The U.S. used less coal and more natural gas in 2011 compared to 2010, according to flow energy charts released by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.
U.S. energy use in 2011 fell slightly to 97.3 British Thermal Units (BTU, or quads), down from 98 quads the previous year. A majority of the energy used was tied to coal, natural gas and petroleum.
Natural gas use increased slightly from 24.65 quads in 2010 to 26.9 quads in 2011. The increase in natural gas usage led to a drop in coal and oil use.
“Sustained low natural gas prices have prompted a shift from coal to gas in the electricity generating sector,” said A.J. Simon, an LLNL energy systems analyst who develops the flow charts using data provided by the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA).
The use of wind energy increased from 0.92 quads in 2010 to 1.17 quads in 2011.
Hydropower also saw in increase from 2.51 quads in 2010 up to 3.17 quads in 2011. The jump was attributed to large amounts of precipitation in the Western U.S., allowing hydroelectric dams to produce at their maximum levels while keeping reservoirs full.
In 2011, 39.2 quads of energy used was for electricity generation, followed by transportation, industrial, commercial and residential consumption.
“With the advent of shale gas, it appears that natural gas prices in the United States may remain lower than their historical averages for many years into the future,” Simon said. “This has prompted many gas users in the industrial and electricity generating sector to switch from coal or oil to natural gas when it is technically possible, but might not have been economical at higher gas prices.”
To view the flow chart, click here.
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