The Great Rural-Urban Divide Is at the Heart of the Energy Debate

Census data reveals a fundamental fact about our great rural-urban divide on energy. Rural folks are the makers. Urban folks are the uninformed takers.

While many urban areas (e.g., New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Seattle) have controlled much of the media and political discussion about fracking and climate change, it is our the rural areas that are actively pursuing a more balanced approach to energy and economic development in the US. This is but a part of the rural-urban divide but a most important part.

There is one factoid that most accurately describes the great divide between the city and the country: “Rural areas cover 97 % of America’s land, but contain only 19.3 % (about 60 million people),” wrote Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson in a news release from late 2016. Here are the essentials (emphasis added):

As the nation’s largest household survey, the American Community Survey is the only annual dataset that produces this range of statistics for all of the nation’s 3,142 counties. For the three-fourths of all counties with populations too small to produce single-year statistics (2,323 counties), it is the only available dataset.

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