"Annual Energy Review" chronicles 50 years of changes in US energy

provided by the Energy Information Administration


he past half-century witnessed radical shifts in America's energy profile. Fifty years ago, the nation was nearly self-sufficient in petroleum and was a net exporter of natural gas. Only 17 percent of our coal was used to produce electricity. Nuclear electricity was just a gleam in physicists' eyes. Now, on the eve of the new century, America imports more than half of its petroleum and 15 percent of its natural gas. Ninety percent of our coal is consumed to create electricity, and nuclear electricity accounts for about a fifth of our electricity supply.

These are a few of the changes chronicled in the Annual Energy Review 1998, a statistical history of US energy since 1949 that was released in July by the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Other salient trends and milestones in the report include:

  • The number of Americans grew by 82 percent from 1949 through 1998, but energy consumption expanded by 194 percent. As energy became increasingly accessible, the average amount used per person rose 62 percent over the period. At the same time, the amount of energy required to produce a dollar's worth of goods and services fell by 42 percent.
  • Throughout the period, the industrial sector was the largest energy consuming sector of the economy; however, its share of the total has fallen. In 1949, the sector shares were: 46 percent industrial; 29 percent residential and commercial; and 25 percent transportation. In 1998, the shares were: 38 percent industrial; 36 percent residential and commercial; and 27 percent transportation.
  • Coal use dominated the industrial sector in the early years but gave way to natural gas and petroleum, which became the leading resources in the sector. Electricity (and the generation, transmission, and distribution losses associated with its production) grew rapidly as a source of energy in the industrial sector.
  • Coal was also the leading fuel consumed in the residential and commercial sector at the beginning of the period, but its usage rapidly fell to only incidental levels. Natural gas became a major resource and electricity's usage soared.
  • Petroleum's domination of the transportation sector rose from 77 percent of all resources used in the sector in 1949 to 97 percent in 1998.
  • The US petroleum industry evolved from one of near self-sufficiency to heavy dependence on imports. US oil production peaked at 11 million barrels per day in 1970. In 1998, the nation produced 8 million barrels of oil per day, while it consumed 19 million barrels per day and Imported 10 million barrels per day.
  • Natural gas supply and demand were in relative balance in the United States until the mid-1980s, when a production-consumption gap developed. In 1998, US production was 19 trillion cubic feet; consumption was 21 trillion cubic feet; and imports were 3 trillion cubic feet. While the number of wells producing natural gas in the United States grew 263 percent over the 50 years, the average output per well fell by 55 percent.
  • In 1949, the United States exported 7 percent of its coal production; in 1998, the Nation still exported 7 percent of its coal production. The industry shifted from 75 percent underground mines and 25 percent surface mines in 1949 to 39 percent underground and 61 percent surface in 1998. In 1949, only 8 percent of US coal was produced west of the Mississippi; by 1998, 49 percent came from the West. Productivity rose from 0.7 short ton per miner hour in 1949 to 6.0 short tons per miner hour in 1998.
  • Nuclear electric power did not exist in this country until 1957. The new industry expanded rapidly and, by 1995, reached a peak share of 22 percent of utilities' generation. The number of operable nuclear units peaked at 112 in 1990. As fewer new units came on line and old units began to shut down, the number of operable units fell to 104 in 1998.

The 1998 edition of the "Annual Energy Review" includes an updated and expanded introductory essay that puts US energy use in historical perspective, as well as a glossary of energy-related terms. It is available electronically at: www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/aer/ on EIA's Internet Web Site. Printed copes of the report are available from the US Government Printing Office, (202) 512-1800, or through EIA's National Energy Information Center, (202) 586-8800.


1998 missions of CO2 from fossil fuels up slightly

US carbon dioxide emissions rose at their lowest level in 1998 since 1991. Emissions from the burning of fossil fuels rose by 0.4 percent in 1998, said the Energy Information Administration (EIA). The small emissions increase occurred, despite economic growth of 3.9 percent in 1998. EIA said the increase of energy consumption during the hotter-than-normal summer were "more than offset by a much warmer-than-normal winter, which reduced consumption of heating fuels," in its preliminary estimate of greenhouse gas emissions. Fossil energy consumption emissions amounted to 1,484 million metric tons in 1998, which was a slight increase over the 1,479 million metric tons in 1997. Fossil emissions in 1998 accounted for 635 million metric tons from petroleum, 540 million metric tons from coal, and 309 million metric tons came from natural gas. One sector that saw an increase in emissions was the electric utilities, whose emissions rose by 3.2 percent in 1998 from 1997. EIA said, the warm weather "created a higher demand for residential electricity thus contributing to emissions growth." EIA's preliminary estimate is available at: www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/1605/flash/flash.html