How We Use Energy: Then And Now : Planet Money We've become more energy efficient in the last five decades, but what does that mean for total energy use? The answer, in two graphics.
NPR logo How We Use Energy: Then And Now

How We Use Energy: Then And Now

Manufacturing in the U.S. still uses the most energy. But its share has been decreasing. That's partly because we've moved from energy-intensive manufacturing to a more service-based economy. And also partly because of a slowing population growth and improving energy efficiency.

Energy Consumption By Sector


Consumption in this graphic includes the energy that is needed to produce electricity. The 'Manufacturing, Etc.' category includes other sectors like construction and mining.

And while homes have become more energy efficient, they're on average about 30 percent larger. Which means overall, the energy use in homes is about the same. (Economists call this the rebound effect — some of the energy savings from more efficiency gets wiped out by more use.)

The rebound effect is also apparent in the transportation sector. Since 1961, the number of people driving cars and trucks has increased. People are also driving more. Regulations requiring cars and trucks to become more energy efficient are trying to curb fuel use. The U.S. Energy Information Administration says these regulations (and the high the price for gas and lower incomes due to the recession) may have slowed the rise in demand for fuel for transportation. Still, the growth continues.

Here's where that energy came from:

Energy By Source


Consumption in this graphic includes the energy that is needed to produce electricity.  Some sources are used directly, or converted to a secondary source like electricity. Natural gas, for example, is used directly for home heating, and also  converted to electricity in power plants.

In 1961, the largest portion of our energy (including the energy that used to generate electricity) came from crude oil. That's still true today. But the technological growth of renewable energy and the rise of electricity from nuclear power, means that crude oil's dominance is shrinking.