TABLE 7.1 U.S. Energy Consumption by Energy Source in 2007

Energy Source

Consumption (quadrillion Btu [percent])

Petroleum

39.77 [39]

Natural gas

23.63 [23]

Coal

22.75 [22]

Nuclear power

8.46 [8.3]

Hydropower

2.45 [2.4]

Biomass

3.60 [3.5]

Other renewable energy

0.77 [0.008]

Other

0.11 [0.001]

Total

101.55

Note: Numbers have been rounded.

Source: EIA, 2009a.

  • Petroleum is easily stored and transported and has a relatively high energy density. These characteristics are well suited to the transportation market.

  • Natural gas burns cleanly, is easily transported by pipeline, and can be stored in salt domes and old gas fields for peak use. As a result, it is a desirable fuel for the geographically distributed residential and commercial markets.

  • Coal is abundant in the United States, is easily stored, and is less expensive, with lower price volatility than other fuels—attractive attributes for electricity generation.

Although the market-based reasons for using fossil fuels are thus very strong, U.S. reliance on this energy source carries some potentially adverse consequences. For one, reserves of petroleum—and, increasingly, of natural gas—are concentrated in only a few countries. In some cases, supplier nations have restricted supplies for nonmarket reasons. Moreover, such concentrations of production capacity, and the limited number of transportation routes from these facilities to their markets, create targets by which hostile states or nonstate actors may disrupt supplies. In either case, the security of petroleum and natural gas supplies is at risk, probably increasingly so.

A second concern is that the longer-term global demand for petroleum and



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement