Inside America’s Energy Addiction

Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

America is addicted to energy.

We drill miles under the ocean, run nation-length pipelines, and even go to war just to get our fix. Our reliance on cheap fuel sources has helped bring untold prosperity to the United States, powering industry and residential expansion, and supplying everyone with ample power to properly heat and cool their homes. There is also plenty of oil power the millions of vehicles, not to mention ships, airplanes, and most other methods of transport.

Since the United States depends so largely upon energy, we have needed to develop several reliable sources from which to harvest it. Not only are traditional fossil fuels on that list, but new developments and innovations are leading us to exciting ways of harnessing energy every year. One hundred years ago, harvesting power from nuclear plants, the sun, and even the tides was impossible. Now, they are all beginning to become major sources of electricity production.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration published their brief on energy use in America, outlining the major sources and the major users by sector. Their findings show that power use varies very widely depending on the specific sector, and that studying the specifics of how each area of the economy uses power can lead to important insights. Different energy sources, whether it be coal or solar energy, are all measured in different ways. But thanks to the BTU, or British Thermal Unit, we have a medium with which to compare them all. One BTU is equal to the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.

By using the BTU scale, the EIA is able to compare many different forms of energy within the U.S. economy, investigating how they are being used, and by whom.