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U.S. Energy Consumption Statistics

Every day, we consume energy from a variety of sources (the average American uses 12 kilowatt-hours of electricity per day at home alone). Whether it’s powering up your AC unit, cooking on a gas stove, or driving to work, we all expend energy that adds up to an annual total, and the energy sources we choose matter. 

The U.S. consumes over 97 quadrillion British thermal units (BTU) of energy annually. This power comes from petroleum, natural gas, renewable sources, coal, and nuclear power (in that order of prevalence), but that wasn’t always the case. Read on to learn more about the U.S.’s energy data and how it’s changed over recent decades.

Key Takeaways

  • The U.S. consumes power from a variety of sources of energy, renewable and non-renewable, with the primary energy consumption coming from petroleum.
  • A variety of sectors in the U.S. consume energy from various sources, with the transportation and electric power sectors consuming the most.
  • Energy consumption in the total U.S. has changed over time, nearly tripling since 1950 and changing in terms of the leading sources and their energy efficiency.
  • In terms of energy statistics by state, Texas consumes the most energy annually, while Vermont consumes the least. In general, the South consumes the most energy per capita, and the Northeast consumes the least.

U.S. Energy Consumption by Energy Source

Below is a breakdown of the U.S.’s overall energy consumption by energy source (including fossil fuels (i.e. coal, crude oil, and natural gas), renewable energy, and more).

  • Petroleum – 36%
    • Also called crude oil, petroleum is a fossil fuel formed from the remains of ancient marine life (i.e. plants, algae, undersea bacteria). Air emissions from fossil fuel combustion are the primary culprit for the U.S. energy system’s impact on the environment. However, the use of fossil fuels is on the decline–since 1990, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have shrunk by 7.3% (as of 2020).
  • Nuclear Electric Power – 8%
    • Using nuclear fission, atoms can be split apart to release energy. Nuclear power plants across the U.S. use this energy to heat water and use the steam produced to spin large turbines that generate electricity. While nuclear energy is technically clean energy, building nuclear power plants can have dangerous implications for the people nearby (i.e. radioactive waste leaks).
    • The U.S. generates more nuclear electricity than any other country, with a capacity for 96.50 million kilowatts and an actual generation of 789.88 billion kilowatt-hours annually (as of 2020).
  • Coal – 11%
    • Also a fossil fuel (made from ancient plants), coal is the largest single source of CO2 emissions.
    • Despite being the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel, coal still supplies about a third of the world’s electricity.
  • Renewable Energy Sources (i.e. solar energy, geothermal energy, biomass energy, wind energy, hydroelectric power) – 12%
    • Renewable energy comes from sources that are naturally replenished (i.e. wind, the Sun) rather than sources that might someday run out. Not only are renewable energy sources typically clean (reducing carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions), they also tend to be more affordable, create reliable jobs, and increase U.S. energy independence.
    • Of this renewable energy, the majority (37%) comes from biomass (including biomass waste, biofuels, and wood).
      • Wood was the original energy source in the U.S., accounting for 100% of U.S. energy consumption from 1776 until around 1850, when coal entered the scene along with the widespread use of electricity. Since then, the use of energy derived from wood has steadily declined, reaching just 2.1% in 2022.
      • The use of petroleum in the U.S. began with the discovery of America’s first commercial oil well in Pennsylvania in 1859. By 1875, petroleum accounted for 0.30% of the U.S. energy consumption total. By 1900, hydroelectric power and natural gas were introduced; by 1975, nuclear electric power was introduced; by 2000, a range of other renewable energy sources had entered the scene.
    • Wind power comprises 29% of the U.S.’s renewable energy use.
    • Hydroelectric power (which uses the natural flow of water to generate electricity) comprises 18% of the U.S.’s renewable energy use.
    • Solar power comprises 14.2% of the U.S.’s renewable energy use.
    • Geothermal energy (heat energy derived from the earth, deep underground) comprises 1.6% of the U.S.’s renewable energy use.
  • Natural Gas – 32%
    • Natural gas is also a fossil fuel, as it is formed over millions of years as a result of heat and pressure on organic materials. Natural gas includes a gaseous mix of hydrocarbons, but is primarily made of methane.

U.S. Energy Use Sectors

Below is a breakdown of the U.S.’s energy use by sector.

  • The residential sector accounts for 16% of the U.S.’s energy use. This includes everyday use of electricity in American homes.
  • The commercial sector comprises 12% of the U.S.’s energy use. This includes businesses and any other service-providing facilities, such as government, religious, or social organizations.
  • 35% of the U.S.’s energy use is from the industrial sector. This includes primarily companies involved in manufacturing capital goods, such as airlines, defense contractors, and construction firms.
  • The transportation sector accounts for 37% of the U.S.’s total energy consumption. This includes transportation means for people, animals, and goods and products. The energy consumed by this sector includes the vehicles themselves as well as infrastructure and operations.
  • Within the electric power sector, electricity retail sales account for 35% of energy use while electrical system energy losses account for the other 65%.

U.S. Energy Consumption Over Time

  • In the past few decades, energy consumption in the U.S. has changed drastically. While total energy consumption has grown fairly steadily overall (despite a recent slight dip), the leading energy sources have shifted over time.
    • For instance, in 1950, coal was the leading energy source, with absolutely no nuclear energy used and a scarcity of power from renewable energy used, for a grand total of 34.6 quadrillion British thermal units. 
  • As of 2021, petroleum has far surpassed coal as the leading energy source, and the use of renewable energy has quadrupled.
    • Today, nuclear power is one of the most significant energy sources, and the total energy consumed annually has reached 97.25 quadrillion British thermal units.
  • Only 11 years between 1950 and 2022 saw decreases in the amount of electricity consumed, with eight of those years occurring after 2007.
  • In 2022, American electricity consumption reached 4.05 trillion kWh, the highest amount consumed on record (14 times greater than America’s total electricity consumption in 1950).
  • Today, the largest residential electricity uses are heating (15.9%) and cooling (16.2%). Next comes water heating (11.4%), refrigerators and freezers (6.9%),  and lighting (4.4%). The smallest culprits are televisions (3.5%) and computers (2.3%). Miscellaneous uses make up the remaining 39.4%.
  • The largest amount of commercially-consumed electricity goes to computers and other office equipment (11.4%), followed closely by refrigeration (11.3%). This is followed by space cooling (10.2%), lighting (9.3%), ventilation (7.9%), and space and water heating (2.7%), with the remaining 47.2% consumed by miscellaneous uses.
  • The largest amount of manufacturing electricity use goes to machine drive (51.6%). This is followed by process and boiler heating (11.1%), facility HVAC (8.4%), electrochemical processes (8.2%), process cooling and refrigeration (8.4%), and lighting (5.9%). Miscellaneous and facility uses make up the remaining 6.4%.
  • Demand for energy in the U.S. is projected to continue very slow growth (a predicted 1% increase from 2022 to 2050).

States With the Highest and Lowest Energy Consumption

  • The consumption of energy in the U.S. varies significantly by state. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Texas typically consumes the most energy annually, and Vermont the least.
    • Other states that consume high quantities of energy include California, Florida, and Ohio.
    • Other states that consume the least energy include Rhode Island, Hawaii, and Delaware. 
  • In general, the smaller, older apartments and houses of the Northeast consume less energy than the larger, more heavily climate-controlled homes of the South.
  • Per capita, however, Louisiana took the lead, with New York in last place.
  • High per capita energy consumption typically indicates that a state is a major contributor to the industrial sector. The five highest per capita energy consumers (Louisiana, Wyoming, Alaska, North Dakota, and Iowa) are all major contributors to the industrial sector, with energy consumed by that sector making up more than half of the total for each state.
  • Vermont is the only state that consumes less energy than Washington, D.C. (132 trillion Btu versus D.C.’s 179 trillion Btu as of 2015). 
  • Since 1961, Vermont has consistently used less energy than any other state.
  • The top 10 states’ energy consumption exceeds the energy consumption of the other 40 states and Washington, D.C. combined.