Energy Sources and Uses (USA)

February 20, 2022

Energy in the United States

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

See also: Electricity sector in the United States

The United States is the largest energy consumer in terms of total use, using 100 quadrillion BTUs (105 exajoules, or 29 PWh in 2005. This is three times the consumption by the United States in 1950.[1] The U.S. ranks seventh in energy consumption per-capita after Canada and a number of small countries.[2][3]

The vast majority of this energy is derived from fossil fuels: in 2005, it was estimated that 40% of the nation's energy came from petroleum, 23% from coal, and 23% from natural gas.Nuclear power supplied 8.4% and renewable energy supplied 7.3%, which was mainly from hydroelectric dams although other renewables are included such as wind powergeothermaland solar energy.[4] Energy consumption has increased at a faster rate than energy production over the last fifty years in the U.S.(when they were roughly equal). This difference is now largely met through imports.[1]

According to the Energy Information Administration's statistics, the per-capita energy consumption in the US has been somewhat consistent from the 1970s to today. The average has been 335.9 million BTUs per person from 1980 to 2006. One explanation suggested for this is that the energy required to produce the increase in US consumption of manufactured equipment, cars, and other goods has been shifted to other countries producing and transporting those goods to the US with a corresponding shift of green house gases and pollution. In comparison, the world average has increased from 63.7 in 1980 to 72.4 million BTU's per person in 2006. On the other hand, US "off-shoring" of manufacturing is sometimes exaggerated: US domestic manufacturing has grown by 50% since 1980.

The development of renewable energy and energy efficiency marks "a new era of energy exploration" in the United States, according to President Barack Obama.[5]


US energy consumption, by source, 1850-2000. Vertical axis is in quadrillion BTU

From its founding until the late 18th century, the United States was a largely agrarian country with abundant forests. During this period, energy consumption overwhelmingly focused on readily available firewood. Rapid industrialization of the economy, urbanization, and the growth of railroads led to increased use of coal, and by 1885 it had eclipsed wood as the nation's primary energy source.

Coal remained dominant for the next 7 decades, but by 1950, it was surpassed in turn by both petroleum and natural gas. As of 2011, coal consumption is the highest it has ever been, with coal mostly being used to generate electricity. Natural gas, which is cleaner-burning and more easily transportable, has replaced coal as the preferred source of heating in homes, businesses and industrial furnaces. Although total energy use increased by approximately a factor of 50 between 1850 and2000, energy use per capita increased only by a factor of 4.

At the beginning of the 20th century, petroleum was a minor resource used to manufacture lubricants and fuel for keroseneand oil lamps. One hundred years later it had become the preeminent energy source for the U.S. and the rest of the world. This rise closely paralleled the emergence of the automobile as a major force in American culture and the economy.

While petroleum is also used as a source for plastics and other chemicals, and powers various industrial processes, today two-thirds of oil consumption in the U.S. is in the form of its derived transportation fuels.[6] Oil's unique qualities for transportation fuels in terms of energy content, cost of production, and speed of refueling have made it difficult to supplant with technological alternatives developed so far.

In June 2010, the American Energy Innovation Council,[7] (which includes Bill Gates, Microsoft; Jeffrey R. Immelt, chief executive of General Electric; and John Doerr) has urged the government to more than triple spending on energy research and development, to $16 billion a year. Mr. Gates endorsed the administration’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, but said that was not possible with today’s technology or politicism. He said that the only way to find such disruptive new technology was to pour large sums of money at the problem. The group notes that the federal government spends less than $5 billion a year on energy research and development, not counting one-time stimulus projects. About $30 billion is spent annually on health research and more than $80 billion on military R.& D. They advocate a jump in spending on basic energy research.[8]


Current consumption

U.S. Energy Flow - 2009. A quad is 1015 BTU, or 1.055 × 1018joules. Note that the breakdown of useful and waste energy in each sector (yellow vs. grey) may be misleading because much of the 'lost' energy consists of unavoidable losses arising from the Second Law of thermodynamics: heat engines cannot convert 100% of thermal energy into useful work, and must dump a fraction of waste heat into the environment.



The U.S. Department of Energy tracks national energy consumption in four broad sectors: industrial, transportation, residential, and commercial. The industrial sector has long been the country's largest energy user, currently representing about 33% of the total. Next in importance is the transportation sector, followed by the residential and commercial sectors.

Sector Summary

Sector Name


Major uses[9][10][11]


Facilities and equipment used for producing and processing goods.

22% chemical production
16% petroleum refining
14% metal smelting/refining


Vehicles which transport people/goods on ground, air or water.

61% gasoline fuel
21% diesel fuel
12% aviation


Living quarters for private households.

32% space heating
13% water heating
12% lighting
11% air conditioning
8% refrigeration
5% electronics
5% wet-clean (mostly clothes dryers)


Service-providing facilities and equipment (businesses, government, other institutions).

25% lighting
13% heating
11% cooling
6% refrigeration
6% water heating
6% ventilation
6% electronics

The breakdown of energy consumption by source is given here:

Fuel type

                2006 US consumption in PWh[12]    2006 World consumption in PWh[13]

Oil                                       11.71                                                    50.33

Gas                                        6.50                                                    31.65

Coal                                   6.60                                                    37.38

Hydroelectric                       0.84                                                  8.71

Nuclear                               2.41                                                    8.14

Geothermal, wind,
solar, wood, waste                0.95                                                      1.38

Total                                   29.26                                                    138.41

U.S, Primary Energy Consumption by Source and Sector in 2008 is tabled as following:

Consumption Summary'[14]


71% Transportation
23% Industrial
5% Residential and Commercial
1% Electric Power


95% Petroleum
2% Natural Gas
3% Renewable Energy

Natural Gas

3% Transportation
34% Industrial
34% Residential and Commercial
29% Electric Power


42% Petroleum
40% Natural Gas
9% Coal
10% Renewable Energy


8% Industrial
<1% Residential and Commercial
91% Electric Power

Residential and Commercial

16% Petroleum
76% Natural Gas
1% Coal
1% Renewable Energy

Renewable Energy

11% Transportation
28% Industrial
10% Residential and Commercial
51% Electric Power

Electric Power

1% Petroleum
17% Natural Gas
51% Coal
9% Renewable Energy
21% Nuclear Electric Power

Nuclear Electric Power

100% Electric Power




Regional variation

Average annual residential electricity usage by city, 2000-2005. Measured in Kilowatt hours per customer.[16]

Household energy use varies significantly across the United States. An average home in the Pacific region (consisting of California, Oregon, and Washington) consumes 35% less energy than a home in the South Central region. Most of the regional differences can be explained by climate. The heavily populated coastal areas of the Pacific states experience generally mild winters and summers, reducing the need for both home heating and air conditioning. The warm, humid climates of the South Central and South Atlantic regions lead to higher electricity usage, while the cold winters experienced in the Northeast and North Central regions result in much higher consumption of natural gas and heating oil.

Another reason for regional differences is the variety of building codes and environmental regulations found at the local and state level. California has some of the strictest environmental laws and building codes in the country, which may contribute to the fact that its per-household energy consumption is lower than all other states except Hawaii.

Major U.S. cities also show significant variation in per capita energy consumption. In addition to differences in regional climates and variations in building code standards, factors affecting energy use in cities include population density and building design. Townhouses are more energy-efficient than single-family homes because less heat, for example, is wasted per person.

Oil consumption

U.S. oil consumption is approximately 21,000,000 barrels per day (3,300,000 m3/d), yet domestic production is only 6 million barrels per day (950,000 m3/d). Hence, the majority of oil consumed in the United States must be imported. The cost to import oil is approximately $410 billion dollars a year (at $75/barrel).[citation needed] In 2010 2/3 of total petroleum consumption was for transportation. Almost 2/3 of transportation consumption was gasoline.[17]

During the Carter administration, in response to an energy crisis and hostile Iranian and Soviet Union relations, President Jimmy Carter announced the Carter Doctrine which declared that any interference with U. S. interests in the Persian Gulf would be considered an attack on U.S. vital interests.[18] This doctrine was expanded by Ronald Reagan.[19]

Today, some scholars and politicians[who?] call for the immediate incubation of long term energy solutions prior to a 'peak oil' scenario[citation needed] which would negatively affect the economy.[citation needed]

Electricity production

Electricity production by source.

  coal, oil, natural gas



  Other renewables

Further information: Electricity sector of the United States

That United States has and continues to get most of its electrical production from conventional thermal power plants. Most of these are coal; however, the 1990s and 2000s have seen a disproportionate increase in natural gas and other kinds of gas powered plants.

From 1992 to 2005 some 270,000 MWe (Megawatt electric) of new gas-fired plant were built, but only 14,000 MWe of new nuclear and coal-fired capacity came on line, mostly coal, with 2,315 MWe of that being nuclear.[20] Nuclear and coal are considerably more capital intensive when compared to gas, and the great shift to gas plant construction is often attributed to deregulation and other political and economic factors.

As of January 2008 the American Wind Energy Association estimated that U.S. wind power, capacity as 16,818 MW, sufficient to power 4.5 million homes.[21] The largest wind facility in the U.S. and the world is in Roscoe Texas, costing more than $1 billion and providing 781.5 MW of power (enough for 230,000 homes throughout Texas, which has more wind power generation capacity than any other state and all but four countries.).[22][23] Several solar thermal power stations, including the new 64 MW Nevada Solar One, have also been built. The largest of these solar thermal power stations is the SEGS group of plants in the Mojave Desert with a total generating capacity of 354 MW, making the system the largest solar plant of any kind in the world.[24]

In 2007, summer demand for electricity was 783 GW and 640 GW for winter. By 2017, North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) projects summer consumption to be 925GW for summer and 756 GW for winter.[25]

Electrical Production in the United States for 2006

Power Source

Units in Operation

Total Nameplate Capacity (MW)

% of total Capacity

Annual Production (billion kWh)

 % of annual production

Petroleum Coke FueledBoiler






Oil Fired Boiler






Nuclear Power






Natural Gas FueledBoiler






Diesel Generators
























Fuel Oil






Combustion Turbine Generators






Combined Cycle Natural Gas






Coal Fired Boilers












Wind Power






Solar Energy







Energy consumption of computers in the USA

See also: Green computing

Visible or embedded (i. e. hidden) computers are found everywhere: in all sectors listed in the above chapter, as well as in all subsectors listed in the column entitled Major uses in the above tables. In 1999, a study by Mark. P. Mills [27] of the Green Earth Society reported that computers consumed 13% of the entire US supply. Numerous researchers questioned Mills' methodology and it was later demonstrated that he was off by an order of magnitude; for example, Lawrence Berkeley Labs concluded that the figure was nearer three percent of US electricity use. Although the Mills study was inaccurate,[28][29][30] it helped drive the debate to the national level, and in 2006 the US Senate started a study of the energy consumption ofServer farms.

International Cooperation

President Barack Obama and China's President Hu Jintao announced on 2009-11-17 a far-reaching package of measures to strengthen cooperation between the United States and China on clean energy. The presidents began by establishing a U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center to facilitate joint research and development of renewable energy technologies by scientists from both countries. The center will be supported by $150 million in public and private funds over the next five years, split evenly between the partners. Initial research priorities will be building energy efficiency and electric vehicles.

The two countries will also leverage private sector resources to develop clean energy projects in China through the U.S.-China Energy Cooperation Program (ECP). More than 22 companies are founding members of the program. The ECP will include collaborative projects involving renewable energysmart gridselectric vehiclesgreen buildingscombined heat and power and energy efficiency.[31]

See also

Energy portal

Sustainable development portal

§  Carter Doctrine

§  The Climate Registry

§  Efficient energy use

§  Energy conservation

§  Energy development

§  Energy conservation in the United States

§  Energy policy of the United States

§  Energy security

§  World energy resources and consumption

§  List of countries by energy consumption and production

§  Petroleum in the United States

§  Renewable energy in the United States

§  Individual states:

§  Energy in Vermont


1.      a b Ristinen, Robert, A. Energy and the Environment. Malloy, 2006. Print.

2.      ^ World Per Capita Total Primary Energy Consumption,1980-2005 (MS Excel format)

3.      ^ World Resources Institute "Energy Consumption: Consumption per capita" (2001). Nations with higher per-capita consumption are: Qatar, Iceland, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Luxembourg and Canada. Except for Canada, these are small countries with a prominent energy-intensive industry such as oil refining or steelmaking.

4.      ^ US Dept. of Energy, "Annual Energy Report" (2008), Energy Flow diagram

5.      ^ US Dept. of Energy, "President Obama Touts Clean Energy on Earth Day" (April 29, 2009)

6.      ^ US Dept. of Energy, "Energy in the United States: 1635-2000"

7.      ^

8.      ^ Broder, John M. (2010-06-09). "A Call to Triple U.S. Spending on Energy Research".The New York Times.

9.      ^ US Dept. of Energy, "Manufacturing Trend Data" (2002), Table 2b

10.   ^ US Dept. of Energy, "Annual Energy Outlook" (February 2006), Table A2

11.   ^ US Dept. of Energy, "Buildings Energy Data Book" (September 2006), sec. 1.2.3

12.   ^ Energy Information Administration (August 2005). "2004 U. S. Energy Consumption by Energy Source". Retrieved 2007-05-25.

13.   ^ "World Consumption of Primary Energy by Energy Type and Selected Country Groups , 1980-2004" (XLS). Energy Information Administration. July 31, 2006. Retrieved 2007-01-20.

14.   ^ US Dept. of Energy, "U.S. Primary Energy Consumption by Source and Sector, 2008" (2009)

15.   ^ Statistical Yearbook 2010

16.   ^ New York City Mayor's Office of Sustainability (2007). "New York City's Climate Change Challenges through 2030" (PDF). Retrieved 2007-02-28.

17.   ^ Moody, R. Norman (30 January 2011). "Guidelines tight to drive a fuel tanker"Florida Today (Melbourne, Florida): pp. 2A.

18.   ^ Carter, Jimmy (1980-01-23). Third State of the Union Address. Jimmy Carter Presidential Library. Retrieved 2008-07-27

19.   ^ Dumbrell, John (1996). American Foreign Policy: Carter to Clinton. MacMillan. p. 81.ISBN 9780312163952. Retrieved 2008-07-27

20.   ^ Nuclear Power in USA

21.   ^ Installed U.S. Wind Power Capacity Surged 45% in 2007

22.   ^ "World's Largest Wind Farm Churns in Texas"CBS News. 2009-10-02.

23.   ^ [1]

24.   ^ SEGS I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII & IX

25.   ^ Load Forecasting Working Group of the Reliability Assessment Subcommittee (2008-08) (pdf). 2008-2017 Regional and National Peak Demand and Energy Forecasts BandwidthsNorth American Electric Reliability Corporation. pp. 17. Retrieved 2008-12-15.

26.   a b US Department of Energy Administration 2006 National Energy Survey

27.   ^ Mills, M.P. (1999). The Internet Begins with Coal. Green Earth Society, USA.

28.   ^ Allan Chen, "Research finds computer-related energy use to be overestimated" (February 2001)

29.   ^ Brian Hayes, "The computer and the dynamo" (September 2001)

30.   ^ Information Technology and Resource UseLawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

31.   ^

External links

§  Energy Information Administration - Official Energy Statistics from the U.S. Government

§  Biomass Energy Data Book

§  Buildings Energy Data Book

§  Power Technologies Energy Data Book (renewables)

§  Transportation Energy Data Book

§  Interactive United States Energy Comparisons

§  Renewable Energy Tops 10% of U.S. Energy Production

§  World Energy Lightingour credibility, as well as improve your website's rank on search engines.