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Where Does America’s Energy Really Come From?

What powers the US... and how that mix is evolving over time.
Visual Capitalist creates and curates enriched visual content focused on emerging trends in business and investing. Founded in 2011 in Vancouver, the team at Visual Capitalist believes that art, data, and storytelling can be combined in a manner that makes complex issues and processes more digestible. Covering high-growth opportunities and industries such as technology, mining, and energy, Visual Capitalist reaches millions of investors each year. Visual Capitalist’s infographics have been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Zero Hedge, Maclean’s, Gizmodo, The Vancouver Sun, and Business Insider.
Visual Capitalist creates and curates enriched visual content focused on emerging trends in business and investing. Founded in 2011 in Vancouver, the team at Visual Capitalist believes that art, data, and storytelling can be combined in a manner that makes complex issues and processes more digestible. Covering high-growth opportunities and industries such as technology, mining, and energy, Visual Capitalist reaches millions of investors each year. Visual Capitalist’s infographics have been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Zero Hedge, Maclean’s, Gizmodo, The Vancouver Sun, and Business Insider.

Visualizing America’s Changing Energy Mix

Today’s chart plots data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) to show America’s changing energy mix, along with their projected mix for 2030.

It shows the total amount of energy used each year, along with energy use per capita. It then breaks down each year’s energy supply by source, which provides another way for us to visualize the decline of coal use, the resurgence in natural gas, and the rise of renewable energy.

Energy use per capita is measured in “gallons of gasoline equivalent per day”, which we thought was easy to relate to. (For our metric friends, a US gallon is just less than four litres.)

Here’s the data:

Year Energy used (Quadrillion BTUs) U.S. Population (millions) Gallons of gas eq. (per day)
1970 67.8 209.5 7.1
1985 76.4 240.7 7.0
2000 98.8 282.9 7.7
2015 97.3 321.8 6.6
2030e 98.7 355.8 6.1

Here’s energy supply by source from 1970-2030. Projected data from 2030 is from the EIA as well.

Year Coal Gas Petroleum Nuclear Hydro Solar Wind Other
1970 18.1% 32.1% 43.5% 0.4% 3.9% 0.0% 0.0% 2.0%
1985 22.9% 23.2% 40.5% 5.3% 3.9% 0.0% 0.0% 4.2%
2000 22.8% 24.1% 38.7% 8.0% 2.8% 0.1% 0.1% 3.4%
2015 16.0% 29.0% 36.6% 8.6% 2.4% 0.4% 1.8% 5.3%
2030e 11.7% 30.8% 36.3% 8.1% 3.0% 1.1% 4.7% 4.3%

Interestingly, solar and wind only make up about 2% of energy today according to the EIA, and they are projected to combine for 6% by 2030.

Various organizations have criticized these numbers, suggesting that the EIA is not properly accounting for green energy in America – and that it actually supplies a much bigger part of the energy mix.