How we use energy

The United States is a highly developed and industrialized society. Americans use a lot of energy in homes, in businesses, in industry, and for personal travel and for transporting goods. There are four major sectors that consume energy:

  • The industrial sector includes facilities and equipment used for manufacturing, agriculture, mining, and construction.

  • The transportation sector includes vehicles that transport people or goods. Cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, trains, aircraft, boats, barges, and ships are included in the transportation sector.

  • The residential sector consists of homes and apartments.

  • The commercial sector includes offices, malls, stores, schools, hospitals, hotels, warehouses, restaurants, places of worship, and more.

Each end-use sector consumes electricity produced by the electric power sector.

Primary energy consumption in the United States was almost three times greater in 2014 than it was in 1949. In all but 18 of the years between 1949 and 2014, primary energy consumption increased over the previous year.

There was a sharp contrast to this historical trend in 2009 that resulted from the economic recession. In 2009, real gross domestic product (GDP) fell 2% compared to 2008, and energy consumption declined by nearly 5%, the largest single-year decline since 1949. Decreases occurred in all four major end-use sectors (residential—3%, commercial—3%, industrial—9%, and transportation—3%). Consumption increased by about 3% in 2010, then declined slightly in 2011 and declined again by about 3% in 2012. Consumption increased by about 3% in 2013 and by 1% in 2014. Economic growth and other factors like weather and fuel prices influence consumption in each sector differently.