U.S. Energy Portfolio

The United States is one of the biggest producers and consumers of energy in the world. In terms of energy production, fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas, and oil dominate in the United States. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), in 2015, natural gas was the most produced source of energy with about 26 quadrillion btu produced. Coal ranked second in production with about 20 quadrillion Btu produced. About 18 quadrillion Btu of crude oil was produced[3], making it the third most produced energy source. Nuclear electric power was the fourth most produced source of energy, with 8 quadrillion Btu produced. Production of renewable energy sources was significantly less than the production of fossil fuels. About 5 quadrillion Btu of biomass was produced, about 2 quadrillion Btu of hydroelectric power, and geothermal, solar, and wind energy combined was only 2 quadrillion Btu. These numbers have not changed much from 2015 to 2016.

The United States’ production portfolio is very similar to its consumption portfolio- the majority of energy consumed also comes from fossil fuels. According to the EIA, the United States used 97.7 quadrillion Btu of energy in 2015. The most used source of energy was petroleum (oil) at 36% followed by natural gas at 29% and coal at 16%. Nuclear electric power made up 9% of the energy consumed and all renewable energy sources combined, coming in dead last, made up about 10% of the energy consumed. Among the 10% of renewable energy sources consumed, biomass represented 49% of consumption, hydroelectric 25%, wind 19%, solar 6%, and geothermal 2%. Despite having the resources and the means to change to an energy portfolio with more renewable energy sources, the United States continues to produce and consume more fossil fuels, contributing to global climate change on a massive scale.

Global carbon dioxide emissions have been on the rise since the start of the industrial revolution in the 1900s due to human activity. The United States is currently the second largest contributor to global carbon dioxide emissions in the world, following only China. From 1850-2011 the United States was the leading emitter of carbon dioxide emissions at 27% of the world’s emissions. China overtook the United States as the biggest emitter of total greenhouse gas emissions in 2011and continues to be the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. In the United States greenhouse gas emissions are 30% from electricity, 26% from transportation, 21% from industry, 12% from commercial and residential, and 9% from agriculture. Out of all the greenhouse gas emissions emitted in the U.S. in 2015, 82% was carbon dioxide, 10% methane, 5% nitrous oxide, and 3% fluorinated gases. Out of the top five emitters of carbon in the world, the United States is ranked number one for tons emitted per capita. The U.S. emitted 6,870 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents in 2014.

Written by Alyssa Lemire, Class of 2017

Power Poles Photo thanks to Pixabay


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