EGEE 102
Energy Conservation for Environmental Protection

Current and Future Energy Sources of the USA


US Energy Supply and Demand

When focusing on the energy supply and demand, it can be helpful to see where the energy is going. Which of our daily activities consume the most energy? Several agencies track this very closely.

The 2019 energy flow chart released by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory details the sources of energy production, how Americans are using energy and how much waste exists.

Globally, many interesting transitions are occurring. While the U.S. was once the top consumer of energy, China claimed this title in 2009.

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Top Energy Consumers in 2020.

As a result of innovations in oil and gas extraction, U.S. imports have dropped considerably. 

US Energy Imports between 1950 and 2019

Looking at the U.S. Energy Profile,  It can be seen from the imports profile that the US Crude oil imports have significantly reduced between 2005 and 2019 from a peak of 25 Quadrillion BTUs. Another significant change that can be noted is that the US is now exporting natural gas (below zero on the y axis) instead of importing it. Although crude oil is imported, US exports finished petroleum products resulting in less net imports. As a matter of fact, US total energy exports exceeded the imports in 2019 since 1950.

The top five countries (sources) of US total petroleum in 2019 were Canada (49%), Mexico (7%), Saudi Arabia (6%), Russia (6%) and Columbia (4%).

The U.S. also ranks:

  • first in worldwide reserves of coal;
  • sixth in worldwide reserves of natural gas;
  • eleventh in worldwide reserves of oil.

US Energy Consumption by Source and the chart of the US Energy consumption by source and user sector shows each energy source and the amount of energy it supplies in British thermal units (BTU). Petroleum is the leading source of energy in the US in 2019 with 36.72 quadrillion BTUs. Next is natural gas with 32.10 quadrillion BTUs. Coal supplies 11.31 quadrillion BTUs of energy. Renewable energy and nuclear power are responsible for 11.46 and 8.46 quadrillion BTUs respectively. Of the total petroleum consumption, 72% is used for transportation and another 23% is used by the industrial sector. Similarly, 35% of the natural gas (largest fraction) is used for power generation. On the other hand, 76% of the residential and commercial energy needs are met by natural gas. The actual percentages are not required to be memorized but answers to the questions such as: Which fuel is most used by power plants for power generation? Which sector uses petroleum the most? Approximately what fraction of the electricity is generated by renewable energy? (10, 25, 50 or 90) What is the primary purpose of coal use? etc. need to be answered.

US Energy Consumption by Source and Sector

The graph shows how dependent the U.S. is on our petroleum supply, as it accounts for almost 37% of our energy. Our next two highest sources of energy, like petroleum, are non-renewable and include natural gas and coal. Only about 11%  of our energy comes from renewable energy sources such as wood and water (hydroelectricity). According to Energy Information Administration, US renewable energy consumption surpassed coal for the first time in over 130 years in 2019. Of the 4.12 trillion kWh of electricity generated in the US, 38% was from natural gas, coal accounted for about 23% and nuclear adding another 20%. Renewable sources contributed to 17% of the total electricity generated.

Graph of US Energy Consumption by Source and use by End Sectors

In 2019, fossil fuels made up 81% of total U.S. energy consumption, the lowest fossil fuel share in the past century. According to EIA projections, the percentage declines to 76.6% by 2040. Policy changes or technology breakthroughs that go beyond the trend improvements could significantly change that projection. In 2019, the renewable share of energy consumption in the United States was its largest since the 1930s at nearly 11.7%. The greatest growth in renewables over the past decade has been in solar and wind electricity generation. Liquid biofuels have also increased in recent years, contributing to the growing renewable share of total energy consumption. 2020 was the first year that renewables surpassed coal consumption in the U.S.

US Energy Consumption Over Time

US Energy Consumption by Source 1949 to 2015
US Primary Energy Consumption History in Quadrillion BTUs

The most significant decline in recent years has been coal: U.S. coal consumption fell by 41% since 2009 in a decade, from 997 million tons to 587 million tons. Biomass, which includes wood as well as liquid biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel, remain relatively flat, as wood use declines and biofuel use increases slightly. In contrast, wind and solar are among the fastest-growing energy sources in the projection, ultimately surpassing biomass and nuclear.

Net U.S. imports of energy declined from 30% of total energy consumption in 2005 to 13% in 2013 and down to 7.6 % in 2017, as a result of strong growth in domestic oil and dry natural gas production from tight formations and slow growth of total energy consumption.

US Energy Consumption History

The plot of US energy consumption shows the relative amounts of each type of energy that was consumed for each year.  The history of the energy consumption profile of the United States indicates that petroleum makes the largest part of the energy demand over the past seven decades. Natural gas has taken the second over the past decade with the production of gas from shale. Coal has been replaced by renewable energy and natural gas for electricity generation. Among the renewable energy sources, biomass has the larger share followed by wind energy. Wind energy and solar energy are the fastest growing energy sources.

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Growth of Renewables in the U.S.
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U.S. energy consumption projections by source and by sector.

Answers to the following questions need to be looked for in the material presented above.

  • Of all the renewable energy sources, which renewable source is used most?
  • Which of the renewable sources is used most for transportation?
  • Approximately what fraction of the electricity is generated by nuclear energy? (10, 20, 50 or 90)
Three of the USA’s largest energy sources
Source Future Outlook Advantages / Disadvantages
Oil Petroleum demand is projected to grow from 19.17 million barrels per day in 2010 to 19.9 million barrels per day in 2035. Approximately 72.1% of the petroleum in the U. S. is used for transportation, and about 22.5% is used by the industrial sector.
Natural Gas

Total dry natural gas production in the United States increased by 35% from 2005 to 2013, with the natural gas share of total U.S. energy consumption rising from 23% to 28%. Production growth resulted largely from the development of shale gas resources.

In 2009, production stood at 20.65 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), net imports at 2.68 Tcf, and consumption at 22.85 Tcf. The projections for domestic natural gas consumption in 2030 is 26.1 trillion cubic feet per year, as compared with 24.13 trillion cubic feet in 2010. In the reference case, natural gas consumption in the electric power sector is projected to increase from 7.38 trillion cubic feet in 2010 to a peak of 8.08 trillion cubic feet in 2015. Natural gas use in the electric power sector levels off after 2020.

Continued growth in residential, commercial, and industrial consumption of natural gas is roughly offset by the projected decline in natural gas demand for electricity generation. As a result, overall natural gas consumption is almost flat between 2020 and 2025.

Energy Information Administration forecasts greater dependence on more costly supplies of natural gas, such as imports of Liquefied Natural gas (LNG), and remote resources from Alaska and the Mackenzie Delta in Canada.

LNG imports, Alaskan production, and production in the 48 States from nonconventional sources are not expected to increase enough to offset the impacts of resource depletion and increased demand.

The industrial sector was the largest consuming sector of natural gas.

Production of gas from shale (such as Marcelleus) is likely to change the natural gas usage very quickly. Gas can be converted to oil. New gas to liquid fuel plants in the US are likely to change the oil imports scenario in the next two decades.


Between 2008 and 2013, U.S. coal production fell by 187 million short tons (16%), as declining natural gas prices made coal less competitive as a fuel for generating electricity

U.S. coal production increases at an average rate of 0.7%/year from 2013 to 2030, from 985 million short tons (19.9 quadrillion Btu) to 1,118 million short tons (22.4 quadrillion Btu). Over the same period, rising natural gas prices, particularly after 2017, contribute to increases in electricity generation from existing coal-fired power plants as coal prices increase more slowly. Renewables and additional natural gas plants continue to replace coal driving down use.
Compliance with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), coupled with low natural gas prices and competition from renewables, leads to the projected retirement of 31 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired generating capacity and the conversion of 4 GW of coal-fired generating capacity to natural gas between 2014 and 2016. However, coal consumption in the U.S. electric power sector is supported by an increase in output from the remaining coal-fired power plants, with the projected capacity factor for the U.S. coal fleet increasing from 60% in 2013 to 67% in 2016. In the absence of any significant additions of coal-fired electricity generating capacity, coal production after 2030 levels off as many existing coal-fired generating units reach maximum capacity factors and coal exports grow slowly. Total U.S. coal production remains below its 2008 level through 2040.

US Vehicle Fuel Consumption

The table below shows the vehicle fuel consumption and travel between 1960 and 2018.

US Vehicle fuel consumption and travel between 1960 and 2010.
- 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010 2018
Vehicles registered (thousands)a 73,858 111,242 161,490 193,057 225,821 250,070 273,602
Vehicle-miles traveled (millions) 718,762 1,109,724 1,527,295 2,144,362 R2,746,925 2,967,266 3,269,088
Fuel consumed (million gallons) 57,880 92,329 114,960 130,755 R162,554 169,679 176,444 (2016)
Average miles traveled per vehicle (thousands) 9.7 10.0 9.5 11.1 12.2 11.8 11.9
Average miles traveled per gallon 12.4 12.0 14.9 18.8 20.0 21.5 22.3
Average fuel consumed per vehicle (gallons) 784 830 712 677 R720 678 644

Key: R = revised a Includes personal passenger vehicles, buses, and trucks. Source: 1960-94: U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Highway Statistics Summary to 1995, FHWA-PL-97-009 (Washington, DC: July 1997), table VM-201A.

1995-2005: Ibid., Highway Statistics (Washington, DC: Annual issues), table VM-1

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Highway Statistics 2010


US electricity generation is expected to grow from 3.7 trillion kilowatthours in 2015 to 4558 trillion kilowatthours in 2035. Visit the webpage US electricity explained - Sources and profiles

Examine for 

  • Sources of U,.S electricity generation
  • What are the notable changes in the major sources for  electricity generation between 1950 and 2019?
  • Role of renewable energy in the electricity generation.

Growth in electricity use for computers, office equipment, and electrical appliances in the residential and commercial sectors is partially offset by improved efficiency in these and other, more traditional electrical applications, by the effects of demand-side management programs, and by slower growth in electricity demand for some applications, such as air conditioning.

Most capacity additions over the next 10 years are renewables and natural gas, increasing the natural gas share to 26 percent and lowering the coal share to under 20 percent.  The nuclear generation (about 9 percent of total electricity supply in 2012) is projected to remain at about 9 percent in 2050.

Did You Know?

Demand-side management programs address efficiency. By being more efficient, we can do more with less, and then reduce the demand for energy.