Americans using more fossil fuels

Nov 09, 2011 by Anne M Stark

American energy use went back up in 2010 compared to 2009, when consumption was at a 12-year low. The United States used more fossil fuels in 2010 than in 2009, while renewable electricity remained approximately constant, with an increase in wind power offset by a modest decline in hydroelectricity. There also was a significant increase in biomass consumption, according to the most recent energy flow charts released by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Wind power jumped from .70 quadrillion BTU, or quads, in 2009 to .92 quads in 2010. (A BTU or British Thermal Unit is a unit of measurement for and is equivalent to about 1.055 kilojoules) Most of that energy is tied directly to and thus helps decrease the use of coal for . Biomass rose from 3.88 quads to 4.29 quads. That increase was driven by ethanol use as a and a feedstock for industrial production. (The apparent decline in geothermal is due to an accounting change by the Energy Information Administration.)

"We are still seeing the capacity additions from a wind energy boom come online," said. A.J. Simon, an LLNL energy systems analyst who develops the flow charts using data provided by the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration. "And mandates are driving the consumption of ethanol by cars and trucks."

Overall, U.S. energy use in 2010 equaled 98 quads compared to the 94.6 quads used in 2009. Most of the energy was tied to coal, natural gas and petroleum.

Energy use in the residential, commercial, industrial and transportation arenas all rose as well.

The majority of energy use in 2010 was used for electricity generation (39.49 quads), followed by transportation, industrial, residential and commercial consumption. "This is just a snapshot of how the energy system was used," Simon said. "Although it doesn't appear to change much from year-to-year, even small shifts can have big consequences for certain sectors of our economy."

As in previous years, coal was the major player in producing electricity, with nuclear and natural gas coming in second and third, respectively. But natural gas consumption by the electric sector grew 0.5 quads this year, driven by consistently low natural gas prices. Over the past six years, gas use in the electric sector has increased 25 percent.

Petroleum fuels continue to dominate the transportation sector.

Though carbon emissions in 2010 were higher than they were in 2009, Americans' carbon footprint has decreased over the past few years. The U.S. emitted 5,632 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2010, up from 5,428 in 2009, but down from the all time high of 6,022 in 2007. The decrease is due primarily to reduced energy consumption, but aided by a shift from coal to natural gas in the electric sector and adoption of renewable energy resources.

One metric ton of CO2 emissions is equivalent to 37.8 propane cylinders used for home barbecues or 2.1 barrels of oil consumed, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Explore further: Is nuclear power the only way to avoid geoengineering?

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User comments : 11

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Kingsix
not rated yet Nov 09, 2011
Does rejected energy include things like heat produced?
I could see a lot of energy produced for distribution being wasted, but transportation. Heat etc is the only explanation I can think of.
Callippo
1 / 5 (2) Nov 09, 2011
The centralized model of energy distribution is apparently a huge waste of resources just with respect to the large fraction of energy rejected. It includes the central heat distribution too, because - illustratively speaking - the pipes must remain hot, for being able to serve for heat transport. Again, the cold fusion and decentralized production of energy would not only make the human civilization less dependent on the fossil fuel and centralized sources of energy, but much more effective too.
_nigmatic10
not rated yet Nov 09, 2011
If the infrastructure for alternative energy is not there, then of course it will not be used.
Callippo
2 / 5 (4) Nov 09, 2011
Alternative energy sources must use the accumulators for being independent on grid. The ineffectiveness and cost of electric energy storage is the main limiting factor of the development of alternative energy sources.
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (2) Nov 09, 2011
What a shame the last E-Cat test showed that the technology was nothing but a SCAM.
Shakescene21
1 / 5 (1) Nov 09, 2011
It's surprising that Solar is still providing less energy than Geothermal. Both of these sources are still tiny but they should be major energy sources by mid-century.

The most interesting sources of Geothermal are volcanoes. The challenge is to utilize the heat accumulating inside volcanoes to produce electricity, in the process "defusing" the volcanoes instead of letting them erupt.
RealScience
5 / 5 (1) Nov 09, 2011
Kingsix - yes, 'rejected' energy is indeed a term for waste heat.
COCO
1 / 5 (1) Nov 10, 2011
thank god for our warrior Presidents and their oil-centric war policies - now we see the demand side part of the equation giving credence to the effort. On to Kanada!
Nerdyguy
4 / 5 (4) Nov 10, 2011
thank god for our warrior Presidents and their oil-centric war policies - now we see the demand side part of the equation giving credence to the effort. On to Kanada!


Wow, so your view is that America's dependence on oil is just the result of a few presidential administrations?
David_Wishengrad
not rated yet Nov 10, 2011
Very informative graphic:

Notice how the biggest waste of energy is spilt between creating electricity and transportation.

I would have drawn it with flows to the right of the orange Electricity Generation 39.49% rectangle, inverted, with the rejected energy of 36.78% on top of the useable energy of 12.71%. The reason being as it would match the output stack on the right side of the pink Transportation rectangle.

When you see it like that it becomes easy to realize that they are both, upside-down and need tremendous improvements.
Nerdyguy
not rated yet Nov 10, 2011
thank god for our warrior Presidents and their oil-centric war policies - now we see the demand side part of the equation giving credence to the effort. On to Kanada!


Wow, so your view is that America's dependence on oil is just the result of a few presidential administrations?


LOL Coco! Don't just downrank, give me some feedback. How did I misunderstand your comments?

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