The Institute for Energy Research released today its mid-year Energy Overview providing an updated and in-depth analysis of America’s energy sources. Using mainly Energy Information Administration (EIA) data IER examines these energy sources and breaks down how each one contributes to overall energy consumption and production in the United States. Below are highlights from the overview:

Fossil Fuels

  • According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), fossil fuels met 82 percent of U.S. energy demand in 2012.
  • The EIA foresees fossil fuels maintaining their status as America’s leading source of energy consumption between now and 2040, supplying 78 percent of our nation’s energy needs in 2040.


  • Petroleum supplied 36.5 percent of our energy demand and 93 percent of our transportation fuels needs in 2012.
  • The United States was once self-sufficient in oil, but began importing more oil than it produced in 1994.  Petroleum imports peaked in 2005 when their share was 60 percent on a net basis (imports minus exports). But, because of the hydraulic fracturing revolution, by 2012, the United States was only importing 40 percent from foreign countries. The top five source nations for net petroleum and petroleum product imports to the United States in 2012 were Canada, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Venezuela, and Russia.
  • Contrary to the notion that we are “running out” of oil, the U.S. continues to be rich in petroleum potential. Certain sources of oil have been too expensive to produce in the past, but are now economic. Shale oil, for instance, has undergone the same renaissance as shale gas due to hydraulic fracturing and directional drilling. The increased production of oil has taken place primarily on private and state lands. Oil production on public lands has been declining primarily due to actions by the Obama administration that have increased the processing time for permits and restricted access to public lands and waters rich in petroleum. Oil there can also be accessed with new technologies and remain abundant, awaiting only government approval and/or private investment to become additional sources of new domestic energy.
  • The International Energy Agency (IEA) is forecasting in its World Energy Outlook 2012 that the shale oil boom in this country will make the United States the top oil producer in the world. According to the IEA, the United States will become the world’s largest producer of oil by 2017, overtaking both Saudi Arabia and Russia. By 2030, North America will become a net exporter of oil and, by 2035, the United States becomes almost self-sufficient in energy.

Natural Gas

  • The fossil fuel with the least emissions, natural gas provides 27 percent of our total energy supply and generates approximately 30 percent of our electricity.
  • Today, the United States is the largest producer of natural gas in the world (Russia is second), producing 24 trillion cubic feet in 2012. The US consumed 25.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in 2012, importing the additional natural gas to meet its demand. From 1906 to 1970, demand for natural gas in America grew 50-fold. Self-sufficient until the 1990s, the United States then began to import natural gas, mostly by pipeline from Canada, to help meet its needs. It was believed by many forecasters that future natural gas production in the United States would need not only to be supplemented by Canadian gas via pipeline but also with liquefied natural gas (LNG) brought from overseas. However, over the last decade, a renaissance has occurred in domestic shale gas production due to hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technology to the point that the United States is now considering exporting LNG.


  • American coal production is currently the second highest in the world (behind China), delivering 1.016 billion short tons in 2012.
  • Currently, coal is used to meet almost 20 percent of America’s total energy demand and generate about 40 percent of all its electricity, down from 50 percent. Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have produced abundant, low cost natural gas, which has partly resulted in coal’s lower generation share in electricity markets. New regulations by the Obama Administration have also caused lower coal consumption with a number of plants retiring that would not be economic to retrofit with additional environmental technology.

Renewable Energy

  • About 9 percent of all energy consumed in the United States in 2012 was from renewable sources, and they account for about 12 percent of the nation’s total electricity production. While a relatively small fraction of our overall energy supply in 2010 (the most recent data from the Energy Information Administration), the United States was the world’s largest consumer of renewable energy from geothermal, solar, wood, wind, and waste for electric power generation producing almost 25 percent of the world’s total.
  • While hydropower is the biggest source of renewable energy in the United States, solar power – particularly photovoltaic cell conversion to electricity – is far and away the smallest, accounting for about 0.1 percent of the net electricity produced in the United States in 2012.


  • In 2012, wind power provided 1.4 percent of all the energy consumed in the United States. Though wind power has increased substantially since 1970, it still constitutes only a small fraction of U.S. electricity supply. In terms of electricity supply, wind power accounted for 3.5 percent of all electricity generated in the United States in 2012.
  • The Federal Government has extended the production tax credit (PTC) for wind several times since it was first introduced as part of the Energy Policy Act of 1992. Most recently, the American Taxpayer Relief Act passed on January 1, 2013 extended the production tax credit through 2013, but with definitional differences that make the tax credit more expensive for taxpayers than its original incarnation.  While the original PTC stipulated that the wind unit must begin operation in the year of the credit, the extension that was passed indicates only that the project must begin construction in 2013 with no specific date for beginning operation. It is therefore a significant expansion of the current law. Further, the Internal Revenue Service upped the credit from 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour to 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour. It is paid on electricity generated for the first 10 years of operation of the wind unit.


  • Solar energy provided about two-tenths of 1 percent of the total energy consumed in the United States in 2012. While the amount of solar electricity capacity in the United States has increased in recent years—rising from 334,244 kilowatts in 1997 to 1,488,500 kilowatts in 2011, it still only accounts for 0.1 percent of net electricity generated in the United States – the least among the renewable sources of hydroelectric, biomass, geothermal, wind and solar.
  • Similar to wind energy, solar energy is also subsidized by federal and state governments. The federal government provides a permanent 10 percent investment tax credit (ITC) for solar power, but currently solar companies can receive a 30 percent ITC through 2016.


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