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The United States uses a mix of energy sources

The United States uses and produces many different types and sources of energy, which can be grouped into general categories such as primary and secondary, renewable and nonrenewable, and fossil fuels.

Primary energy sources include fossil fuels (petroleum, natural gas, and coal), nuclear energy, and renewable sources of energy. Electricity is a secondary energy source that is generated (produced) from primary energy sources.

Energy sources are measured in different physical units: liquid fuels in barrels or gallons, natural gas in cubic feet, coal in short tons, and electricity in kilowatts and kilowatthours. In the United States, British thermal units (Btu), a measure of heat energy, is commonly used for comparing different types of energy to each other. In 2017, total U.S. primary energy consumption was equal to about 97.7 quadrillion (97,728,000,000,000,000) Btu.

There are five major primary energy consuming sectors. Their shares of total primary energy consumption in 2017 were:

  • Electric power—38.1%
  • Transportation—28.8%
  • Industrial—22.4%
  • Residential—6.2%
  • Commercial—4.5%
  • The electric power sector generates most of the electricity in the United States, and the other four sectors consume most of that electricity.

    The pattern of fuel use varies widely by sector. For example, petroleum provides about 92% of the energy used for transportation, but only 1% of the energy used to generate electricity.

    Domestic energy production is equal to about 90% of U.S. energy consumption in 2017

    In 2017, the amount of energy produced in the United States was equal to about 87.5 quadrillion Btu, and this was equal to about 89.6% of U.S. energy consumption. The difference between the amount of total primary energy consumption and total primary energy production was mainly the energy content of net imports of crude oil.

    The three major fossil fuels—petroleum, natural gas, and coal—combined accounted for about 77.6% of the U.S. primary energy production in 2017:

    The mix of U.S. energy consumption and production has changed over time

    Fossil fuels have dominated the U.S. energy mix for more than 100 years, but the mix has changed over time.

    Coal production peaked in 2008, trended down through 2016, and increased about 6% in 2017. Coal production in 2017 was about equal to production in 1979. The main reason for the general decline in U.S. coal production in recent years is the decrease in U.S. coal consumption for electricity generation.

    Natural gas production in 2017 was the second-largest amount after the record high-production in 2015. More efficient and cost-effective drilling and production techniques have resulted in increased production of natural gas from shale and tight geologic formations. The increase in production contributed to a decline in natural gas prices, which in turn has contributed to increases in natural gas use by the electric power and industrial sectors.

    Crude oil production generally decreased each year between 1970 and 2008. In 2009, the trend reversed and production began to rise. Production in 2015 and in 2017 was the second and third highest on record, respectively. More cost-effective drilling and production technologies helped to boost production, especially in Texas and North Dakota.

    Natural gas plant liquids (NGPL) are hydrocarbon gas liquids (HGL) that are extracted from natural gas before the natural gas is put into pipelines for transmission to consumers. NGPL production has increased alongside increases in natural gas production and reached a record high in 2017. U.S. consumption and exports of HGL have both increased in recent years.

    Total renewable energy production and consumption both reached record highs of about 11 quadrillion Btu in 2017. Hydroelectric power production in 2017 was about 2% lower than the 50-year average. Increases in energy production from wind and solar helped to increase the overall energy production from renewable sources. Energy production from wind and solar were at record highs in 2017.



Last updated: May 16, 2018

Imports fill the gap between U.S. energy use and U.S. energy production

The United States is one of the largest energy importers in the world. The United States was generally energy self-sufficient up to the early 1950s, and annual energy exports were greater than energy imports.1 In the mid-1950s, the United States began importing greater amounts of crude oil and petroleum products (such as gasoline and distillate fuels) to fill the gap between petroleum consumption and domestic production. The United States also imported natural gas to help supply natural gas demand. Total annual net energy imports (imports minus exports) generally increased in most years and reached a record high in 2005 equal to about 30% of total U.S. energy consumption.

Since 2005, total annual energy imports have generally declined each year while energy exports increased, resulting in a decline in net energy imports. Increases in domestic crude oil and natural gas production in recent years, the easing of restrictions on crude oil exports in December 2015, and increases in liquefied natural gas export capacity have contributed to increases in oil and natural gas exports. In 2011, the United States became a net exporter of petroleum products for the first time, and in 2017, a net exporter of natural gas for the first time since the late 1950’s.

In 2017, total annual net energy imports were equal to about 7.6% of total annual energy consumption, the lowest level since 1982.

Crude oil is the largest source of U.S. energy imports

Crude oil makes up the largest share of U.S. energy imports, and crude oil imports result in the United States being an overall net energy importer despite increased exports of crude oil, petroleum products, and natural gas. The United States has always been a net exporter of coal, which reduces total net energy imports.

1 Based on the energy content of energy sources.

Last updated: May 23, 2018

U.S. total energy statistics

Preliminary data for 2016 1

Total primary energy production 83.88 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu)
    By fuel/energy source and share of total
  • Natural gas
  • Oil (includes crude oil and natural gas plant liquids)
  • Coal
  • Renewable
  • Nuclear

    • 33%
    • 28%
    • 17%
    • 12%
    • 10%
Total energy consumption 97.39 quadrillion Btu

  • 37%
  • 29%
  • 15%
  • 10%
  •  9%


  • 32%
  • 29%
  • 21%
  • 19%
Electricity generation 4.08 billion kilowatthours

By major fuel/energy source and share of total

  • Natural gas
  • Coal
  • Nuclear
  • Renewable
  • Petroleum

 

  • 34%
  • 30%
  • 20%
  • 15%
  • <1%
Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions 5,171 million metric tons CO2
    By energy end-use sector and share of total
    • Transportation
    • Industrial
    • Residential
    • Commercial

  • 36%
  • 27%
  • 20%
  • 17%
Energy consumption/GDP ratio
  • 2016
  • 1980
  •   5.85 thousand Btu per 2009 dollar
  • 12.10 thousand Btu per 2009 dollar

1Source: Monthly Energy Review, April 2017

More statistics for each energy source

Last updated: June 1, 2017