The United States is a nation on the move. About 27% of total U.S. energy consumption in 2022 was for transporting people and goods from one place to another.
There are four major transportation energy sources
The major transportation energy sources used in the United States are:
- Petroleum products made from crude oil and from natural gas processing, including gasoline, distillate fuels (mostly diesel fuel), jet fuel, residual fuel oil, and propane
- Electricity produced from many different energy sources
The types and uses of transportation energy sources include:
- Motor gasoline is used in cars, motorcycles, light trucks, and boats. Aviation gasoline is used in many types of airplanes.
- Distillate fuels are used mainly by trucks, buses, and trains and in boats and ships.
- Jet fuel is used in jet airplanes and some types of helicopters.
- Residual fuel oil is used in ships.
- Biofuels may be blended into gasoline, diesel fuel, and jet fuel.
- Natural gas, as compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas, is used in cars, buses, trucks, and ships. Most of the vehicles that use natural gas are in government and private vehicle fleets.
- Natural gas is used to operate compressors to move natural gas in pipelines. Compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas are used in cars, buses, trucks, and ships. Most of the vehicles that use natural gas are in government and private vehicle fleets.
- Propane is used in cars, buses, and trucks. Most of the vehicles that use propane are in government and private vehicle fleets.
- Electricity is used by public mass transit systems and by electric vehicles.
Petroleum is the main U.S. transportation energy source
In 2022, petroleum products accounted for about 90% of total U.S. transportation sector energy use. Biofuels contributed about 6%, most of which were blended with petroleum fuels (gasoline, diesel fuel, and jet fuel). Natural gas accounted for about 5%, and nearly all was used as a fuel for natural gas pipeline compressors. Electricity use by mass transit systems was less than 1% of total energy consumption by the transportation sector. Electricity use for charging electric vehicles was relatively small in 2022 but is expected to increase.
Gasoline is the dominant U.S. transportation fuel
Gasoline is the dominant transportation fuel in the United States, followed by distillate fuels (mostly diesel fuel) and jet fuel. Gasoline includes motor gasoline and aviation gasoline. On an energy content basis, gasoline (excluding fuel ethanol) accounted for 52% of total energy consumption by the U.S. transportation sector in 2022. Distillate fuels, mostly diesel (excluding biofuels blended with diesel), accounted for 23%, and jet fuel accounted for 12%.
Biofuels are added to petroleum fuels
Ethanol and biodiesel were some of the first automobile fuels, but they were replaced by gasoline and diesel fuel made from crude oil by the early 1900's. Today, most of the motor gasoline sold in the United States contains up to 10% ethanol by volume. Most biodiesel and renewable diesel fuel is blended with petroleum diesel. In 2022, total biofuels consumption accounted for about 6% of total U.S. transportation sector energy consumption. Ethanol's share was about 4%, and the share of biodiesel, renewable diesel, and other biofuels combinded was about 2%
Electric vehicles are becoming popular (again)
Electric vehicles (EVs) are vehicles that use an electric motor to move the vehicle. An on-board battery pack is used to power the electric motor. The battery pack is charged by plugging into an electricity source. Concerns about the environmental affects related to emissions from internal combustion engines has led to a renewed interest in EVs. Learn more about EVs.