Shepstone Management Company, Inc.
Natural gas consumption figures analyzed by the Energy Information Administration show natural gas has ascended to new heights as the energy fuel of choice.
Natural gas is headed to the top of the heap when it comes to U.S. energy consumption. Natural gas consumption, in fact, has increased tremendously since the onset of the shale revolution that so lowered the costs. The growth has been nothing less than stunning, in fact, while percentage of energy contributed by fossil fuels has remained the same for a century.
Here’s the biggest news from the EIA post at Today In Energy (emphasis added) :
Natural gas consumption increased in 2018, reaching a new record consumption level of 82.1 billion cubic feet per day. Natural gas consumption has increased in 8 of the past 10 years. Growth in natural gas consumption has largely been driven by increased consumption in the electric power sector. Overall, U.S. consumption of natural gas has increased by 37% since 2005.
This is the impact of the shale revolution, which began in earnest about 2005 in Texas. But, it’s hardly the only news from the story. There are also these tidbits:
Energy consumption in the United States has undergone many changes in the nation’s history, from wood as a primary resource in the 18th and 19th centuries, to the onset of coal and petroleum use, and to the more modern rise of nuclear power in the late 20th century and renewables in the early 21st century…
The renewable share of energy consumption in 2018, which includes hydroelectricity, biomass, and other renewables such as wind and solar, was 11.4%, slightly less than its 2017 share. The largest growth in renewables over the past decade has been in solar and wind electricity generation.
Yes, contrary to all the hype, renewables lost market share in 2018. That’s undoubtedly due to lowered direct and indirect subsidies; renewables can’t grow without them, after all. But, there’s a bigger point to be made. Renewables are old technology. We used to depend on burning wood (now euphemistically labeled biomass) to keep warm, flooded valleys and built dams to produce electricity and erected small windmills to lift water out of the ground. Then, we got smart and went for energy density that only fossil fuels and nuclear can provide. The result is this:
Fossil fuels—petroleum, natural gas, and coal—have accounted for at least 80% of energy consumption in the United States for well over a century. Overall energy consumption in the United States reached a record high in 2018 at 101 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu), of which more than 81 quadrillion Btu were from fossil fuels. Despite the increase, the fossil fuel share of total U.S. energy consumption in 2018 increased only slightly from 2017 and was the second-lowest share since 1902.
The increase in fossil fuel consumption in 2018 was driven by increases in petroleum and natural gas consumption. Coal consumption fell by 4.3% in 2018, the fifth consecutive annual decline. U.S. consumption of coal peaked in 2005 and has declined nearly 42% since then. U.S. coal consumption fell to 687 million short tons in 2018, the lowest level of coal consumption in the United States since the 1970s.
It’s also interesting, isn’t it, that as natural gas has replaced coal, emissions of every type have dropped and the air is cleaner? This EPA chart sums it up:
The year 2005 was, curiously enough, the inflection point for CO2 emissions and the decline in other emissions steepened at the same time. So, we have fossil fuels holding steady for more than a hundred years, natural gas consumption up by more than a third since 2005, renewables losing share last year and emissions continuing to plummet. It’s hard to imagine how our win could be any bigger.