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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 2019, total U.S. primary energy consumption was equal to about 100,165,395,000,000,000 Btu, or about 100.2 quadrillion Btu.

U.S. primary energy consumption by energy source, 2019 total = 100.2 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) total = 11.4 quadrillion Btu 2% - geothermal 9% - solar 24% - wind 4% - biomass waste 20% - biofuels 20% - wood 22% - hydroelectric biomass 43% renewable energy 11% natural gas 32% petroleum 37% nuclear electric power 8% coal 11% 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 2020, preliminary data
  • There are five energy-use sectors, and the amounts—in quadrillion Btu (or quads)—of their primary energy consumption in 2019 were
  • electric power37.1quads
  • transportation28.2quads
  • industrial23.1quads
  • residential7.0quads
  • commercial4.8quads

In 2019, 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.

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.

  • Primary energy use plus the energy content of electricity purchased from the electric power sector by each end-use sector in 2019
  • transportation28.2quads
  • industrial26.3quads
  • residential11.9quads
  • commercial9.4quads

The sources of energy used by each sector vary widely. For example, petroleum provides about 91% 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 2019.

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Domestic energy production was greater than U.S. energy consumption in 2019

In 2019, U.S. energy production exceeded U.S. energy consumption on an annual basis for the first time since 1957. The United States produced 101.0 quads of energy and consumed 100.2 quads. After record high energy production and consumption in 2018, U.S. energy production grew 5.7% and energy consumption decreased by 0.9% in 2019.

Fossil fuels—petroleum, natural gas, and coal—accounted for about 80% of total U.S. primary energy production in 2019.

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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, mainly as a result of declining use of coal for U.S. electricity generation. In 2019, coal production was 14.3 quads, equal to about 60% of the amount in 1998. Coal consumption of 11.3 quads in 2019 was equal to about 50% of the peak of consumption in 2005.

Natural gas production reached a record high of 34.9 quads in 2019, following record high production in 2018 and in 2017. U.S. dry natural gas production has exceeded U.S. natural gas consumption since 2017, which had not occurred since 1966. More efficient drilling and production techniques have resulted in increases in natural gas production 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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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 was 25.4 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 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 6.3 quads in 2019.

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. Even though there were fewer operating nuclear reactors than in 2000, the amount of nuclear energy production in 2019 was the highest on record at 8.46 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 11.6 and 11.5 quads, respectively, in 2019, driven mainly by record high production from solar and wind energy. Hydroelectric power production in 2019 was about 12% lower than the 50-year average because of lower precipitation levels, mainly in the western United States. Total biomass production and consumption were down slightly from 2018, the year that had the largest amount of biomass production and use since at least 1950. Geothermal energy consumption in 2019 was about 2% 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 2019. There are estimates for distributed (small-scale) solar electricity generation in Table 10.6. A small amount of electricity is imported from and exported to Canada and Mexico.

Last updated: May 7, 2020