Americans are using more and more energy every year, according to the most recent energy flow charts released by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Across the board, more energy of every type — everything from renewables, to fossil fuels, to nuclear — is being used. In 2013, Americans used over 2.3 quadrillion thermal units more than in 2012.
That is some very notable growth in energy usage — something that is a real problem when you consider the fact that regardless of any technological improvements that may occur (or may not) in the near-future, energy use will have to decrease to some degree or other with the increasing scarcity of economically recoverable fossil fuels. Also, switching to renewable sources of energy isn’t enough on it’s own to limit carbon emissions to a large enough degree to mitigate severe climate change — decreased energy use would be a requirement — so to see energy use of all types is not decreasing, but actually increasing, is a worrying (though not at all surprising) trend.
The Laboratory has also provided a companion chart that illustrates the nation’s growing energy-related carbon dioxide emissions — carbon dioxide emissions in 2013 in America rose to over 5,390 million metric tons, the first increase since 2010.
The DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory provides more:
Wind energy continued to grow strongly, increasing 18 percent from 1.36 quadrillion BTUs, or quads, in 2012 to 1.6 quads in 2013 (a BTU or British Thermal Unit is a unit of measurement for energy; 3,400 BTU is equivalent to about 1 kilowatt-hour). New wind farms continue to come on line with bigger, more efficient turbines. Most new wind turbines can generate 2 to 2.5 megawatts of power.
Natural gas prices rose slightly in 2013, reversing some of the recent shift from coal to gas in the electricity production sector. Overall natural gas use increased by 0.6 quads. Losses in the electricity sector were more than offset by greater gas use in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors.
Nuclear energy was greater in 2013 than in 2012. The use of nuclear energy fluctuates a little from year to year. It’s likely that in 2013, fewer reactors were down for refueling than in previous years. However, a few of the nation’s about 100 reactors have recently closed for good, such as the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in Pendleton, California.
The majority of energy use in 2013 was used for electricity generation (38.2 quads), followed by transportation, industrial, residential and commercial. Energy use in the residential, commercial transportation and industrial sectors all increased slightly.
Petroleum use increased in 2013 from the previous year. Simon estimates that, with oil prices remaining relatively constant, this is likely due to the modest economic expansion.
Something to note: along with the increase in total energy use, there was an accompanying increase in “rejected energy” — that’s to say, in the amount of energy generated that doesn’t end up being utilized. This “rejected energy” increased from 58.1 quads in 2012 to 59 in 2013.
“Not all of the energy that we consume is put to use,” Simon explained. “Heat you feel when you put your hand on your water heater and the warm exhaust from your car’s tailpipe are examples of rejected energy. Comparing energy services to rejected energy gives a rough estimate of each sector’s energy efficiency.”