The United States uses a mix of energy sources
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 2022, total U.S. primary energy consumption was equal to 100.41 quadrillion Btu.
- There are five energy-use sectors, and the amounts—in quadrillion Btu (or quads)—of their primary energy consumption in 2022 were:
- electric power37.75quads
In 2022, 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, residential, and commercial sectors are called end-use sectors because they consume primary energy and electricity produced by the electric power sector.
- Energy end-use by each end-use sector in 2022 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 2022, 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 sales of electricity by the electric power sector to the energy end-use sectors.
U.S. energy production has been greater than U.S. energy consumption in recent years
U.S. total annual energy production has exceeded total annual energy consumption since 2019. In 2022, production was 102.92 quads and consumption was 100.41 quads.
Fossil fuels—petroleum, natural gas, and coal—accounted for about 81% of total U.S. primary energy production in 2022.
- The percentage shares and amounts (in quads) of total U.S. primary energy production by major sources in 2022 were:
- Natural gas36%37.10 quads
- Petroleum (crude oil and natural gas plant liquids)31%32.33 quads
- Renewable energy13%13.40 quads
- coal12%12.04 quads
- Nuclear electric power8%8.05 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.2
Petroleum’s share of total U.S. energy consumption peaked in the 1970s. In 1977, total petroleum consumption was about 48% (37 quads) of total U.S. energy consumption. In 2022, petroleum’s share of total U.S. energy consumption was 36% (36 quads). U.S. petroleum consumption decreased in 2020, largely as a result of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and then increased in 2021 and 2022 as the economy recovered from the pandemic.
Annual crude oil production generally decreased between 1970 and 2008. The trend reversed in 2009 and crude oil production reached a record high in 2019. More cost-effective oil well drilling and production technologies, notably in tight oil and shale deposits, has helped to drive increases in annual crude oil production. U.S. total annual crude oil production was lower in 2020 and 2021, in part, because of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on U.S. petroleum product demand. Total annual U.S. crude oil production was higher in 2022 because U.S. oil producers responded to increases in U.S. and world petroleum demand and to substantial increase in oil prices in the first half of 2022.
Annual natural gas plant liquids (NGPLs) production has generally increased since 2005, coinciding with increases in natural gas production, and reached a record high in 2022. NGPLs are the largest source of U.S. hydrocarbon gas liquids (HGL) production. Annual increases in HGL production since 2008 have contributed to lower HGL prices and to increased U.S. HGL consumption and exports.
Natural gas consumption has increased both in amount and share of U.S. energy consumption. In 1950, natural gas consumption was about 17% (5.97 quads) of total U.S. energy consumption, and in 2022, consumption was about 33% (33.41 quads) 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 natural gas and oil well 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 U.S. natural gas prices through 2020, which, in turn, contributed to increases in natural gas consumption by the electric power and industrial sectors.
Renewable energy production and consumption both reached record highs in 2022, at about 13% (13.40 quads) of total energy production and 13% (13.18 quads) of total energy consumption. The increases in recent years have been driven mainly by record-high solar and wind energy production and increasing hydroelectric power production. Hydropower generation in 2022 was about 4% higher than in 2021 but was about 7% lower than the 50-year annual average. Total biomass energy production and consumption in 2022 were both higher than in 2021 but lower than the record highs in 2018. Biofuels accounted for about half of total biomass consumption in 2022. Geothermal energy use in 2022 was about 4% higher than in 2021 but about 0.3% lower than the record high in 2014.
The contribution of coal to total U.S. energy consumption has declined from about 36% in 1950 to 10% in 2022, largely because the U.S. electric power sector has increased use of other energy sources and reduced coal consumption. In terms of coal’s total energy content, annual U.S. coal consumption peaked in 2005 at about 22.80 quads and production peaked in 1998 at about 24.05 quads. The energy content of total annual coal consumption has declined largely because the electric power sector has increased use of lower heat content coal. In 2022, coal consumption was about 10% (9.85 quads) of U.S. energy consumption. Coal production in 2022 was about 12.04 quads.
Nuclear energy production in commercial nuclear power plants in the United States began in 1957, grew each year through 1990 as the number of nuclear power plants and nuclear electricity generation capacity increased, and generally leveled off from 2001 through 2019. Nuclear energy’s share of U.S. energy consumption peaked in 2009 at about 9% (8.36 quads). A combination of reactor upgrades and shorter refueling and maintenance cycles at nuclear power plants helped to compensate for fewer operating nuclear reactors since the 1990s. In 2020 through 2022, total annual nuclear electricity generation declined after two nuclear plants retired in 2020, one plant in 2021, and another plant in 2022. In 2022, nuclear energy’s share of total U.S. energy consumption was about 8% (8.05 quads).
1 Utility-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 2022. The Monthly Energy Review Table 10.6. includes estimates for distributed (small-scale) solar electricity generation. A small amount of electricity is imported from and exported to Canada and Mexico.
2 U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review, Tables 1.2 and 10.1 and Table D1 Estimated Primary Energy Consumption in the United States, Selected Years, 1635-1945.
Last updated: August 16, 2023, with data from the Monthly Energy Review, April 2023; data for 2022 are preliminary.