Has anyone told President Biden that fossil fuels made up 82 percent of the world’s energy and 79 percent of U.S. energy in 2021? Has anyone told him that Europe is using more coal because Russia is reducing its natural gas supplies to Europe? Has anyone told him that Europe’s energy crisis first started with low levels of wind, requiring more fossil fuels to meet electricity demand? Does he care that there are riots in the world due to escalating inflation, caused in part due to high energy prices? How much more do Americans have to suffer because of Biden’s energy policies creating high energy prices? Biden needs a reality check, because fossil fuels make up most of the world’s energy consumption and are needed in every aspect of our lives—heating, cooking, lighting, transportation of humans and products, food production and delivery, and manufacturing of almost everything. It will be difficult, if not impossible for the world to do without fossil fuels. Let’s look at the energy situation last year in the United States and the world.
U.S. Energy Consumption
According to the Energy Information Administration, petroleum, natural gas, and coal accounted for 79 percent of the 97 quadrillion British thermal units (Btus) of energy consumption in the United States during 2021. The remainder—21 percent of U.S. energy consumption came from fuel sources other than fossil fuels, such as renewable energy (hydro, wind, solar, geothermal, biomass) and nuclear power. In 2020, the United States decreased it energy consumption by 7 quadrillion Btus with 4 quadrillion Btus being replaced in 2021 as the economy gradually started returning to pre-pandemic levels. Renewable energy, excluding hydro, increased slightly from 11.5 quadrillion Btus in 2020 to 12.2 quadrillion Btus in 2021, as mandates and subsidies continue. However, increased generation from non-hydro renewable energy was partially offset by a decline in hydroelectric generation. U.S. nuclear energy consumption totaled 8.2 quadrillion Btus in 2020 — the lowest level since 2012 — as nuclear reactors are being shuttered.
Petroleum has been the most-consumed primary energy source in the United States since surpassing coal in 1950. Petroleum consumption in 2021 was less than its 2005 peak, totaling 35 quadrillion Btus. Natural gas consumption totaled 31.3 quadrillion Btus in 2021—a slight decline from the previous year. Coal consumption increased to 10.5 quads in 2021—the first annual increase in U.S. coal consumption since 2013. U.S. coal consumption has declined by more than half since its peak in 2005 due to reduced coal-fired generation and the shuttering of coal plants.
World Energy Consumption
According to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, fossil fuels (petroleum, natural gas and coal) accounted for 82 percent of the world’s energy needs in 2021—the same share as in 2020. Total energy consumption increased by 5.5 percent as the world began to recover from the COVID pandemic. Oil consumption increased by 5.3 million barrels per day (5.8 percent) in 2021. Regionally, most of the growth took place in the United States (1.5 million barrels per day), China (1.3 million barrels per day), and the EU (570,000 barrels per day). Global oil production increased by 1.4 million barrels per day in 2021, with OPEC+ accounting for more than three-quarters of the increase. Refinery capacity declined for the first time in over 30 years by almost 500,000 barrels per day in 2021 driven by a sharp reduction in the OECD refinery capacity (1.1 million barrels per day). Refining capacity in the OECD in 2021 was at its lowest level since 1998.
Natural gas consumption increased by 5.3 percent, recovering above the pre-pandemic 2019 level. LNG supply grew 5.6 percent in 2021—its slowest rate of growth since 2015 (other than in 2020). Most of the new incremental LNG supplies came from the United States, which more than offset declines from mainly other Atlantic Basin exporters. China surpassed Japan as the world’s largest LNG importer and accounted for close to 60 percent of global LNG demand growth in 2021. Algerian pipeline exports to Europe were the largest source of pipeline supply growth to the region in 2021. Russian natural gas pipeline supply to Europe overall was steady in 2021, while its exports to the EU decreased by 8.2 percent.
Coal consumption increased 6 percent in 2021 to slightly above 2019 levels and its highest level since 2014. China and India accounted for over 70 percent of the growth in world coal demand in 2021 and for much of the increase in coal production, which was largely consumed domestically. Indonesia increased coal production, supporting higher exports. Both Europe and North America increased coal consumption in 2021 after nearly 10 years of back-to-back declines.
Renewable energy (including biofuels but excluding hydro) increased by 15 percent 2021 – stronger than the 9 percent in 2020 due to continued support from most governments. Solar and wind capacity increased by 226 gigawatts—close to the record increase of 236 gigawatts in 2020. China accounted for the largest increases in solar and wind capacity growth, accounting for about 36 percent and 40 percent of the global capacity additions, respectively. Hydroelectricity generation decreased by around 1.4 percent in 2021—the first fall since 2015.
Electricity generation increased by 6.2 percent in 2021 – similar to the strong bounce-back of 6.4 percent seen in 2010 in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Wind and solar reached a 10.2 percent share of power generation in 2021—the first time wind and solar power have provided more than 10 percent of global power and surpassing nuclear energy’s share. Coal remained the dominant fuel for power generation in 2021, with its share increasing to 36 percent—up from 35.1 percent in 2020. Natural gas for power generation increased by 2.6 percent in 2021, but its share decreased from 23.7 percent in 2020 to 22.9 percent in 2021. Nuclear generation increased by 4.2 percent – the strongest increase since 2004 – led by China.
Fossil fuels are the primary source of energy in the world and are a necessary means to securing energy for life’s sustenance. One only has to compare the lifestyle of the developed world to much of the developing world to see the difference that adequate supplies of fossil fuels contribute to health and prosperity. To believe that wind and solar can easily replace fossil fuels as Biden’s goals indicate is simply ludicrous.