United States Energy Use by Source, 1950-2015


Image of the coal fired Navajo Generating Station on the Navajo Indian Reservation.
Image of the coal fired Navajo Generating Station
on the Navajo Indian Reservation.
In 2015, the United States relied on fossil fuels in the form of coal, natural gas, and petroleum to supply 81.5% of total energy consumption, down 10.8% from 1950 levels. Renewable energy, such as wind, solar, and biofuels, accounted for 9.7% of US energy needs in 2015, up 12.8% from 1950 levels. Nuclear energy supplied 8.6% of total US energy needs, up from 0.0% in 1950.

Renewable and nuclear energy are often referred to as "alternative energy" and accounted for 18.3% of total energy consumption in 2015.

The three charts below show total percent of US energy consumption from each source between 1950 and 2015. Beneath the charts, a series of graphs break down energy consumption into categories including total energy consumption, total renewable energy consumption, total residential energy consumption, total commercial energy consumption, total industrial energy consumption, total transportation energy consumption, and the types of fuels used to generate electricity.

Click here for a state-by-state breakdown of total energy use for 2015. Unless otherwise noted, all data below are sourced from the US Energy Information Administration's Nov. 2017 "Monthly Energy Review" report.


Total Percent of Energy Consumption in the United States by Source, 1950-2015

Fossil Fuel Energy      1950 1970 1990 2000 2010 2015
Coal 35.7% 18.1% 22.7% 22.9% 21.4% 15.9%
Natural Gas 17.2% 32.1% 23.2% 24.1% 25.2% 28.9%
Petroleum 38.5% 43.5% 39.7% 38.7% 36.4% 36.6%
Total: 91.4% 93.7% 85.6% 85.7% 83.0% 81.5%

Renewable Energy 1950 1970 1990 2000 2010 2015
Biomass 4.5% 2.1% 3.2% 3.0% 4.4% 4.9%
Geothermal 0.0% 0.0% 0.2% 0.2% 0.2% 0.2%
Hydroelectric 4.1% 3.9% 3.6% 2.8% 2.6% 2.4%
Solar 0.0% 0.0% 0.1% 0.1% 0.1% 0.4%
Wind 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.1% 0.9% 1.8%
Total: 8.6% 6.0% 7.1% 6.2% 8.2% 9.7%

Nuclear Energy       1950 1970 1990 2000 2010 2015
Nuclear 0.0% 0.4% 7.2% 8.0% 8.7% 8.6%

British Thermal Units (Btu) Conversion Chart

In total, the United States consumed 97.4 quadrillion British Thermal Units (Btu) of energy in 2015. The US Energy Information Agency (EIA) defines a Btu as "[t]he quantity of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of liquid water by 1 degree Fahrenheit at the temperature that water has its greatest density (approximately 39 degrees Fahrenheit)." Expressing energy consumption in Btu allows for comparisons between fuels that are measured in different units.

For example, renewables such as wind and solar power produce electricity. Electricity is normally measured in a unit called the kilowatthour (kWh) while petroleum (oil) and other liquid fuels are often measured in gallons.

  • Electricity: 1 kilowatthour = 3,421 Btu
  • Natural Gas: 1 cubic foot = 1,037 Btu
  • Motor Gasoline: 1 gallon = 120,476 Btu
  • Wood: 1 cord (128 cubic feet) = 20,000,000 Btu

Source: US Energy Information Administration (EIA), "Energy Units and Calculators Explained: British Thermal Units," eia.gov, June 13, 2017


Total Energy Consumption in the United States by Source, 1950-2015 (Btu, quadrillions)

See the source data for the total amount of energy consumed from each energy source (petroleum, natural gas, coal, nuclear, and renewable energy).





Renewable Energy Consumption in the United States by Source, 1950-2015 (Btu, quadrillions)

See the source data for the total amount of energy consumed from each type of renewable energy (biomass, hydroelectric, wind, and solar).






Residential Energy Consumption in the United States by Source, 1950-2015 (Btu, quadrillions)

See the source data for the total amount of energy consumed by the residential sector from each energy source (natural gas, electricity, petroleum, renewable energy, and coal).

According to the EIA, the residential sector is "an energy-consuming sector that consists of living quarters for private households. Common uses of energy associated with this sector include space heating, water heating, air conditioning, lighting, refrigeration, cooking, and running a variety of other appliances. The residential sector excludes institutional living quarters."






Commercial Energy Consumption in the United States by Source, 1950-2015 (Btu, quadrillions)

See the source data for the total amount of energy consumed by the commercial sector from each energy source (electricity, natural gas, petroleum, renewable energy, and coal).

According to the EIA, the commercial sector is "an energy-consuming sector that consists of service-providing facilities and equipment of: businesses; federal, state, and local governments; and other private and public organizations, such as religious, social, or fraternal groups. The commercial sector includes institutional living quarters."





Industrial Energy Consumption in the United States by Source, 1950-2015 (Btu, quadrillions)

See the source data for the total amount of energy consumed by the industrial sector from each energy source (petroleum, natural gas, electricity, coal, and renewable energy).

According to the EIA, the industrial sector is "an energy-consuming sector that consists of all facilities and equipment used for producing, processing, or assembling goods. The industrial sector encompasses the following types of activity: manufacturing; agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting; mining, including oil and gas extraction; and construction. Overall energy use in this sector is largely for process heat and cooling and powering machinery, with lesser amounts used for facility heating, air conditioning, and lighting."





Transportation Energy Consumption in the United States by Source, 1950-2015 (Btu, quadrillions)

See the source data for the total amount of energy consumed by the transportation sector from each energy source (petroleum, renewable energy, and natural gas).

According to the EIA, the transportation sector is "an energy-consuming sector that consists of all vehicles whose primary purpose is transporting people and/or goods from one physical location to another. Included are automobiles; trucks; buses; motorcycles; trains, subways, and other rail vehicles; aircraft; and ships, barges, and other waterborne vehicles."




Fuels Used to Generate Electricity in the United States by Source, 1950-2015 (Btu, quadrillions)

See the source data for the total amount of energy used to generate electricity from each energy source (coal, nuclear, natural gas, renewable energy, and petroleum).