Fossil fuel consumption continues to dominate the energy matrix in the U.S. In fact, this has been the case for over a century. Petroleum, natural gas, and coal have historically accounted for 80 percent of the energy demand in North America.
The fossil fuel share of total U.S. energy consumption in 2017 was the lowest share since 1902. In detail, it stands at a little more than 80 percent, as U.S. fossil fuel consumption decreased for the third consecutive year. This data was published in a report prepared by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
“The decline in fossil fuel consumption in 2017 was driven by slight decreases in coal and natural gas consumption. Coal consumption fell by 2.5 percent in 2017, following larger annual declines of 13.6 percent and 8.5 percent in 2015 and 2016, respectively. For its part, U.S. consumption of coal peaked in 2005 and declined nearly 40 percent since then.”
Meanwhile, natural gas consumption fell by 1.4 percent in 2017, a change from recent trends. Unlike coal consumption, which has decreased in 8 of the past 10 years, natural gas consumption has increased in 8 of the past 10 years, and in 2017, was twice that of coal.
According to the EIA, natural gas consumption growth has been driven by increased use in the electric power sector. Overall, U.S. consumption of natural gas increased by 24 percent from 2005 to 2017.
Fossil consumption in the U.S. is led by oil
Petroleum consumption increased in 2017, but remains 10 percent lower than its peak consumption level, also set in 2005. Mainly used in the transportation sector, several petroleum-based fuels are also used in homes, businesses, and industries. Petroleum has been the largest source of energy consumption in the United States since surpassing coal in 1950.
Renewables still weak in the U.S. energy matrix
The EIA indicates that the renewable share of energy consumption in 2017, which includes hydroelectricity, biomass, and other renewables such as wind and solar, was 11.3 percent. This is the highest since the late 1910s. The largest growth in renewables over the past decade has been in solar and wind electricity generation.
Energy consumption in the United States has undergone many changes over the course of the nation’s history. From wood as the primary resource in the 18th and 19th centuries, to the onset of coal and petroleum use; to the more modern rise of nuclear power in the late 20th century, and to renewables in the early 21st century.
Given the development of renewables, fuel consumption will continue to lead the U.S. energy matrix for years to come.