Energy record for the United States

 By Eniday Staff

Numbers can often be very dry. They don’t communicate actual changes except to those in the know, who know the real difference between, say, 60 and 100. This is true even when 100, or 96 to be exact, is the gross amount of energy produced by a country, and 60 is the amount the same country produced in the early 1970s…

To understand what’s happened, we need to look to the line graphs that show the changes. They allow us to see at a glance the enormous difference. Below is a simple graph to begin with, created by the US Energy Information Administration, that tells us three things. It shows how the United States has become one of the biggest producers of oil and natural gas, overtaking Saudi Arabia and Russia. It reveals how this rise in production has allowed it to meet its own energy consumption requirements. Finally, it shows how a 30-year trend, in which the US met much of its energy needs through imports, can now be considered old news.

It is very easy to see that, until 1970, energy demand and production in the United States followed similar trends. Then, after the oil crisis in 1973, the country changed tack. Oil was left untapped but closely guarded, while it searched for foreign resources to cover a growing proportion of its needs. The new paradigm arrived in 2010. The beginning of large-scale production of shale oil and shale gas allowed the United States to close the gap almost entirely. In 2018, US energy consumption was 101 quadrillion Btu (British thermal units), or roughly 2,545 Mtoe (million tonnes of oil equivalent), while production grew to unprecedented levels, almost reaching peak consumption at 2,420 Mtoe. At the same time, imports fell and exports rose rapidly. Until 2010, the brown line on the graph redressed the gap between consumption, in dark blue, and production, in light blue. Today, imports and exports are almost equal and amount to roughly a fifth of the total.

Natural gas is growing

Looking now at the evolution of the various main energy sources, we see that US natural gas production has seen very steady growth. Over less than 20 years, it increased by about 60%, reaching 32 quadrillion Btu, something like a third of the country’s entire energy production. Oil has increased even more markedly, with production doubling since 2000, while coal has decreased rapidly, by over a third in the same period. Finally, renewable sources, which have seen less sustained growth certainly than in European countries, have nevertheless risen to over 12 quadrillion Btu.

This is a radical transformation: from the world’s biggest importer of hydrocarbons to its biggest exporter. The development of shale oil and gas has certainly played a crucial role, but the shift in the horizon seems set to last for this very reason. The investments that have been made account for the growth in production in the United States and suggest that this trend will carry on.

READ MORE: US shale oil production continues to increase by Andrew Burger

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Eniday Staff