Collaboration in Civic Spheres

U.S. has diverse energy for electricity, but not transport

by Matt Rosenberg May 17th, 2012

A series of data visualizations accompanying the recent “Energy Security in the United States” report by the Congressional Budget Office shows the lion’s share of energy used in the United States still comes from fossil fuel sources such as oil, coal and natural gas. The three accounted for 84 percent of total energy use in the U.S. in 2010 with nuclear and renewable energy sources each providing eight percent of the mix. Looking at major energy-using sectors of the economy, CBO found that 94 percent of U.S. 2010 transportation energy spending was used for oil. In the electric sector, 21 percent of the energy spending was on nuclear power, 10 percent on renewables, 19 percent on natural gas and 48 percent on coal. The related data visualization – the first of three from the report that we reproduce here – also breaks down the sourcing of energy to the HVAC and industrial sectors.

Source: Energy Security In The United States, Congressional Budget Office

Different regions source their electricity differently. In percentage of 2009 electricity production by region, the West relied most heavily on wind power versus any of the seven other regions, while the North Central and Great Lakes regions leaned most on coal. Nuclear power to generate electricity was most prevalent in the Northeast, and natural gas was tops in Florida.

Source: Energy Security In The United States, Congressional Budget Office

Whereas U.S. consumers have some protection against sharp electricity price spikes because of diverse sources, the same is not true in the transportation sector, says the CBO report.

Source: Energy Security In The United States, Congressional Budget Office

The report says that among policy options elected leaders can examine more closely to limit consumer vulnerability to transportation energy price spikes, one is to increase transit in major metro regions and raise the gas tax. CBO warns that rail transit carries especially high infrastructure costs versus expanded bus service, and that in any event, broader transit adoption in metro regions depends heavily on door-to-door travel times and service reliability. CBO also suggests policymakers consider how to develop greater incentives for telecommuting and urban density although both have been slow to truly take hold in many U.S. metro regions.

The report also mentions further subsidies for research and development of alternative fuels to power passenger vehicles but says that whole endeavor involves “significant uncertainties” around economic feasibility and implementation. Reaching into the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve is also an option, but that would likely be counteracted by a tightening of oil supply to the U.S. from major producer nations, says CBO.

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