Changing our Energy Habits

U.S. Petroleum Consumption, by year: 20140914cpy.. US Petro stats, 1973-2000, chart & synopsis20140914cpy.. US Petro stats, 1973-2000 dataclick on this link to view the full data set


2009 EnergyConsumptionPerCapita, compact world map

(click on map to view 2010 map in a new window)

U.S. Petroleum Consumption
(million barrels per day)
Year Transportation Total
1973 8.78 17.03 52%
1974 8.43 16.24 52%
1975 8.55 15.92 54%
1976 9.06 17.15 53%
1977 9.36 18.03 52%
1978 9.8 18.49 53%
1979 9.6 18.11 53%
1980 9.26 16.77 55%
1981 9.16 15.73 58%
1982 8.9 14.89 60%
1983 8.95 14.78 61%
1984 9.29 15.43 60%
1985 9.42 15.31 62%
1986 9.93 16.02 62%
1987 10.17 16.33 62%
1988 10.43 16.87 62%
1989 10.59 17.02 62%
1990 10.55 16.55 64%
1991 10.37 16.52 63%
1992 10.66 16.76 64%
1993 10.84 17.1 63%
1994 11.14 17.4 64%
1995 11.4 17.63 65%
1996 11.65 18.13 64%
1997 11.83 18.31 65%
1998 11.99 18.5 65%
1999 12.58 19.36 65%
2000 12.74 19.45 66%
2001 12.6 19.34 65%
2002 12.89 19.47 66%
2003 12.98 19.73 66%
2004 13.21 20.27 65%
2005 13.4 20.3 66%
2006 13.49 20.07 67%
2007 14.2 20.67 69%
2008 13.91 19.91 70%
2009 13.22 18.82 70%
2010 13.26 19.09 69%
2011 12.98 18.72 69%
2012 13.44 18.91 71%
2013 13.46 19.03 71%
2014 13.41 19.06 70%
2015 13.39 19.17 70%
2016 13.42 19.37 69%
2017 13.42 19.49 69%
2018 13.36 19.54 68%
2019 13.28 19.55 68%
2020 13.19 19.53 68%
2021 13.11 19.49 67%
2022 13.02 19.45 67%
2023 12.92 19.4 67%
2024 12.82 19.34 66%
2025 12.71 19.27 66%
2026 12.62 19.19 66%
2027 12.53 19.13 65%
2028 12.45 19.07 65%
2029 12.38 18.99 65%
2030 12.32 18.94 65%
2031 12.28 18.89 65%
2032 12.24 18.85 65%
2033 12.22 18.81 65%
2034 12.21 18.78 65%
2035 12.2 18.76 65%
2036 12.19 18.74 65%
2037 12.19 18.75 65%
2038 12.19 18.76 65%
2039 12.2 18.76 65%
2040 12.2 18.73 65%

As indicated by the data in the red box below, U.S. per capita energy consumption (measured in Million Btu’s) was 214 in 1949, peaked at 359 in the late 1970’s, remained relatively flat at around 340 from 1988 to 2008, then declined sharply with the fiscal collapse to the current level around 312. Thus, per capita energy consumption in the U.S. is up roughly 50% in the past 65-years. By comparison, the world per capita consumption in 2010 was 74 million Btu, less than a quarter of the U.S. consumption rate.U.S. Energy Consumption 1949-2011, in Btu's

A less substantial increase in energy consumption is seen in data for petroleum, in the green box to the right. In 1973, we consumed 17.03 million barrels of oil per day. This peaked at 20.67 million barrels per day in 2007, but has decreased since and now averages around 19 million barrels per day. Notably, transportation is the biggest use of petroleum, and increasing. In 1973, 52% of petroleum was used for transportation; since 2008, we have averaged 70% of petroleum used for transportation.

What it all Means…

  • The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) graph shows sources and uses for 95.1 quadrillion Btu’s of energy in the year 2012. Note the gray box and the black box on the right margin. This shows that we are only 39% efficient — meaning that we waste 61% of the energy we use.
  • The two biggest areas of energy waste are petroleum for transportation, and grid losses during electricity distribution.
  • If the goal is to reduce CO2 generation, then we need to reduce consumption of fossil fuels.
  • The ‘least efficient’ use of energy, petroleum for transportation, is only 21% efficient (meaning 79% of the energy expended is wasted). So, cut back on miles driven and miles flown. A carbon tax could help achieve this goal.
  • The second ‘least efficient’ use of energy is electricity distributed on the grid, with a 32% efficiency (meaning 68% is wasted). Local energy generation (which allows shorter distribution distances) would help. This translates to smaller powerplants and accelerated development of alternative energy.
  • Coal and Natural Gas provide 66% of energy used to generate electricity. This means that any grid efficiency improvements we make will reduce our need to burn fossil fuels.
  • Petroleum represents 44% of the ‘fossil fuels’ consumed in the U.S. energy diet. Coal is 22% of all fossil fuels; natural gas is 33% of all fossil fuels.
  • If we in the U.S. could make changes to reduce our per capita energy consumption in half, we would still use more energy per person than people in nearly all of Asia, Africa, and South America, and more than half of the nations in Europe. If we could reduce our wasted energy, we could theoretically eliminate the use of all fossil fuels.
  • Fossil fuels in transportation are the low-hanging fruit in energy conservation. Thus, aviation is one of the ripest targets for reducing CO2 generation.