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Visualizing U.S. Energy Consumption In One Chart

Visualizing U.S. Energy Consumption In One Chart thumbnail

Every year, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a federal research facility funded by the Department of Energy and UC Berkeley, puts out a fascinating Sankey diagram that shows the fate of all energy that gets generated and consumed in the United States in a given year.

Today’s visualization is the summary of energy consumption for 2017, but you can see previous years going all the way back to 2010 on their website.

Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist


As Visual Capitalist’s Jeff Desjardins explains, the first thing you’ll notice about this Sankey is that it uses an unfamiliar unit of measurement: the quad.

Each quad is equal to a quadrillion BTUs, and it’s roughly comparable to the following:

  • 8,007,000,000 gallons (US) of gasoline
  • 293,071,000,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh)
  • 36,000,000 tonnes of coal
  • 970,434,000,000 cubic feet of natural gas
  • 25,200,000 tonnes of oil
  • 252,000,000 tonnes of TNT
  • 13.3 tonnes of uranium-235

Put another way, a quad is a massive unit that only is useful in measuring something like national energy consumption – and in this case, the total amount of energy used by the country was 97.7 quadrillion BTUs.


On the diagram, one thing that is immediately noticeable is that a whopping 68% of all energy is actually rejected energy, or energy that gets wasted through various inefficiencies.

It’s quite eye-opening to look at this data sorted by sector:

source: Visual Capitalist

The transportation sector used 28.1 quads of energy in 2017, about 28.8% of the total consumption. However, it wasted 22.2 quads of that energy with its poor efficiency rate, which made for more rejected energy than the other three sectors combined.

This wastage and inefficiency in the transportation sector provides an interesting lens from which to view the green energy revolution, and it also helps explain the vision that Elon Musk has for the future of Tesla.


The last time we posted a version of this visualization was for the 2015 edition of the diagram, and we noted that renewables had a ways to go as a factor in the whole energy mix.

Here are how things have changed over the last two years:

source: Visual Capitalist

As you can see, solar and wind consumption are jumping considerably – but in absolute terms, our note from two years ago still remains true.

To make the desired impact, renewable energy still has a ways to go.


17 Comments on "Visualizing U.S. Energy Consumption In One Chart"

  1. MASTERMIND on Sat, 26th May 2018 10:20 am 

    Sleepwalking Into The Next Oil Crisis

    According to the German Army leaked study. When the oil shortages hit, Wall street will crash, the public will lose all faith/trust in their institutions, and the global economy and world governments will collapse..

    Scientific American: Apocalypse Soon: Has Civilization Passed the Environmental Point of No Return?

    Inside the new economic science of capitalism’s slow-burn energy collapse (Ahmed, 2017)

    Peer Reviewed Study: Society Could Collapse In A Decade, Predicts Historian (Turchin, 2010)

    NASA Peer Reviewed Study: Industrial Civilization is Headed for Irreversible Collapse (Motesharrei, 2014)

    The Royal Society: Peer Reviewed Study, Now for the First Time A Global Collapse Appears Likely (Ehrlich, 2013)

    Peer Reviewed Study: Limits to Growth was Right. Research Shows We’re Nearing Global Collapse (Turner, 2014)

    Peer Reviewed Study: Financial System Supply-Chain Cross-Contagion: Global Systemic Collapse (Korowicz, 2012)

  2. BobInget on Sat, 26th May 2018 11:36 am 

    I suspect MM is just a tad pessimistic.

  3. Outcast_Searcher on Sat, 26th May 2018 12:00 pm 

    Great chart! That’s a terrific way to show a lot about the energy consumed in a given year. Lots of key information in not much space, and it’s quite clear.

    The technique reminds me of Edward Tufte’s very fine “Visualization of Information” books.

    And yeah, renewable energy still has a LONG ways to go — no kidding. OTOH, with strong growth rates being seen in the real world, the effect over time will be dramatic.

  4. MASTERMIND on Sat, 26th May 2018 12:19 pm 

    They have been saying solar and wind will save the world since the 1950’s..In the 1950’s the New York Times wrote articles claiming solar some day will give us unlimited energy..LOL Solar and wind are mass delusions to convince the sheep that ‘there working on it” and ‘everything is ok”!

  5. twocats on Sat, 26th May 2018 1:16 pm 

    Well probably the most optimistic thing you could note is that energy consumption went from 97.5 quad to 97.7 quadrillion BTU. 2/10ths of 1% doesn’t seem like much of an increase.

    Of course – much of this energy consumption has simply been shifted to outsourced manufacturing jobs of which we reap some of the benefits as consumers. This happy relationship has started to strain – and when it can no longer be maintained we will simply be left with dwindling supplies of energy and fewer inputs from foreign “trade”.

    This is inevitable and so obvious its a wonder the trolls can carry on posting. But they do – cognitive dissonance is a powerful motivator.

  6. Cloggie on Sat, 26th May 2018 1:48 pm 

    And yeah, renewable energy still has a LONG ways to go — no kidding. OTOH, with strong growth rates being seen in the real world, the effect over time will be dramatic.


    Timeline global penetration internet:

    1995: 0.4%
    2017: 54.4%

    (number of active internet users)

    Just saying. If everybody wants it, everybody will get it. Won’t be different with energy.

  7. MASTERMIND on Sat, 26th May 2018 2:00 pm 


    The internet has nothing to do with solar and are arguing a false equivalency..the new york times wrote in the 1950’s solar was going to give us unlimited energy in the future..and here we are..

    MIT:At this rate, it’s going to take nearly 400 years to transform the energy system

    And look what happens when you try to use solar and wind

    Renewable energy mix played role in SA blackout, third AEMO report confirms

    Shortage of resources for renewable energy and food production (Rhodes 2011)

    Top scientists show why powering US using 100 percent renewable energy is a delusional fantasy

  8. Davy on Sat, 26th May 2018 2:28 pm 

    “Just saying. If everybody wants it, everybody will get it. Won’t be different with energy.”

    Sloppy comparison neder, like so many others you make.

  9. Cloggie on Sat, 26th May 2018 3:38 pm 

    In the chart there is listed geothermal energy 0.2%

    This could change as scientists are working on exploiting the exceptional high thermal conductivity of graphene. This opens the specter of abandoning the concept of installing pipes, pumps and use water to pump up geothermal heat. Instead, stick in graphene wires in the borehole of 2-4 kilometer and be careful not to burn your! Heat transfer by conductivity, not mass transfer.

  10. deadly on Sat, 26th May 2018 5:01 pm 

    Clogmeister, wind offshore in Puerto Rico will be ripped apart when the first category 5 hurricane comes along. It ain’t gonna work.

    I’ve been preparing for doom and gloom for about 38 years or so.

    Got it all to survive collapse. Even got a flashlight, by golly.

    There better be a collapse, I’ve spent a lot of money prepping for the end.

    If course, if there is a collapse, the mother of all collapse, any amount of preparing probably won’t do much good.

    It’ll be bad.

    …they came here by boat, they came here by train…they blistered their hands and burned out their brains, all dreaming a dream that’ll never come true…don’t give me no trouble or I’ll call up my double, we’ll play piggie in the middle with you – John Prine, Common Sense

  11. Cloggie on Sun, 27th May 2018 6:23 am

    800 hydrogen trucks for US beer giant Anheuser-Busch and Nikola Motor Company.

  12. Cloggie on Sun, 27th May 2018 6:27 am 

    New German offshore wind tender of 1610 MW.
    Of which 420 MW is without subsidy.

  13. Cloggie on Sun, 27th May 2018 6:46 am

    Dutch-British project involving storing/retrieving electricity by lifting/sinking large weights in a mine shaft (59,000 of those in the UK alone). Claim made by startup “Gravitricity”: power up to 20 MW per installation, life span ±50 year and a storage efficiency of 80 à 90%.

  14. MASTERMIND on Sun, 27th May 2018 7:03 am 


    What do you call it when you feel like you’re being persecuted all the time, even when you’re not?

  15. Cloggie on Sun, 27th May 2018 8:27 am 

    “What do you call it when you feel like you’re being persecuted all the time, even when you’re not?”

    “achtervolgingswaanzin” (paranoia)

    On a personal level I do not feel persecuted.
    As a society, nation and race I feel threatened with extinction, yes. And something needs to be done about it.

    For starters: leaving the West.
    Next address Christianity in all its problematic forms. Pointer to an alternative future:

  16. Free Speech Forum on Sun, 27th May 2018 9:24 pm 

    Life may be all fun and games now in the USA, but as offshoring increases, illegal immigration rises, hard-working Americans die off or dropout due to higher taxes and more regulations, the national debt climbs, there is more terrorism as the result of illegal American wars, the police become more brutal enforcing draconian decrees, the US Ponzi economy and stock markets collapse, cash is banned, Americans are implanted with microchips, and real crises and false flags are used to force Americans to go to the gulags and finally to the gas chambers and ovens, will Americans wish that they had spoken out earlier against the dangers of wars, debt, and tyranny?

  17. MASTERMIND on Sun, 27th May 2018 10:25 pm 

    Trump is using Memorial Day to peddle merchandise..

    Made in Jina!

    Code “remember”? What a cringy dick!

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