Current Trends in U.S. Energy Production and Consumption

Approximately 92% of the energy used in the U.S. comes from non-renewable sources (uranium, coal, petroleum, nuclear and natural gas).  Renewable energy (biomass, solar, wind, hydro) provides the other 8%.  Approximately 1/3 of this energy is used for industry and manufacturing, another third for transportation and 1/3 for commercial and residential use (figure 1.4). The pattern of fuel use varies widely by sector (i.e. transportation relies heavily on oil while very little oil is used for electrical generation).

It is projected that by 2035 total energy use will increase with the fossil fuel share decreasing slightly (from 84% to 78%) as renewable fuels increase (from 10%  to 14% by 2035). This projected fuel shift is due largely to changes in federal and state policies (i.e. CAFE standards, EISA, RFS, RPS and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act).

Among the fossil fuels, natural gas will play a much larger role in the future, as the U.S. has recently discovered vast new levels of natural gas (shale gas deposits) and economists ar

e projecting very low prices for decades to come. U.S. estimates for 2011 natural gas production are nearly twice the amounts estimated for 2010 and projections for 2035 are double the shale gas production with lower gas prices than those projected in 2010.

Coal will remain the dominant fuel source for electric energy production. Very few if any new coal plants will be built, but it is projected that coal use will increase gradually over this time as current coal facilities are used more intensively and old plants are shut down.

Twenty-nine states have established targets for renewable energy production including wind, solar, hydropower and biomass.  Although the total amount of power or heat generated from biomass is fairly small, biomass makes up the largest percentage (50%) of renewable energy, vastly more than wind (9%) and solar (1%). Biomass comprises waste (6%), wood (24%) and biofuels (20%) (figure 1.5). There are nearly 7800 megawatts (MW) of biomass power capacity installed at more than 350 locations in the U.S. The majority of these are fueled by wood.

Figure 1.5. U.S. Energy demand is met by multiple sources: petroleum, natural gas, coal, nuclear electric power, and renewable energy (U.S. Energy Information Administration.)

In 2009, the U.S. produced about half of its petroleum demand (49%) while importing the other half (51%). The majority of the petroleum imported to the U.S. (51%) comes from the western hemisphere (North, South, and Central America, and the Caribbean).  22% comes from Africa and 17% came from the Persian Gulf countries.  The largest imports are from Canada (23.3%) and Venezuela (10.7%), Saudi Arabia (10.4%), Mexico (9.2%) and Nigeria (8.3%) (figure 1.6).

Figure 1.6. Domestic production and imports of petroleum. (http://www.epa.gov/chp/basic/efficiency.html ).