(Roughly) Daily

“Energy is liberated matter, matter is energy waiting to happen”*…




In 2019, Americans used less energy than in 2018, according to the most recent energy flow charts released by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).

Each year, LLNL releases flow charts that illustrate the nation’s consumption and use of energy. Americans used 100.2 quads (quadrillion BTU) of energy, which is 1 quad less than last year. The highest recorded energy use in American history was in 2018, when 101.2 quads were consumed. A BTU, or British Thermal Unit, is a unit of measurement for energy; 3,412 BTUs is equivalent to 1 kilowatt-hour, which is the amount of energy it takes to light an efficient LED light bulb for a week.

For the second year in a row, the largest increases in energy supply came from natural gas, wind and solar energy, with jumps of 4 percent, 10 percent and 8 percent, respectively. Solar energy supply exceeded 1 quad for the first time ever as more users turned to renewables. Wind and solar combined now produce more electricity than hydroelectric power, which dominated renewable energy for decades…

One notes that just over two thirds of the energy consumed is “rejected” (lost to heat or other dissipation; not converted to its intended use)…

The shift from coal to gas also has contributed to a drop in rejected energy, because natural gas power plants are more efficient than the coal-fired units they replace. All energy use and conversion results in some losses, shown on the charts as rejected energy. Last year saw 1 quad less in rejected energy than in 2018. This energy most often takes the form of waste heat, such as the warm exhaust from automobiles and furnaces. The efficiency of the nation’s cars, light bulbs and factories determines how much waste heat is produced and how much fuel and electricity can be put to productive use…

More at “Americans used less energy in 2019.” For a larger version of the chart above, go here (or here for all of the charts over time).  See also “Visualizing America’s Energy Use, in One Giant Chart.”

* Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything


As we emphasize efficiency, we might recall that it was on this date in 1869 that the first U.S. Transcontinental Railway was ceremonially completed with the driving of the “Golden Spike.”  Known as the “Pacific Railroad” when it opened, it served as a vital channel for trade, commerce, and travel– for the first time, shipping and commerce could thrive away from navigable waterways– and it opened vast regions of the North American heartland for settlement.

(In fact, while not “transcontinental” in the same sense, the first railroad to connect two oceans directly, the Panama Rail Road, opened in 1855, when a locomotive made the first trek from the Atlantic to the Pacific.)

At the ceremony for the driving of the “Golden Spike” at Promontory Summit, Utah, May 10, 1869



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