U.S. Energy Factsheet: Exploring Our Energy System

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Kim Chwalek

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Are we on track to achieve a carbon-neutral economy by 2050? Keep reading to learn more about America’s energy production, energy consumption, and electricity generation by energy source.


I. U.S. Energy Production (2019)

According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global carbon emissions must fall 45% by 2030 and reach 0% by 2050 to limit global warming to 1.5ºC.

Currently, fossil fuels—petroleum, natural gas, and coal—account for about 80% of total U.S. primary energy production in 2019. To achieve a carbon-neutral economy, America must be prepared to phase out most coal-fired plants by the end of the decade.

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The market for coal is already facing pressure from low-cost natural gas. In the past 10 years, over 500 coal-fired power units have been retired and a dozen coal mining companies have filed for bankruptcy.

Many states are already phasing-out coal to curb carbon emissions and reduce electricity costs. In 2016, Oregon required utilities to eliminate coal-fired power. New York and Washington passed similar measures in 2019. Falling costs of natural gas and renewable energy resources have strengthened state commitments to clean energy.

These are the amounts—in quadrillion Btu (or quads)—of each sector’s primary energy consumption. The electric power and transportation sectors consumed the most energy at 37% and 28% of the total, respectively.

These are the amounts—in quadrillion Btu (or quads)—of each sector’s primary energy consumption. The electric power and transportation sectors consumed the most energy at 37% and 28% of the total, respectively.

II. U.S. Energy Consumption (2019)

The United States uses and produces a mix of energy sources. In 2019, the United States’ total energy consumption was 100.2 quadrillion Btu. Out of this total, petroleum was the largest source of energy consumed at 37%, natural gas was the second largest source at 32%, and renewables amounted to 11%.


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III. U.S. Electricity Generation by Source (2019)

In 2019, a cumulative 4,127 billion kilowatthours (kWh) of electricity were generated at utility-scale electricity generation facilities in the United States. Although fossil fuels generated 62.6% of this total, renewables are on the rise. In 2001, America got .05% of its electricity from wind, solar and geothermal energy. Now, more than 17% of our electricity comes from these sources.

Within America’s renewables category, 7.1% of electricity generated was from wind, 7.0% from hydropower, 1.7% from solar, 1.4% from biomass, and 0.4% from geothermal.

Global renewable electricity installation is also increasing. According to The Guardian, “The IEA report published on Tuesday says almost 90% of new electricity generation in 2020 will be renewable, with just 10% powered by gas and coal. The trend puts green electricity on track to become the largest power source in 2025, displacing coal, which has dominated for the past 50 years.”

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Achieving net-zero emission is possible, but it will require action by our government, the private sector, and the public as a whole. As a country, we cannot remain divided on the issue of climate change. Time will only tell if our country can achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. For the sake of our planet and fellow people, I hope we do.

If you enjoyed reading this article, check out Top 10 U.S. Environmental Journalists to Follow Today and 8 Female Environmentalists Who Are Changing the World.

XO, Kim







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