US Energy Use Falls

Photo courtesy the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the US Department of Energy

Americans used more solar, nuclear, biomass, and wind energy, and less coal and petroleum in 2008 than in 2007. Natural gas consumption rose slightly and geothermal remained the same. This according to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. (The schematic is informative and you can see a bigger image in pdf.)

Estimated 2008 US energy use equaled 99.2 quadrillion British Thermal Units, or 99.2 quads, down from 101.5 quads in 2007. The bare bones of the resuls:

  • Energy use in the industrial and transportation sectors declined by 1.17 and 0.9 quads respectively and can be attributed to the spike in oil prices in summer 2008
  • Commercial and residential use climbed slightly (that could look different in 2009, I’m guessing)
  • Last year saw a significant increase in biomass with the recent push for the development of more biofuels including ethanol
  • Increases in wind energy can be attributed to large investments in wind turbine technologies over the last few years as well as better use of the existing turbines
  • 2008 saw a slight increase in nuclear energy from 8.41 quads in 2007 to 8.45 quads in 2008, mostly because existing plants had less down time

Of the total 99.2 quads consumed in 2008, less than half—only 42.15 quads—ended up as useful energy that does things like move your light your lamps. The rest is known as rejected energy and does useless and counterproductive things like make waste heat from power plants.

Clearly we have a long way to go on the rejected energy front and should move on that as fast as possible.

  • Julia Whitty is the environmental correspondent for Mother Jones. Her latest book is Deep Blue Home: An Intimate Ecology of Our Wild Ocean. For more of her stories, click here.

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