April 3, 2014
Americans’ Use Of Energy Grew In 2013
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Americans’ use of renewable, fossil and nuclear energy grew in 2013 compared with the previous year, according to the latest annual energy flow charts released by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
The Laboratory also released a companion chart illustrating the nation's energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, which rose to 5,390 million metric tons last year, the first annual increase since 2010.
Wind energy continued its rapid growth, increasing 18 percent from 1.36 quadrillion BTUs, or quads, in 2012 to 1.6 quads in 2013.
A BTU, or British Thermal Unit, is a unit of measurement for energy, with 3,400 BTUs equivalent to roughly 1 kilowatt-hour.
New wind farms, whose turbines can generate 2 to 2.5 megawatts of power, continued to come on line last year with bigger, more efficient turbines, according to the report.
Natural gas prices rose slightly in 2013, reversing some of the recent shift from coal to gas in the electricity production sector.
Although this did cause carbon dioxide emissions to increase in 2013, "the power industry is building a lot of natural gas plants," said A.J. Simon, group leader for Energy at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
"Gas plants are cheaper than coal plants. Natural gas is going to be a winner into the foreseeable future,” he explained.
Indeed, Americans’ use of natural gas grew by 0.6 quads in 2013, more than offsetting losses in the electricity sector, according to the report.
"2013 was a cold winter," Simon noted. "We expect to see continued high gas consumption in 2014, due to another tough winter on the East Coast."
Nuclear energy use also grew from 2012 to 2013.
"The use of nuclear energy fluctuates a little from year to year," Simon said. "It's likely that in 2013, fewer reactors were down for refueling than in previous years."
However, a few of the nation's roughly 100 reactors have been recently shut down permanently, such as the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in Pendleton, CA, Simon noted.
The transportation sector is using more renewable energy, specifically biomass that is converted to ethanol.
"This has been going up over time," said Simon. "We're expecting the fraction of biomass in transportation to remain relatively steady."
The report shows that the majority of energy use in 2013 was for electricity generation (38.2 quads), followed by transportation, industrial, residential and commercial.
Energy use in the residential, commercial transportation and industrial sectors all rose slightly in 2013.
The use of petroleum rose in 2013 compared with the previous year, something Simon attributes to modest economic expansion considering that oil prices stayed relatively constant throughout the year. However, the growth in petroleum use "isn't as sharp as it might have been because Americans are buying more efficient cars, which are slowly replacing older, less efficient automobiles," he said.
Rejected energy increased to 59 quads in 2013 from 58.1 in 2012, rising in proportion to the total energy consumed.
"Not all of the energy that we consume is put to use," Simon said. "Heat you feel when you put your hand on your water heater and the warm exhaust from your car's tailpipe are examples of rejected energy."
Comparing energy services to rejected energy gives a rough estimate of each sector's energy efficiency.