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U.S. energy facts explained  

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 2018, total U.S. primary energy consumption was equal to about 101,251,057,000,000,000 British thermal units (Btu), or about 101.3 quadrillion Btu.

U.S. primary energy consumption by energy source, 2018 total = 101.3 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) total = 11.5 quadrillion Btu 2% - geothermal 8% - solar 22% - wind 4% - biomass waste 20% - biofuels 20% - wood 23% - hydroelectric biomasss 45% renewable energy 11% nuclear electric power 8% coal 13% natural gas 31% petroleum 36% Note: Sum of components may not equal 100% because of independent rounding. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review, Table 1.3 and 10.1, April 2019, preliminary data
  • There are five energy-use sectors, and the amounts—in quadrillion Btu (or quads)—of their primary energy consumption in 2018 were
  • electric power38.3quads
  • transportation28.3quads
  • industrial23.0quads
  • residential6.9quads
  • commercial4.7quads

In 2018, the electric power sector accounted for about 96% of total U.S. 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.

  • The amount of primary energy use plus the energy content of electricity purchased from the electric power sector by each end-use sector in 2018
  • transportation28.3quads
  • industrial26.3quads
  • residential11.9quads
  • commercial9.4quads

The sources of energy used by each sector varies widely. For example, petroleum provides about 92% of the transportation sector's energy consumption, but less than 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 sales of retail electricity by the electric power sector to the energy end-use sectors.

U.S. Primary Energy Consumption by Source and Sector graphic. Shares by source in 2017: Petroleum 37%, Natural Gas 29%, Coal 14%, Renewable Energy 11%, Nuclear Electric Power 9%. Shares by sector: Transportation 29%, Industrial 22%, Residential and Commercial combined 11%, Electric power 38%

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The chart below shows historical primary energy consumption from 1950 through 2018.

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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.

Domestic energy production equaled about 95% of U.S. energy consumption in 2018

In 2018, the amount of energy produced in the United States was equal to about 95.7 quads, which was equal to about 95% of total U.S. energy consumption, the largest share since 1967. Net imports of crude oil accounted for the majority of the difference between total primary energy production and total primary energy consumption in 2018.

Fossil fuels—petroleum, natural gas, and coal—accounted for about 79% of total U.S. primary energy production in 2018.

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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 has trended down since its peak of 24.0 quads in 1998. A major 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 reached a record high of 31.5 quads in 2018. In 2017 and 2018, U.S. dry natural gas production was greater than U.S. natural gas consumption for the first time since 1966. More efficient 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.

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Crude oil production generally decreased each year between 1970 and 2008. In 2009, the trend reversed and production began to rise, and in 2018, U.S. crude oil production was 22.8 quads, the highest on record. 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 of 5.8 quads in 2018. U.S. HGL consumption and exports to other countries have both increased in recent years.

Nuclear energy production in commercial nuclear power plants in the United States began in 1957 and grew each year through 1990 and generally leveled off after 2000. In 2018, even though there were fewer operating nuclear reactors than in 2000, nuclear power plants produced the second-highest amount of energy on record at 8.4 quads, mainly because of a combination of increased capacity from power plant upgrades and shorter refueling and maintenance cycles.

Renewable energy production and consumption both reached record highs of about 11.7 and 11.5 quads, respectively, in 2018. Although hydroelectric power production in 2018 was about 6% lower than the 50-year average, biomass, wind, solar, and geothermal energy production were higher than in any previous year.

1The industrial, commercial, and residential sectors produced about 4% of total electricity generation in 2018. A small amount of electricity is imported from and exported to Canada and Mexico.

Last updated: August 28, 2019