How Patterns of Energy Consumption Have Changed in the U.S.


There is no doubt that the use of energy in America has changed drastically through our history which can be attributed to the new sources introduced.  The chart below from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), demonstrates how our energy sources have changed over time.  Beginning with wood as the sole primary energy source, we evolved to hydroelectric power (flowing water that creates energy and turns it into electricity – like that of a water mill), then coal, and now petroleum products lead the way.

From this chart we can see that coal has been a steady resource for our country.  It seems to drop when other sources surface – such as oil and natural-gas – but tends to always make a come-back.  This may be due to the fact of it being cheap, and the numerous ways in which coal can be used.

The EIA states, “Since the mid-20th century, the use of coal has again increased (mainly as a primary energy source for electric power generation), and a new form of energy—nuclear electric power—emerged.  While the overall energy history of the United States is one of significant change as new forms of energy were developed, the three major fossil fuels—petroleum, natural gas, and coal, which together provided 87% of total U.S. primary energy over the past decade—have dominated the U.S. fuel mix for well over 100 years.”

Renewable energy – such as wind and solar power – are increasing.  However, based on this chart of historical energy consumption in the U.S., that does not at all mean the use of other sources will decrease in its’ place.  In fact, the EIA predicts that in 2040, 75% of U.S. energy will still come from oil, coal, and natural gas.