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 2021, total U.S. primary energy consumption was equal to about 97,331,601,000,000,000 Btu, or about 97 quadrillion Btu.
- There are five energy-use sectors, and the amounts—in quadrillion Btu (or quads)—of their primary energy consumption in 2021 were:
- electric power36.75quads
In 2021, the electric power sector accounted for about 96% of total U.S. utility-scale electricity generation, nearly all of which was sold to the other sectors.1
The transportation, industrial, commercial, and residential sectors are called end-use sectors because they consume primary energy and electricity produced by the electric power sector.
- Primary energy use plus the energy content of electricity purchased from the electric power sector by each end-use sector in 2021 was:
Total energy consumption by the end-use sectors includes their primary energy use, purchased electricity, and electrical system energy losses (energy conversion and other losses associated with the generation, transmission, and distribution of purchased electricity) and other energy losses.
The sources of energy used by each sector vary widely. For example, in 2021, petroleum provided approximately 90% of the transportation sector's energy consumption, but only 1% of the electric power sector's primary energy use. The chart below shows the types and amounts of primary energy sources consumed in the United States, the amounts of primary energy used by the electric power sector and the energy end-use sectors, and the retail sales of electricity by the electric power sector to the energy end-use sectors.
The chart below shows U.S. annual primary energy consumption from 1950 through 2021.
Domestic energy production has been greater than U.S. energy consumption since 2019
In 2019, U.S. total annual energy production was greater than total annual consumption for the first time since 1957. Production also exceed consumption in 2020 and in 2021. In 2021, production equaled 97.78 quads and consumption equaled 97.33 quads.
Fossil fuels—petroleum, natural gas, and coal—accounted for about 79% of total U.S. primary energy production in 2021.
- The percentage shares and amounts (in quads) of total U.S. primary energy production by major sources in 2021 were:
- Natural gas36%35.42 quads
- Petroleum (crude oil and natural gas plant liquids)31%30.30 quads
- coal12%11.62 quads
- Renewable energy13%12.32 quads
- Nuclear electric power8%8.13 quads
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 consumption in the United States peaked in 2007 at about 1.13 billion short tons and coal production peaked in 2008 at about 1.17 billion short tons. Both declined in nearly every year since those peak years mainly because of less U.S. coal demand for electricity generation. In terms of the total energy content of coal, annual U.S. coal consumption peaked in 2005 at about 22.80 quads and production peaked in 1998 at about 24.0 quads. The energy content of total annual coal consumption and production generally declined since those years because of decreases in demand for coal, and because of increases in the share of lower heat content coal use by the electric power sector. In 2021, coal consumption was about 546 million short tons, equal to about 10.55 quads and about 11% of U.S. energy consumption. Coal production in 2021 was 578 million short tons and equal to about 11.62 quads.
Natural gas production (dry gas) reached a record high of 34.15 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) or 93.57 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/day) in 2021. Natural gas consumption in 2021 was about 82.97 Bcf/day, equal to 31.34 quads and about 32% of total U.S. energy consumption. U.S. annual dry natural gas production has exceeded U.S. annual natural gas consumption in both volume and heat content since 2017. More efficient drilling and production techniques have resulted in increases in natural gas production from shale and tight geologic formations. The production increases generally contributed to a decline in natural gas prices through 2020, which in turn contributed to increases in natural gas use by the electric power and industrial sectors.
Annual crude oil production generally decreased between 1970 and 2008. In 2009, the trend reversed and production began to rise, and in 2019, U.S. crude oil production reached a record high of 12.29 million barrels per day. More cost-effective drilling and production technologies helped to drive annual production increases in 2017 through 2019, especially in Texas and North Dakota. U.S. petroleum demand decreased in 2020 and 2021 largely as a result of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which contributed to declined in U.S. oil production in 2020 and 2021.
Natural gas plant liquids (NGPLs) are extracted from natural gas before the natural gas is put into pipelines for transmission to consumers. Annual NGPLs production has generally increased since 2005, coinciding with increases in natural gas production, and reached a record high of nearly 5.40 million barrels per day in 2021. NGPLs are the largest source of U.S. hydrocarbon gas liquids (HGLs) production. Annual increases in HGLs production since 2008 have contributed to lower HGLs prices and to increased U.S. HGLs consumption (and exports).
Nuclear energy production in commercial nuclear power plants in the United States began in 1957, grew each year through 1990, and generally leveled off after 2000. Even though there were fewer operating nuclear reactors in 2021 than in 2000, the amount of nuclear energy production in 2021 was about 778 billion kilowatthours (kWh), equal to about 8.13 quads. A combination of increased electric generation capacity upgrades and shorter refueling and maintenance cycles at nuclear power plants have helped to compensate for reductions in the numbers of nuclear reactors and to maintain a relatively consistent level of annual U.S. nuclear electricity generation for the past 20 years.
Renewable energy production and consumption both reached record highs of about 12.32 and 12.16 quads, respectively, in 2021, driven mainly by record-high solar and wind energy production. Hydroelectric power production in 2021 was about 9% lower than in 2020 and about 19% lower than the 50-year average. Total biomass production and consumption in 2021 were both higher than in 2020, but lower than the record highs in 2018. Geothermal energy use in 2021 was about 1.5% higher than in 2020, but lower than the record high in 2014.
1Utility-scale electricity generation includes generation from power plants with at least one megawatt of electric generation capacity. The industrial and commercial sectors produced about 4% of utility-scale electricity generation in 2020. There are estimates for distributed (small-scale) solar electricity generation in Monthly Energy Review Table 10.6. A small amount of electricity is imported from and exported to Canada and Mexico.
Last updated: June 10, 2022, with data from April 2022 editions of source reports; data for 2021 are preliminary