How the United States uses energy

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

  • The industrial sector includes facilities and equipment used for manufacturing, agriculture, mining, and construction.
  • The transportation sector includes vehicles that transport people or goods, such as cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, trains, aircraft, boats, barges, and ships.
  • The residential sector includes homes and apartments.
  • The commercial sector includes offices, malls, stores, schools, hospitals, hotels, warehouses, restaurants, and places of worship and public assembly.
  • The electric power sector consumes primary energy to generate most of the electricity the other four sectors consume.

Each sector consumes primary energy. The industrial, transportation, residential, and commercial sectors also use most of the electricity (a secondary energy source) the electric power sector produces. These sectors are called end-use sectors because they purchase or produce energy for their own consumption and not for resale.

In all but 14 of the years from 1949 to 2007, energy consumption increased over the previous year. Total U.S. energy consumption reached its highest level in 2007.

In 2009, this general historical trend of year-over-year increases in energy consumption changed sharply because of the economic recession. In 2009, real gross domestic product (GDP) fell 2.8% compared with 2008, and total energy consumption decreased by nearly 5%, the largest single-year decreases in both real GDP and in total energy consumption from 1949 through 2017. Decreases in energy consumption occurred in all four major end-use sectors in 2009 (residential—3%, commercial—3%, industrial—9%, and transportation—3%).

Total annual energy consumption increased in five of the years between 2009 and 2017 and decreased in five of the years. Total U.S. energy consumption in 2017 was about 3.4% less than the record high consumption in 2007, but about 3.7% higher than consumption in 2009. Economic growth and other factors such as weather and fuel prices can influence consumption in each sector differently.