The map above is a first rough cut at where the stress of peak oil (or any oil shock) is likely to be greatest. It comes from taking county level data from the Census Quick Facts and extracting two variables: the average travel time to work (from the 2000 census), and the median household income (from 2008 data). The idea is that if average travel time is long, that probably indicates that people in that county need a lot of oil to run their cars. On the other hand, if income is low, they are probably going to have more trouble paying for that oil. So I divided the travel time by median income, and then rescaled that index by its own average and standard deviation to produce a map of where the problems are likely to be greatest.
This is a fairly rough methodology. In particular:
- It's average, county-level, data, so this may miss a lot of neighborhood level details
- It ignores other calls on people's income (like housing costs)
- It assumes that work travel time is a decent indicator of overall household oil need (in particular, it misses north-eastern dependence on heating oil).
Looking at the individual variables, here's median household income per county (on a scale of white being $10k/year, with fully saturated purple being $90k/year):
And here's average travel time to work for the working population over 16, on a scale of white being 10 minutes, and fully saturated cyan being 40 minutes:
You can see that the problem with the south is that incomes are not that high, but travel times are generally long. So when you take the ratio, that's where the stress shows up worst:
Finally, here's a 3-D visualization looking over the south-eastern region, with height of county representing population density:
All visualizations were done in Google Earth with KML files generated by some custom Perl hackery.