Chart of the Day: U.S. Energy Consumption

We haven’t had a Chart of the Day in awhile, so I’m horning in on Bill Lindeke’s gig because I found a good one. This is from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, via David Roberts at vox.com.

U.S. Energy Sources and Uses

U.S. Energy Sources and Uses

That might look a little confusing at first, but it’s really not all that bad. Overall, the chart shows where we got our energy from and how we used it in 2016. The left side shows the sources and where they wind up is on the right.

The main thing I wanted to highlight is the big chunk of “rejected energy” in the upper right. That’s waste — energy that’s generated but not actually used for anything productive — and it’s more two thirds of our total energy generation. Presumably it’s what’s lost in electricity transmission, unused heat or idling cars and stuff.

The good news (which you can’t get directly from the chart but you can if you follow the link above) is that we’re growing solar and wind, especially in electricity generation resulting in falling carbon emissions from electricity.

The bad news (again, please read the linked article) is that emissions from transportation are actually growing again, after falling a bit during/after the Great Recession.

The other bad news, as you can see from our chart, is that transportation is a particularly inefficient consumer of energy. Only about 21% of the energy that went into transportation last year was actually used. The remaining 79% goes to “rejected energy.” That’s right, your car both uses a lot of energy and is really inefficient about it.

As Roberts writes, one way to think about a city is as an energy system. If we design it so that the easiest way to get around is in a (single occupancy) private vehicle, it’s going to be terribly inefficient both in terms of space and energy. The only hope of being more efficient is to facilitate vehicles that use less energy (transit) or no energy (biking and walking).


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2 Responses to Chart of the Day: U.S. Energy Consumption

  1. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke April 17, 2017 at 8:28 am #

    Thanks for putting this up Adam! That IS a good one. Energy data-viz charts are some of my favorites.

    Also, waste energy is a huge and fascinating topic. One of the cool things about decentralizing energy production is the opportunity to use some of the waste heat for other purposes like district energy heating etc. For example, this whole story about the St Paul high bridge coal plant seems a bit sad — https://www.tcdailyplanet.net/3915/ — but it ends well because the new natural gas plant is about twice as efficient as the old plant was.

  2. brad April 17, 2017 at 12:51 pm #

    Great visualization of this data! View the charts directly here: https://flowcharts.llnl.gov/commodities/energy There are also charts by state–MN has charts for 2010-2014,

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