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National Lab: U.S. Energy, Fossil Fuels Use Up in 2010

Coal plant (


Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California reports total U.S. energy use grew in 2010, particularly in the burning of fossil fuels. The lab’s annual accounting also shows the nation’s overall renewable fuel use in 2010 remained about the same as 2009, but wind energy and biomass power increased.

Total energy use in the U.S. grew last year to 98 quadrillion British Thermal Units (BTUs), a standard metric of energy use, which reversed the decline recorded in 2009. Most of the energy use, says the lab, was from coal, natural gas, and petroleum.

Livermore Lab estimates some 40 percent of all energy in the U.S. — 39.49 of 98 quads — went to generate electricity. Coal remained the largest source of energy for producing electricity, with nuclear power and natural gas ranked second and third.

Natural gas for electric power, however, grew 0.5 quads this year, helped along by low natural gas prices. Natural gas use in the electric sector has increased 25 percent in the past six years. Petroleum remained the dominant fuel for transportation.

Among renewable fuels, wind energy grew 0.7 quads in 2010 to 0.92 quads, primarily to generate electric power. Biomass energy consumption rose from 3.88 to 4.29 quads, driven by ethanol use as a transportation fuel and a feedstock for industrial production. Hydroelectric and geothermal energy use dropped in 2010, although Livermore Lab says the drop in geothermal can be attributed to an accounting change by the Energy Information Administration.

While fossil fuel use grew in 2010, the trend since 2007 shows a reduced carbon footprint for the U.S. The U.S. emitted 5,632 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2010, up from 2009, but still lower than the high of 6,022 metric tons in 2007. The lab attributes that trend to reduced energy consumption, but also a shift away from coal to natural gas to generate electric power in favor of renewable energy resources.

U.S. 2010 energy use flowchart (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

Click on image for full-size view

Read more: U.S. Using More Renewables, but Less Energy Overall

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