US Electrical Energy Consumption Falling

According to Enerdata, the US consumed 3,798 trillion watt hours of electricity in 2012.  To put that in perspective, we used enough energy for every person on earth to use a 100 watt light bulb for 64 years. More importantly, that’s 64 trillion watt hours (TWh) less than last year, a 1.6% decrease.  In fact, US Energy consumption has fallen every year since 2010 when the economy was recovering from the great recession.

It’s important to remember that this decrease over three years, during which the country grew steadily, making the decrease even greater on a per capita basis.

This decrease in energy consumption hasn’t created a commensurate decrease in energy production in the U.S. Energy production. Last year, the US produced 4,295 TWh which while lower than the previous year is not decreasing at quite as fast as production. Also, world energy consumption (spurred largely by China’s continued growth) continues to grow.

Still, it’s surprising that this trend in US energy consumption isn’t something more widely understood or talked about. I was first tipped off to this phenomenon by a Matthew Yglesias article about American energy use and the wild growth of natural gas, which is indeed striking.  But it lead me to the Wikipedia article he must have found the graphic in, which is itself fascinating.


Finally, if you’re interested at all in electricity production or consumption spend some time on Enerdata’s amazing site.  It’s much more entertaining than any buzz feed map list. The data inside it could create a 100 blog posts like this.