformations. Consider the studies and EV work of others to include but not limited to The Electric Viking, Solving the Money Problem (disclosure: his only stock investment is TESLA now worth $5m), and Dr Know-it-all Knows All (see especially: A Quarter of VW Jobs, and Legacy Auto Sales), among others.

    Third, Seba’s address on human transformations facing us begins at 7:24. Consider viewing this version as it contains the 28-minute Q&A after his talk. Seba addresses several transformation issues addressing rural America in the Q&A. Total time1:37.

    Fourth, and pre-dating Seba’s and RethinkX talk to the Council of State Governments — Seba and RethinkX warn us of the HUGE bubble in utility infrastructure based on faulty economics. This bubble is larger than the subprime bubble. The entrepreneur Chamath Palihapitiya recently sold his Tesla holdings (held from 2014 to 2021) to invest to the much larger opportunity he sees in busting the utility bubble. Why does this matter to our discussion of heating our homes? — We presently heat our homes via a 120-year old economic model of monopolistic utilities. That worked then with that technology. But now we can independently produce, store, our own electricity. We need the means to sell that electricity free from the monopolies. We need a citizens Energy Bill of Rights. We sell ideas and goods via the internet. We need the freedom, the capitalist freedom (hat tip to the MAGMA nuts) to produce and sell our electricity. See RethnkX’s report, The Great Stranding, video version here: paper version available through their website. We need capitalism in the energy distribution system.

    Fifth, consider that the old men and women on county commissions may not be wise gray beards, but rather may be ossified, irrelevant numskulls. This week the Meade County Commission refused to even listen to a wind developer’s proposal. Seba and RethinkX showed that solar, wind, and battery electric systems are cheaper than even maintaining stranded oil, gas, coal, nuclear, and even hydro electric generating systems.

    Summarizing, I focused my thoughts on 2 of the technology transformation convergences that were topics of Cory’s post: transportation and energy, the reader should consider the broader scope of Seba’s and RethinkX’s 10,000 study of human transformations. Lastly, focus hard on Seba’s caution at 59:57 – the instability (volatility, market and social violence) – that ‘we haven’t seen nothing yet’, during the swirling shocks that feed on each other through the system during the 2020s while the entrenched futility fight to remain viable (and tax/rates/retard the rest of us with their schemes).

    Spend your Sunday blowing your mind through the 2020s and into the 2030s instead of wasting it on futball. The future is closer than you think.

  6. Richard Schriever 2021-10-16 20:18

    Porter – just go ahead and try to carry your new TV home on the subway anywhere in SD – or the train, or just trundle down the street on a cart. Good luck.

  7. ArloBlundt 2021-10-16 20:25

    well…I’m with Bonnie on this one…best investment I made was a Norwegian, high efficiency wood stove…living on the plains you have to scrounge for wood, but a BTU is a BTU whether it comes from a trunk of chinese elm somebody hauled to the dump. a cottonwood fallen over in the ditch, or a piece of 100 year old burr oak. Also burned everything from pallet wood to black hills pine. Went through a couple chain saws and an old pick up but kept the kids warm through the years of raising them and kept my gas consumption down to the hours of 3AM to 6AM. Biggest problem I had was keeping my back in one piece. A friend of mine observed, “When you’re burning wood its a sure sign you’ve got more time than money.”

  8. Jake 2021-10-16 20:44

    Bonnie-somehow, there deosn’t seem to be a need to advertise the fact that one is ignorant as hell when flying a ‘trumpy’ flag or flailing about with the right wing dogma of the day. Ignornance abounds,
    we somehow have to pray for patience with them, sort of like spoiled kids……

  9. Porter Lansing 2021-10-16 21:01

    1. A Citizen’s Energy Bill of Rights 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

    2. @Richard I don’t live where I need to carry anything. I live where energy consumption is consolidated and products are delivered.

    3. 80.7 % of Americans live in urban areas. It’s not that you rurals don’t matter, it’s that you’re clinging to “the old way” just out of fear of having to learn something new.
    Brains are like muscles and y’all are in mental wheelchairs.

  10. grudznick 2021-10-16 21:30

    grudznick’s libbie neighbors almost all drive Subarus. They think they are saving the planet, and are pretend tree huggers. I go out and pull them out of the deep snow, or have my man do it, almost every heavy snow. If you want to live in Miami, drive a Subaru. If you want to live on the outskirts of Rapid City with butt thumping roads up to your area, drive a real car. I’m just sayin…

  11. Porter Lansing 2021-10-16 22:10

    grudznick is a piece of work, for sure.

    Is the new F-150 electric for sale down there on the flatlands, yet?

    Can’t keep ’em on the lot, here; they’re so da*mned popular.

  12. William Rosin 2021-10-17 07:06

    Steve, how safe would your wife be if 2 F150’s ran into each other? 4 wheel drives don’t all come in 3.5 ton versions. How many 4 door, 4 wheel drives are on the road with 1 operator, not hauling anything, or pulling anything (which is what they were designed for). hauling your lb. around in a 3.5 ton vehicle is how efficient??

  13. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-10-17 08:19

    I drove a Ford Bronco, then a Dodge van, then a Jeep, all relatively high-riding-for-visibility vehicles for over 20 years. I switched to the relatively low-riding Beetle and now a Nissan Juke over the past decade. I haven’t missed the higher seat or the higher gasoline expenses.

    If we all drove smaller cars, we’d all be safer. We can’t keep playing this expensive arms race of driving larger and larger tanks.

  14. Donald Pay 2021-10-17 10:06

    If you live in the country or you have to drive through the country in the upper Midwest, I’m not saying anything about your truck or SUV. I used to drive from Rapid to Pierre in the winter in a sedan. Some winters it wasn’t bad. Other winters it was a heart pounding experience.

    On the other hand, I would see urban cowboys in Rapid who wash their big trucks more than I wash my body, park them across two parking stalls, and never go two meters outside city limits. Their truck was for show. If you’ve got to cart stuff around in your truck, like tools or you’re doing work, fine. If your are just showing off, just leave it at the showroom for the real men.

  15. Bonnie B Fairbank 2021-10-17 10:54

    I’ll ‘fess up. My only vehicle is a battered 2001 4×4 Toyota Tundra I use to “git around” and collect used, safe to burn wooden pallets. I cut them up with a 7-1/4″ Makita circular saw on a cutting table I built. I stack the (already harvested and dried) chunks for firewood. Nothing about this is fun, glamorous, or easy on the back, but my critters and I stay warm and I can cook food and heat water on my stove.

  16. mike from iowa 2021-10-17 11:15

    I own and drive a 1995 Jeep Cherokee with full time 4 wheel drive. In line, 4.0 liter six banger with no operational cruise control or overdrive. Both went out the same day. It is rusty and dented and has 230k miles and stills starts and runs good enough I haven’t found a replacement for it, yet. Still looking for similar vehicle. I live six miles from nearest town and only drive an average of 8k miles per year and falling.

  17. larry kurtz 2021-10-18 19:35

    Like South Dakota, New Mexico is home to many people living on the margins and fuel wood heats thousands of homes yet Bentleys and Teslas are common sights here.

    But unlike in my home state of South Dakota having a majority Democratic congressional delegation and legislature means never having to say we’re sorry for partnering with the federal government to improve people’s lives.

    Avangrid, Inc., a US-based subsidiary of Spanish energy firm Iberdrola with a base in my home town of Elkton, South Dakota has spent at least $216 million on a wind farm. That amount of cash would take nearly 17,000 electric subscribers completely off the grid. Pending approvals Iberdrola and Avangrid will acquire Public Service of New Mexico (PNM) for about $4.3 billion. The move came just before voters changed the state’s regulatory body to an elected five-member board to a three person governor-appointed commission.

    The average cost of a household photovoltaic system has dropped below $3/watt or less than $12,810 before tax credits are factored in and leaving the grid has never been easier so anyone who can afford to it should do it now.

    Don’t tie your system to the grid but if you use it as a backup keep your electricity completely invisible to the utility that reads your meter. Microgrid technologies are destined to encourage self-reliance, enhance tribal sovereignty, free communities from electric monopolies and net-metering only gives control back to utilities enabled by moral hazard.

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