Energy is the backbone of the American economy. Without reliable, reasonably-priced sources of energy, economic systems the world over would eventually grind to a halt. For many years, the biggest point of contention in the United States, particularly when it comes to foreign policy, is based around the production or securing of cheap and plentiful energy sources. The American involvement in the Middle East is the most pointed example of this, with several conflicts even over the past two or three decades being motivated in large part by the strategic placement of oil reserves in the region.
However, with new innovation and technological advancement, American energy companies have been able to turn the tables over the past few years. The rapid growth of hydraulic fracturing, along with the discovery of large oil reserves within the territory of the United States has allowed the country to evolve out of its status as an energy importer, and into a more self-sustaining role. States like North Dakota, with its Bakken shale formation, have been major areas of booming growth, creating thousands of jobs along with untold wealth for extractors. The tax revenue headed to the state’s capital of Bismarck is also quite attractive to other states, who have begun exploring their own land for energy production potential.
As natural gas has become one of America’s major fuel sources from extraction successes in numerous shale formations, domestic oil production has increased to levels never before seen. It was assumed for much of the past that America simply didn’t have the vast reserves of crude oil that places like Saudi Arabia or even Canada possess, but recent developments have changed analysts’ minds. Both crude oil and natural gas production have been the major factors in the evolving of America’s energy policy.
As natural gas and oil production have grown, so have the concerns revolving around their safety and environmental impact. Thus, renewable energy has also started to see explosive growth of its own. Solar and wind energy are traditionally the most popular and easiest resources to capture, and both areas have seen climbing interest in recent years. There are also several other methods of capturing renewable and clean energy in the works, including tidal energy and the refining of biofuels. Renewable energy is still dwarfed by larger sources, like coal, but it is expected to continue growing.
Nuclear energy is also worth mentioning, as it supplies roughly 20 percent of the country’s electricity. Its growth, however, has been hampered by fears of several high-profile accidents around the world. Chernobyl and Fukishima are the most notable, and the high risks that come with nuclear power plants have made many people uneasy about the use of reactors in and around their communities.
With the exception of nuclear power, the major four sources of energy have been on the rise over the past few decades. The future of all of them, however, is uncertain. With data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, we’ve put together four charts that dig deeper into energy trends across the four major industries.
Read on to see the charts, and the future of American energy.