Fossil fuels – petroleum (ie oil products) natural gas, and coal – accounted for 79% of the 97 quadrillion Btus (‘quads’) of primary energy consumption in the United States during 2021. About 21% came from fuel sources other than fossil fuels, such as renewables and nuclear, according to the Energy Information Administration’s Monthly Energy Review.
The 4-quad increase was the largest annual increase on record and was mostly attributable to a gradual return to pre-pandemic levels of activity. It follows a 7-quad decrease in 2020, which was the largest annual decrease on record.
Consumption of renewable energy increased slightly from 11.5 quads in 2020 to a record of 12.2 quads in 2021. Increased use of renewables for electricity generation, including wind and solar energy, was partially offset by a decline in hydroelectricity generation. Nuclear energy consumption totalled 8.2 quads in 2020, the lowest level since 2012.
Petroleum has been the most-consumed primary energy source in the United States since overtaking coal in 1950, although current consumption remains less than its 2005 peak, totalling 35 quads in 2021. Natural gas consumption totalled 31.3 quads in 2021, a slight decrease on the previous year.
Coal consumption increased to 10.5 quads in 2021, marking the first annual increase since 2013, and has fallen by more than half since its peak in 2005. Reduced coal-fired electricity generation has driven much of this decline.