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America, Your Annual Energy Report Card Has Arrived

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Even though Americans increased their use of renewable sources of energy in 2013, the annual level of carbon dioxide emissions increased for the first time since 2010.

The news comes from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), which every year releases an audit—presented in a flow chart—that details the sources of energy production and how much energy Americans are consuming.

Among the highlights of this year's findings:

  • Overall, Americans used 2.3 quadrillion thermal units more in 2013 than the previous year.
  • A companion flow chart illustrating the nation's energy-related carbon dioxide emissions reveals that Americans' carbon dioxide emissions increased to 5,390 million metric tons, the first annual increase since 2010. The reason? Natural gas prices rose slightly in 2013, reversing some of the recent shift from coal to gas in the electricity production sector.
  • Wind energy grew strongly, as new wind farms continued to come on line with bigger, more efficient turbines that can generate 2 to 2.5 megawatts of power.
  • Nuclear energy consumption was greater in 2013 than in 2012. "The use of nuclear energy fluctuates a little from year to year," says A.J. Simon, the group leader for Energy at LLNL. "It's likely that, in 2013, fewer reactors were down for refueling than in previous years." However, a few of the nation's about 100 reactors have recently closed for good, such as the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in Pendleton, Calif.
  • The transportation sector is using more renewable energy, specifically biomass that is converted to ethanol.
  • Petroleum use increased in 2013 from the previous year. Simon estimates that, with oil prices remaining relatively constant, this is likely due to the modest economic expansion. However, "The increase isn't as sharp as it might have been because Americans are buying more efficient cars, which are slowly replacing older, less efficient automobiles."

If you'd like to see more year-to-year comparisons, energy flow charts dating back to 1950 can be found online here.

Source: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Department of Energy