Visualizing U.S. Energy Consumption In One Chart

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.


RAT005 TBT or not TBT Sat, 05/26/2018 - 00:00 Permalink

The problem with residential solar is it was designed as a jobs program and sold as a way to use net metering to zero out your annual bill.  The value is in the 1st 2-4 panels at every home that could be ground mount installed DIY with a Homedepot style kit. 2 panels for homes that are mostly empty during the day and 4 panels for homes that are occupied during the day. The value is in leveling off peak and extending base load plus the vast distribution to take growing pressure off the older grid.

To give you some scale, 1 300W size panel powers a full size fridge on a 24 hr basis in typical sunny place.

Couple all of that info plus 200yrs of coal with the other recent articles of energy distribution and over population.

In reply to by TBT or not TBT

directaction house biscuit Sat, 05/26/2018 - 07:15 Permalink

Worsening the situation is the growing number of pets. In the USA the number of pets now exceeds the number of people 75 years ago. Pets consume the same amount of food, water, and crop acreage as humans did 75 years ago and their energy footprint exceeds most countries.

Most of the solid waste from US pets ends up decaying on the ground in urban areas. The rest rots in landfills. Nearly all of the liquid waste is emptied directly into the urban environment on sidewalks, streets and lawns.  

Pet ownership is ruining America's environment as much as overpopulation. This fetish with pets must be turned back. It's uncool, ruining the environment, consuming far too much food and is a perfect symbol of US gluttony and self-centeredness. 


In reply to by house biscuit

slyder wood directaction Sat, 05/26/2018 - 17:40 Permalink

Never understood the pet thing. They’re not a real animal anymore, they don’t work like they were bred, just a status symbol. They would have gone extinct over 14000 years ago if they hadn’t started following human camps, eating our feces and garbage, like they still do. Canine feces is second source of ecoli in the Rio Grande, avian is first but it’s a major migratory flyway. Asshole owners think their mutts shit dries up and disappears but the wind picks up the particles where it can be inhaled and also deposited in the rivers. I always wonder what is missing in someone’s life that compels them to own and worship a dog. Same goes for cats that kill thousands, if not millions, of songbirds a year. Daughter brought home a cat some years back while I was on foreign travel. I indulged her but was so sick of it killing shit I was glad when the coyotes got it, never shed a tear. In my state its legal to kill livestock marauding dogs. Helped a buddy kill two dogs that were raiding his pheasant coop one night. We sat in the coop with a 12ga and pistol. The dogs showed, a shepherd and a dobie. He killed the Shepard with the shotgun. The dobie got caught on the fence where I shot it with the 9. Turned out it was a neighbors dogs; he called the sheriff. Sheriff chewed the owner out, said we were justified and legal. 

In reply to by directaction

slyder wood directaction Sat, 05/26/2018 - 17:51 Permalink

Also, the dog mystique is largely promoted by the pet industry. Most of it is total BS -best friend, loyalty, longer life, etc. even the charlatan Cesar Milan says one week and 10lbs of beef liver will make your dog his “best friend”. The pet industry is ~$90B a year. They have a vested interest in promoting the propaganda that pet owners suck up like ambrosia.

In reply to by directaction

Posa 1 Alabama Sat, 05/26/2018 - 10:17 Permalink

Correct. Germany is having buyer's remorse with their solar-wind folly... hugely expensive electricity rates, no CO2 reductions (which aren't a problem anyway), an unreliable energy grid.. The basic problem is that solar-wind pump in huge wattage when not needed, and disastrously little when it is needed.... so a SECOND generating system has to be there for backup... that's insanity...

In reply to by 1 Alabama

A Nanny Moose RAT005 Sat, 05/26/2018 - 11:07 Permalink

The real problem lies in the unreliable nature "renewables" as currently executed. This requires keeping reliable fuel driven methods running, to account for variance in supply/demand.

So we spend the energy to create these "Renewables" and continue to spend the energy to pick of their slack...unless everyone is wiling to wait 15-30 minutes after flipping the switch, for the lights to come on, while legacy generation systems spool up.

In reply to by RAT005

Nobody For President RAT005 Sat, 05/26/2018 - 13:50 Permalink

I have been on solar for 40 years now, starting with 2 panels in 1974. Now have 27 panels (12 ground mount, 15 roof mount) feeding through an Outback system and using 16 largish batteries for storage. Back up generator for stretches of cloudy days in the winter. Generator time last year - 26 hours. This powers a middle-class-ish home - two buildings attached to a dome, a wood shop and a metal shop and a reasonable bunch of power tools. The system is more reliable than the local power grid, especially in winter when every storm takes out some of the power to the townies. No as in zero down time the last 6 years.

Took time, money and experience to finally get it to all come together, but worth it. Maintenance 45 minutes a month to check and fill battery water as required. Well maintained, batteries last 6-8 years.

In reply to by RAT005

Twatter Fri, 05/25/2018 - 22:59 Permalink

Jullian Assange and Tommy Robinson are being held hostage in Britain among many others.

Hey  Trump why not a tweet on these subjects?

LetThemEatRand Fri, 05/25/2018 - 22:59 Permalink

What the fuck is "rejected energy?"  I assume it means energy that is used versus a more efficient alternative, like using the internet to complain about bankers instead of a building a guillotine.  

TheEndIsNear LetThemEatRand Sat, 05/26/2018 - 02:53 Permalink

No, it's energy that could be produced versus energy that is actually used.

Wouldn't it be great if all that unused energy could be stored away somehow?  If so, it would cut back the energy that needs to be generated by two-thirds.  Maybe store it by pumping water into a lake where some of the excess power could be recovered by hydroelectric generators, or if you feel lucky by storing it in thousands of Musk's exploding Lithium batteries, haha.

In reply to by LetThemEatRand

Setarcos LetThemEatRand Sat, 05/26/2018 - 03:04 Permalink

Well with IC vehicles the efficiency might be 50% at best, with the other 50% being waste heat/energy not available as power to the wheels, to put it in simple terms.  Heat out through the radiator, engine block, tail pipe, etc. is "rejected energy".

As regards electricity supply to households, industry, etc. there are losses across supply grids, excess heat produced by electric motors, etc., but probably the main factor is that you cannot simply turn a power station off when demand falls - they have to keep supplying at least base load at all times, i.e. burning coal, oil, gas, etc. (energy) whether used at the consumer end or not … thus "rejected energy" = energy consumed but not used.  Btw electricity should not be thought of, in context, as a "form of energy".  It is a product of energy consumption which, allows the original energy source to be transferred, in effect, from one place to another, not necessarily efficiently - a usually hidden or ignored problem with EVs like Tesla.

I read a recent study from China which found that when people burn coal in the home, which many still do, it is more efficient than burning coal in a power station and using electricity in the home for heating.  Between the home and the power station there is "rejected energy".

In reply to by LetThemEatRand

kellys_eye Setarcos Sat, 05/26/2018 - 04:02 Permalink

Boiled down to cost (as everything is these days) there is currently no way to make energy efficiencies 'pay' using current technology i.e. it costs more to 'save' the wasted energy than it does to throw it away.

When (if) we get room temperature super-conductors then perhaps we'll see some useful changes to that figure.  Everything else falls under 'green energy' as far as savings are concerned and we all know that NONE of the green energy process's are aimed at anything other than lining the pockets of the snake oil salesmen that peddle them.

In reply to by Setarcos

CingRed LetThemEatRand Sat, 05/26/2018 - 11:24 Permalink

Rejected energy has everything to do with the 2nd law of thermodynamics and inefficiencies in all generating and utilizing equipment.  It is difficult to concentrate residual energy into something usable once the delta T gets too low so that residual gets rejected (lost would be a better term).  Think about the heat used to bake a pie at 325 degrees and trying to extract and concentrate the the heat from a big pot water at 212 degrees to bake the pie. How do you extract the heat from the water, how do you concentrate it to get it up to 325 degrees, how do you transport it to the oven where the pie will be baked, and how much energy will be lost in every step of that operation?  And all of that without adding any new energy into the system.   This is a very simple example but if you think about it you will maybe get a glimps of underlying problems in getting high percentages of usable energy from a process. We’re getting better at it as technology improves but it’s a difficult problem otherwise you would have solved it by now and had become a multi-billionaire. 

In reply to by LetThemEatRand

VWAndy Fri, 05/25/2018 - 23:03 Permalink

 The other stand out is the electrical gen box grouping them all together? Could it be that a large portion of those green energies are going to waste. Coal and nuke being base load and all?

Sapere aude ed31337 Sat, 05/26/2018 - 07:26 Permalink

Not correct?


There is a morning ramp up in energy demand starting 0600 hours, then that mid morning ramp in energy subsides from mid day, dropping by 1400 hours before reachings its daily peak at about 18:30 hours, then dropping back in a downward curve to its minimal use period.


However, the energy peak from renewables is not mid day, as it changes radically and higher heat decreases renewable energy efficiency of solar panels, so they produce at their maximum not at areas of peak demand but the lead up to peak demand, and where by mid day heat causes efficiency to drop off.

Likewise another drawback is there is an OVER production of renewable energy, where in some instances countries like Germany have had to pay companies to use the excess energy yet still have the highest energy costs for consumers.

In the UK too, these unhelpful fact get hidden, but where they are replaced with a New flash telling everyone that on a day last year for the first time the UK produced 51% of its energy by renewable for at least an hour mid day.

However, in that they included wood burners, biofuel generators, incinerators now called energy to waste plants to hide the ultra toxic residues that greenies never comment on, and which make hydrocarbons look wonderful!!

Such a farce that on the day they reported they even admitted the the spot price of electricity during that period all to MINUS 1.9P PER KW.

As ever this was repackaged to infer consumers were benefitting, but instead it was the opposite.

Consumers were hit with higher and higher prices to pay for subsidies to produce non viable energy, and where some solar panel installations were being paid 48P per KW and will be for the next 20 years INDEX linked.

So in fact a miserable economic failure on all counts.

Its worse, because the rush to demonise hydrocarbons and Internal Combustion Engines means that Musk and the like all got on the subsidy bandwagon, and where the toxic resources used to provide such dangerous storage source, i.e. lithium carbonate cannot even satiate existing demand nor can it ever replace internal combustion engine vehicles which have got more and more efficient, and provide a major source of taxation, rather than the EV's that a major source of subsidy loss.

With all the renewables in the equation, we are still requiring more petroleum and will do, so now those with renewable panels etc., think they will charge their EV's.....but who wants to charge up their car in the day, except night workers!

What then replaces the electricity these panels were previously supplying.

Unfortunately its more fag packet thinking from politicians in the US and elsewhere, with greenies not aware of the stupidity of some of their actions and where political correctness goes wild and often associated with demonising a chosen victim, hence false science on emissions, global warming, etc. etc., where inevitable those commentating are directly or indirectly paid to have that view as if you worked for a centre on global warming, it is unlikely you would do anything but lead the charge...even if the science is rigged.

Laws of unintended consequences take place, like the last winter, colder....then its not global warming its back to climate change....but where in the history of the world the climate has always changed.

How much emissions are volcanoes making, rockets, incinerators, etc. etc., how much resource used in making lithium batteries or driverless crash machines.

In reply to by ed31337