Energy Excursions

U.S. Energy Consumption

Let’s dig down into an overview of primary energy consumption in the United States. The following graph from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) illustrates Primary Energy Overview1U.S. Energy Information Agency. (n.d.). Total Energy. 1.1 Primary Energy Overview. Retrieved June 18, 2021, from https://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/browser and highlights an important trend during the last decade in the United States. Look at the trend for Total Primary Energy Consumption on the graph and compare that to the trend for Total Primary Energy Production. 

What has happened to energy consumption vs. production in the last decade?

The two have kept about the same pace.

Incorrect

Production has surpassed consumption in just the last couple of years.

Correct

Consumption has far surpassed production during the last couple of years.

Incorrect

In fact, looking at the numbers behind this graph, you would see that primary energy production was 101.3 quads in 2019 and primary energy consumption was 100.3 quads. That year marks the first year that production surpassed consumption. This trend continued through 2020, even with the pandemic and the resulting decrease in both production and consumption. Basically, our energy consumption has not varied drastically in the last decade, but energy production has increased by about 30%. Much of this increase in production is due to increased natural gas production using unconventional techniques from shales. 

Sources of Energy Consumption

Looking at another graph from the EIA, Primary Energy Consumption by Source,2U.S. Energy Information Agency. (n.d.). Total Energy. 1.3 Primary Energy Consumption by Source. Retrieved June 18, 2021, from https://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/browser you can again see several trends. Changes are happening in the sources of primary energy Americans are consuming.

What has happened to coal in the last 10 years?

Coal has decreased from 22.6 quads to 20.8 quads.

Incorrect

Coal has increased from 20.8 quads to 22.6 quads.

Incorrect

Coal has decreased from 20.8 quads to 9.2 quads.

Correct

A look at these numbers shows that coal consumption is drastically declining; many coal fired power plants are being decommissioned. But what is taking its place? Let’s look at some more numbers.

What has replaced coal over the last 10 years for primary energy consumption?

Natural gas and renewables

Correct

Renewables and nuclear

Incorrect

Nuclear and natural gas

Incorrect

Fuel switching from coal to other sources has impacted our emissions. The switch from coal to natural gas has impacted CO2 emissions from the United States because coal emits more CO2 per same unit of energy produced than natural gas. Substitute natural gas for coal, and the result is fewer CO2 emissions.

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