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Today in Energy

December 18, 2012

Energy Perspectives: Industrial and transportation sectors lead energy use by sector

Graph of energy use of all sectors, as described in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Review Energy Perspectives

Since 2008, energy use in the transportation, residential, and commercial sectors stayed relatively constant or fell slightly. Industrial consumption grew in 2010 and 2011, after a sharp decline in 2008. Historically, the industrial sector was the largest energy consumer, although in the last decade the gap between the industrial and transportation sector energy use narrowed.

For the purposes of this analysis, electrical losses are not considered as a separate source of energy consumption. Almost 27 quads of 2011 energy consumption of 97 quads are classified as electrical losses. The summary chart presented above allocates energy losses that occur in the generation of electricity to each of the end-use sectors in proportion to their share of electricity use. In the charts below, electricity use and electrical losses are reported separately for each sector that uses electricity. Roughly two-thirds of the fuels used for generation are lost in the generation and distribution of electricity.

Graph of energy use by sector, as described in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Review Energy Perspectives

A comparison of the sectors over several decades shows:

  • Industrial: After surpassing coal in 1958, petroleum and natural gas were the predominant sources of energy in the industrial sector. Coal use in the industrial sector has declined and is now exceeded by both electricity and renewable energy consumption.
  • Transportation: Petroleum accounted for 93% of energy consumption in the transportation sector in 2011. The remainder consisted of mostly natural gas and renewables (fuel ethanol and biodiesel). After reaching its peak consumption level in 2007, petroleum consumption declined over the past four years. Renewable use increased slightly over the past decade.
  • Residential and commercial: Electricity use (and related losses) increased rapidly in both the residential and commercial sectors, and, along with natural gas, is the leading source of energy consumption. Petroleum consumption declined in both sectors, while use of renewable energy slightly increased in the residential sector.