Our Mind-Boggling Energy Use Totals

Econlife Team
3 min readFeb 25, 2022


Today, an energy information update.

Energy Use

Annually, we get a new flowchart from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Showing where our energy comes from and where it goes, the chart is a handy snapshot of how we power our homes, businesses, and vehicles. The most recent is for 2020. (I added the larger labels.):

We use and waste a lot of energy. One quad–a quadrillion Btus–is the energy equivalent of approximately eight billion gallons of gasoline. And, we consumed 92.9 quads!

Thinking of you and me, the U.S. EIA estimates per capita use at 282 million Btus in 2020. As for the totals, when we combine residential use (in third place) with commercial, industrial, and transportation for 2020, we get approximately 93 quadrillion Btus. Partially because of Covid’s constraints, the total was 7 percent less than 2019’s 100.2 quads.

We can see where the totals come from by following an energy pathway. Starting at the natural gas rectangle, please move upward and to the right on the blue line where 12.0 quads of natural gas go to generating electricity. Then, after the rust colored electricity line arrives in the residential box, we use a tiny bit of those BTUs (100) to toast a bagel.

On the lefthand side, we can group our energy resources as renewable, nuclear, and fossil. Then, on the far right, rejected and services refer primarily to efficiency. Your car’s gasoline drives the wheels as an “energy service” and comes out of your car’s exhaust as “rejected energy.”

In this 7 3/4 minute video, they do a good job of describing the flowchart:

Our Bottom Line: Renewables

We are making progress. In 2020 solar generation was up 19 percent and wind, 10 percent while coal dropped considerably. At the same time, marketed natural gas production was down 2 percent from 2019 to 2020, probably because of less commercial activity and a warm winter.

China and then the U.S. were the largest contributors to the growth of renewables:

My sources and more: The Lawrence Livermore Lab and its press release were a logical starting point while we concluded with EIA’s and BP’s renewables information. Also, EIA did a good job of summarizing energy facts.

Please note that several of today’s sentences were in our previous econlife posts.

Originally published at https://econlife.com on February 25, 2022.



Econlife Team

Located at the intersection of current events, history, and economics, econlife® slices away all of the layers that make economics boring and complex.