Chart of US Energy Use Reveals Herculean Effort Needed to Ditch Oil, Coal


Chart credit: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Department of Energy. Click here for enlarged version.

Many of you are roughly aware of what our nation's energy mix looks like, though different charts tell different tales. If you look at straight-up electrical generation, coal accounts for almost half. The chart above, put together by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, shows the total energy usage for 2009 -- and as you can see, our energy mix is comprised of plenty of oil, coal, and natural gas, and, as Dave Roberts says, a "rounding error"'s worth of clean energy. Also disturbing is the amount of energy we waste. Yes, over half the energy we generate is 'rejected', or lost -- that's the stuff that falls into that gray tube up in the top right. Ain't that a shame?There's really no excuse for that -- to lose 54% of the energy we generate across the nation due to inefficiency and pure wastefulness. And there's a reason that energy efficiency aficionados are constantly making calls to pick the plentiful 'low-hanging fruit'. They're right, of course. At a moment in time when we're fully aware of the consequences of burning coal for power, we still can't even be bothered to work to capture and utilize all of the energy it creates?

And we keep seeing projections trotted out for how much more energy we're going to need to produce to meet 'tomorrow's demands'. Well, as plenty of smart people have said numerous times, we can get almost all of the way there with efficiency measures alone.

Now, the following chart, on the other hand, more clearly shows the slice of the pie each energy source constitutes:


Chart: Energy Information Administration

Again, this factors in transportation -- leaving oil as our number one energy source. Considering we hardly use petroleum at all to generate electricity, this should tell you something about how massive an energy drain our car-based transportation sector is on the nation -- and how stunningly inefficient it is as a means of moving people from point A to B in that regard.

Also, note that renewable energy appears to constitute 7% in the latter chart -- that's almost all hydro. Wind, solar, geothermal, and so on each constituted less than 1% of the US energy mix in 2009.

In other words, these charts should each serve as a massive wake up call to anyone who thinks we've made adequate progress on the clean energy or sustainable transportation fronts -- we're not even close. Thankfully, there are big thinkers out there who see ways to rapidly deploy enough clean energy to take the dirty offline in mere decades -- but it sure as hell isn't going to be easy.

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Tags: Clean Energy | Coal | Oil | United States