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May 22, 2018  |  Login
What Fuels Our Energy Addiction: Understanding The Sources of Energy and How The U.S. Uses Each
By Eric Corey Freed

If you turn on a light switch, somewhere in the world, a generator has to produce that electricity. Utility companies did too good a job of making our use of energy simple and seamless. Most people don’t know where this instantaneous energy comes from, or the journey it takes to get to them.

The following table breaks down the sources for all our various forms of energy


If it seems a little off balance, that’s because it is. We rely heavily on nonrenewable, fossil-fuel-based energy. We suck these fossil fuels out of the ground, and it continues to get harder and harder to find new sources of fossil fuels. In addition, the burning of these fuels causes global warming, pollutes the air and water, and continues to get more expensive. The money spent on finding new sources of oil can be better used to invest in renewable energy.

Energy Source Used In Renewable or Nonrenewable? Percent
Oil Transportation and manufacturing Nonrenewable 38.1
Natural gas Heating and electricity Nonrenewable 22.9
Coal Electricity Nonrenewable 23.2
Nuclear Electricity Nonrenewable 8.1
Propane Heating Nonrenewable 1.7
Biomass Heating, electricity, and transportation Renewable 2.9
Hydropower Electricity Renewable 2.7
Geothermal Heating and electricity Renewable 0.3
Wind Electricity Renewable 0.1
Solar Light, heating, and electricity Renewable 0.1


Americans love cars. Cruising down the open highway is woven into American life, like apple pie and baseball. But all this driving comes with a huge price. The gasoline that Americans use to move these cars is part of a 20-million-barrel-a-day oil habit. More than 55 percent of the oil Americans use is imported from other countries, many of which are economically and politically unstable.

Americans' consumption of oil continuously increases, while the supplies of oil around the world are slowly running out. The pollution from cars and trucks produces more global warming and more air-quality issues. A third of greenhouse gas emissions are from gas burned in automobiles.

Natural gas

Like coal (see the following section), natural gas is a fossil fuel found in large underground deposits. Because it was created millions of years ago, we can't create more.
Although natural gas is clean burning and gives off lower levels of air pollution than coal, gas still has the same issue that all fossil fuels have — what happens when we run out?


Coal is a combustible mineral found buried deep in the earth. Because coal is a fossil fuel, formed from the ancient remains of plants and dinosaurs, we can't produce more when we run out. more



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