United States energy usage, in one Diagram
Every year, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) produces a new energy flow chart showing the sources of US energy, what it’s used for, and how much of it is wasted. This graph displays a ton of information but don’t get overwhelmed – we will explain it all soon.
Before getting too deep into the details, let’s answer the first question many people have.
How Much is a Quad?
A “quad” is one quadrillion (a thousand trillion) BTUs. According to Wikipedia, are a few things equivalent to a quad:
- 8,007,000,000 gallons (US) of gasoline
- 293,071,000,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh)
- 36,000,000 metric tons of coal
- 970,434,000,000 cubic feet of natural gas
- 25,200,000 metric tons of oil
In short, the US consumes A LOT of energy. However, energy consumption has stayed pretty steady over the last 8 years thanks to more energy efficiency and environmental awareness.
What is Rejected Energy?
Rejected energy, in a nutshell, is wasted energy. Two-thirds of the potential energy in our energy sources ends up in the atmosphere.
That is a staggering number and it highlights just how wasteful our society has become. In 1970, only half of the potential energy wound up rejected energy.
The big thing to remember is that this is never going to be a perfect system. This is going to be energy loss at all stages of generation, transmission, and consumption. The problem is we are trending in the wrong direction.
What’s Changed Since 2016?
The good news is that renewable energy has grown in the past year and a few fossil fuels are down. This has lead to a 1% decline in carbon emissions in 2017. Here is the energy flow chart from 2016 and some of the highlighted changes in the past year.
- Coal: down 1.4 percent to 14.2 quads
- Natural gas: down 1.7 percent to 28 quads
- Wind: up 7 percent to 2.35 quads
- Solar: up 32 percent to 0.775 quads
Residential and commercial energy consumption is down since 2016 but industrial and transportation sectors are up. Renewable like wind and solar are continuing to grow while we become less dependent on fossil fuels like coal and natural gas. Rejected energy is continuing to rise which means we are becoming less efficient. This can be due to a number of factors from an aging energy fracture to more vehicles on our roads and in the air.
You can find your state’s energy flow chart here.