The primary source of energy in the United States has only changed three times in the nation’s history. The U.S. relied largely on wood for cooking and heating until nearly the turn of the twentieth century when coal became the primary energy source in a rapidly industrializing and urbanizing American society. As cars became the dominate mode of transportation, petroleum became and still remains the primary source of energy consumption in the U.S.
While it seems unlikely that the advent of a new major technological application will radically shift our energy consumption habits in the near future, predicting how energy consumption will change in the coming years poses a challenging question.
In fact the only generally agreed upon trend is that energy demand will continue to increase. Historically, energy consumption has been closely correlated with population. In the first 200 years of U.S. history, energy consumption increased an average of 3% per year, as compared with a 2.2% annual population growth rate. However, due to increases in the efficiencies of energy generation, distribution and consumption technologies, coupled with forecast increases in population densities, the rate of annual growth in energy consumption is expected to fall.
The Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) 2013 Annual Energy Outlook forecasts that increasing energy demand will be offset by increased energy efficiency measures, the consequence of which will be only gradual increases in energy consumption throughout the four primary sectors.
Also interesting is the EIA’s forecasts for how the supply source allocations will change in the coming years. While natural gas, renewables, nuclear, and biofuels are expected to satisfy a larger fraction of the U.S. energy demand, coal and oil are expected to decrease in proportion.
All the fuel sources contribute at least in part to the demands of each energy consumption sector. The extent to which each source continues to contribute to each sector will be largely dependent on technological advancements and other economic factors. The following infographic provides a great picture of how the different energy sources contribute to and power each energy sector.