In 2020, energy production in the United States fell to just below 96 quadrillion British thermal units (quads), down more than 5% from 2019’s record high, according to our Monthly Energy Review. In absolute terms, the drop from 101.3 quads in 2019 to 95.8 quads in 2020 marked the largest annual decrease in U.S. energy production on record. Economic responses to the COVID-19 pandemic that began during the spring of 2020 drove most of this decrease.
To calculate U.S. energy production and to compare different types of energy reported in different physical units (such as barrels, cubic feet, tons, kilowatthours, etc.), we convert sources of energy to common units of heat, called British thermal units (Btu). We use a fossil fuel equivalence to calculate electricity consumption of noncombustible renewables such as wind, hydro, solar, and geothermal.
Between 2019 and 2020, U.S. coal production fell by 25% to less than 11 quads, its largest annual decrease on record. U.S. coal production in 2020 was less than half what it was at its peak in 1998 because natural gas and renewable sources increased their shares in the electricity generation mix over the years, displacing coal.
U.S. crude oil production fell by 8% in 2020 after reaching a record high in 2019. The sudden drop in petroleum demand in March 2020 as a result of the global response to COVID-19 led crude oil operators to decrease production.
Natural gas dry production in the United States increased in eight of the previous nine years and hit a record high in 2019. It decreased by 0.6 quads, or 2%, in 2020. Production of natural gas plant liquids, a byproduct of natural gas production, increased by 7% in 2020.
U.S. renewable energy production increased by 2% between 2019 and 2020 to a record-high 11.8 quads in 2020, primarily because of increased electricity generation from wind and solar. In 2019, U.S. renewable energy production surpassed U.S. coal production for the first time. Wind energy production increased by 14% in the United States to 3 quads, and U.S. solar energy production grew by 23% to 1.2 quads. U.S. hydroelectric and geothermal energy production stayed flat, while biomass production, including biofuels and wood, declined by 8%.
Principal contributor: Brett Marohl
Article courtesy of U.S. EIA.
Featured image courtesy of U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review