The United States was the 2nd largest energy consumer in 2010 (after China) considering total use. The U.S. ranks seventh in energy consumption per-capita after Canada and a number of small nations. Not included is the significant amount of energy used overseas in the production of retail and industrial goods consumed in the U.S.
The majority of this energy is derived from fossil fuels: in 2010, data showed 25% of the nation's energy came from petroleum, 22% from coal, and 22% from natural gas. Nuclear power supplied 8.4% and renewable energy supplied 8%,which was mainly from hydroelectric dams and biomass but also included other renewable sources such as wind power, geothermal and solar energy. Energy consumption has increased at a faster rate than domestic energy production over the last fifty years in the U.S. (when they were roughly equal). This difference is now largely met through imports.
According to the Energy Information Administration's statistics, the per-capita energy consumption in the US has been somewhat consistent from the 1970s to today. The average has been 334 million British thermal units (BTUs) per person from 1980 to 2010. One explanation suggested for this is that the energy required to produce the increase in US consumption of manufactured equipment, cars, and other goods has been shifted to other countries producing and transporting those goods to the US with a corresponding shift of green house gases and pollution. In comparison, the world average has increased from 63.7 in 1980 to 75 million BTU's per person in 2008. On the other hand, US "off-shoring" of manufacturing is sometimes exaggerated: US domestic manufacturing has grown by 50% since 1980.
From its founding until the late 18th century, the United States was a largely agrarian country with abundant forests. During this period, energy consumption overwhelmingly focused on readily available firewood. Rapid industrialization of the economy, urbanization, and the growth of railroads led to increased use of coal, and by 1885 it had eclipsed wood as the nation's primary energy source.
Coal remained dominant for the next seven decades, but by 1950, it was surpassed in turn by both petroleum and natural gas. In 2007, coal consumption was the highest it has ever been, with coal mostly being used to generate electricity. Natural gas, which is cleaner-burning and more easily transportable, has replaced coal as the preferred source of heating in homes, businesses and industrial furnaces. Although total energy use increased by approximately a factor of 50 between 1850 and 2000, energy use per capita increased only by a factor of four. As of 2009, United States per capita energy use had declined to 7075 (kilograms of oil-equivalent), 12% less than 2000, and through 2010 (most recent available) is at levels not seen since 1960s usage levels.At the beginning of the 20th century, petroleum was a minor resource used to manufacture lubricants and fuel for kerosene and oil lamps. One hundred years later it had become the preeminent energy source for the U.S. and the rest of the world. This rise closely paralleled the emergence of the automobile as a major force in American culture and the economy.
While petroleum is also used as a source for plastics and other chemicals, and powers various industrial processes, today two-thirds of oil consumption in the U.S. is in the form of its derived transportation fuels. Oil's unique qualities for transportation fuels in terms of energy content, cost of production, and speed of refueling all contributed to it being used over other fuels.
In June 2010, the American Energy Innovation Council, a group which includes Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft; Jeffrey R. Immelt, chief executive of General Electric; and John Doerr, has urged the government to more than triple spending on energy research and development, to $16 billion a year. Mr. Gates endorsed the administration's goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, but said that was not possible with today's technology or politicism. He said that the only way to find such disruptive new technology was to pour large sums of money at the problem. The group notes that the federal government spends less than $5 billion a year on energy research and development, not counting one-time stimulus projects. About $30 billion is spent annually on health research and more than $80 billion on military R.& D. They advocate a jump in spending on basic energy research.
US CO2 emissions have dropped about 1% per year through greater efficiency and a sluggish economy since 2008.
Renewable energy in the United States accounted for 13.2 percent of the domestically produced electricity in 2014, and 11.2 percent of total energy generation. As of 2014, more than 143,000 people work in the solar industry and 43 states deploy net metering, where energy utilities buy back excess power generated by solar arrays.
Renewable energy reached a major milestone in the first quarter of 2011, when it contributed 11.7 percent of total U.S. energy production (2.245 quadrillion BTUs of energy), surpassing energy production from nuclear power (2.125 quadrillion BTUs). 2011 was the first year since 1997 that renewables exceeded nuclear in US total energy production.
Hydroelectric power is currently the largest producer of renewable power in the U.S. It produced around 6.2% of the nation's total electricity in 2010 which was 60.2% of the total renewable power in the U.S.The United States is the fourth largest producer of hydroelectricity in the world after China, Canada and Brazil. The Grand Coulee Dam is the 5th largest hydroelectric power station in the world.
U.S. wind power installed capacity now exceeds 65,000 MW and supplies 4% of the nation's electricity. Texas is firmly established as the leader in wind power development, followed by Iowa and California.
The U.S. has some of the largest solar farms in the world. Solar Star is a 579 megawatt (MWAC) farm near Rosamond, California.The Desert Sunlight Solar Farm is a 550 MW solar power plant in Riverside County, California and the Topaz Solar Farm, a 550 MW photovoltaic power plant, is in San Luis Obispo County, California. The solar thermal SEGS group of plants in the Mojave Desert has a total generating capacity of 354 MW.
The Geysers in Northern California is the largest complex of geothermal energy production in the world.
The development of renewable energy and efficient energy use marks "a new era of energy exploration" in the United States, according to President Barack Obama. Studies suggest that if there is enough political will it is feasible to supply the total United States with 100% renewable energy by 2050.
The United States of America (USA) is the world's second largest producer and consumer of electricity. It consumes about 20% of the world's supply of electricity. This section provides a summary of the consumption and generation of the USA Electric industry, based upon data mined from US DOE Energy Information Administration/Electric Power Annual 2013 files. Data was obtained from the most recent DOE Energy Information Agency (EIA) files. Consumption is detailed from the residential, commercial, industrial, and other user communities. Generation is detailed for the major fuel sources of coal, natural gas, nuclear, petroleum, hydro and the other renewables of wind, wood, other biomass, geothermal and solar. Changes to the electrical energy fuel mix and other trends are identified. Progress in wind and solar contributions to the energy mix are addressed. Expected changes in the generation environment during the next 5 years are discussed.