Petroleum, Natural Gas, Coal Continue to Dominate Energy

(August 7, 2019) – Fossil fuels—petroleum, natural gas, and coal— have accounted for at least 80% of energy consumption in the U.S. for well over a century, writes the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Overall energy consumption in the nation reached a record-high in 2018 at 101 quadrillion Btu, of which more than 81 quadrillion Btu were from fossil fuels. Despite the increase, the fossil fuel share of total U.S. energy consumption in 2018 rose only slightly from 2017 and was the second-lowest since 1902.

The increase in fossil fuel consumption last year was driven by increases in petroleum and natural gas use. Coal consumption fell by 4.3% in 2018, the fifth consecutive annual decline. U.S. consumption of coal peaked in 2005 and has declined nearly 42% since then. U.S. coal consumption fell to 687 million short tons last year, the lowest level since the 1970s.

Natural gas consumption increased in 2018, reaching a new record consumption level of 82.1 Bcfd.

Natural gas consumption has grown in eight of the past 10 years. Growth has largely been driven by increased consumption in the electric power sector. Overall, U.S. consumption of natural gas has jumped 37% since 2005.

Petroleum consumption also rose last year as petroleum products supplied reached the equivalent of 20.5 MMbbld. Despite the increase in 2018, U.S. petroleum consumption remains lower than its peak level set in 2005. Petroleum has been the largest source of energy consumption in the U.S. since surpassing coal in 1950.

The renewable share of energy consumption in 2018, which includes hydroelectricity, biomass, and other renewables such as wind and solar, was 11.4%, slightly less than its 2017 share. The largest growth in renewables over the past decade has been in solar and wind electricity generation.

Energy consumption in the U.S. has undergone many changes in the nation’s history, notes EIA, from wood as a primary resource in the 18th and 19th centuries, to the onset of coal and petroleum use, and to the more modern rise of nuclear power in the late 20th century and renewables in the early 21st century.

(SOURCE: The Weekly Propane Newsletter, August 5, 2019)