Monday, January 23, 2012

Energy Consumption in the US 2010

According to the US Energy Information Administration, the statistics branch of the Department of Energy, the US used 98 quadrillion BTU last year. Energy sources are measured in different physical units depending on the type of energy source: barrels of oil, cubic feet of natural gas, tons of coal, kilowatt hours of electricity. In the United States, British thermal units (Btu), a measure of heat energy, is a commonly used unit for comparing different types of energy. In 2010, U.S. primary energy use equaled 98 quadrillion (=E15, or one thousand trillion) Btu. If it helps to visualize this any better, that is equivalent to about 2,471 Mtoe (million tons of oil equivalent) the energy measurement standard used by the International Energy Agency, IEA, the keeper of world statistics. In a world with seven billion people the United States is estimated to have 310 million people, about 4% of the world’s population, 7% of the land mass and use about 14% of the energy (depending on how fast China and India are growing since the world energy data is about two years old).

In the United States the US Energy Information Administration collects and reports the energy statistics in quadrillion BTUs and has recently reported the summary data for 2010. These statistics paint a picture of who we are today. The major energy sources in the United States are petroleum-gas and oil (37%), natural gas (25%), coal (21%), nuclear (9%), and renewable energy primarily biomass and hydro power generation (8%). The United States only produces about 75% of the energy we consume, the shortfall is imported petroleum. The major users are heating of residential and commercial buildings (11%), industry (20%), transportation including cars, trucks, trains, planes and ships (27.4%), and electric power generation (40%).

The slightly complicated chart above shows the types of fuel and the sector that consumes it. Looking at petroleum, you can see that it supplies 37% of our energy needs. Transportation, cars, trucks, trains, planes and ships, uses 71% of petroleum and that petroleum provides 94% of the total energy used in transportation. Industry uses 22% of the total petroleum consumed by the United States to supply 40% of the energy used by industry. Studying all the details of the chart tells you a lot about the United States in 2010. It will also allow you to understand the impact that policies, regulation and scientific advances might have on the country.

For example, 92% of coal mined in the United States is used to generate electricity, regulations like the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule affecting electricity generation are likely to impact coal use, cost of electricity, mining and mining regions. In 2010, of the 1,085.3 million short tons of coal produced in the United States, about 7.5% was exported, so if the number of coal fired electrical plants is decreased, the demand for coal to produce electricity is reduced, the amount of coal mined in the United States will decrease, the number of coal miners and employees of coal companies will decrease, the trains transporting coal and their employees will not be necessary, and the cost of electricity will increase as the electrical power industry builds new generation plants burning other fuels.
Some primary energy sources, such as nuclear and coal, are entirely used in one sector, electrical generation. Others, like natural gas and renewables, are more evenly distributed across sectors. Similarly, while transportation is almost entirely dependent on petroleum, electric power uses a variety of fuels. Because the United States is the world’s largest oil importer, it may seem surprising that it also exports about 2 million barrels a day of refined petroleum products. It seems were are also an excellent oil refiner on the easily accessed Gulf Coast. Petroleum is used primarily for gasoline for cars (55%), diesel for trucks and heating oil (23%), propane and liquefied petroleum gases used in homes and farms for cooking, heating, and jet fuel (9%). The five biggest sources of net crude oil imported to the United States in 2010 were: Canada (25%), Saudi Arabia (12%), Nigeria (11%), Venezuela (10%), Mexico (9%). Policy decisions about a future Keystone pipeline may change that in the future. U.S. crude oil imports grew rapidly from mid-20th century until the late 1970s, but fell sharply from 1979 to 1985 because of restructuring the economy (manufacturing as a component of the economy was reduced), conservation, and improved efficiency. After 1985, the upward trend resumed, peaking at 10.1 million barrels per day in 2005, and falling to 9.2 million barrels per day in 2010.

Natural gas is the source of 25% of the energy consumed in the United States and in 2010 was used almost equally for industry, electrical generations and residential and commercial heating. Most, but not all, of the natural gas consumed in the United States is produced in the United States. Some natural gas is imported to the United States in the older Keystone pipelines. Natural gas is also being shipped to the United States as liquefied natural gas (LNG). U.S. natural gas production and consumption were nearly in balance through 1986 though U.S. production of natural gas peaked in 1973. From 1986 to 2006 consumption of natural gas outpaced production, and imports rose. Then in 2006 U.S. production of natural gas began to increase as a result of the development of more efficient and cost effective hydraulic fracturing techniques. In 2010 natural gas production in the United States reached the highest recorded annual total since 1973. Regulation and control of hydraulic fracturing will impact the cost of natural gas production in the United States, the availability of gas and the environmental impact to our natural resources.

In truth I am an old time engineer who learned to look at the world with a slide rule (calculators were just coming in and thought to be cheating). Through numbers I understand the world, policies and see relationships.

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