In 2018, the United States set a record for energy consumption: 101 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) of energy. Of this total, 81 quadrillions Btu (or 80 %) were from fossil fuels: petroleum, natural gas, and coal. Due to these clean energy sources such as solar and wind are rising and helping to slow the growth of carbon emissions.
U.S. natural gas consumption also set a record in 2018: 82.1 billion cubic feet per day. Demand for natural gas increased across all sectors, primarily driven by weather-related heating and cooling needs. Natural gas consumption increased in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors by 13 %, 10 %, and 7 % respectively, compared to 2017. However, the electric power sector encountered the biggest increase: 15 % over 2017.
The spike reflects an ominous trend. As more natural gas-fired power plants have come online, natural gas consumption by the electric power sector has increased by a whopping 82 % since 2005. Compared to that, natural gas demand in industrial, commercial and residential sectors saw relatively smaller increases (at 32 %, 17 %, and 4 %, respectively). The change from coal to gas has been responsible for significant emissions reductions in the U.S. power sector over the past few years. But there are growing concerns that too much reliance on natural gas breaks the carbon budget and undermines efforts to transition the country away from fossil fuels. Carbon emissions from U.S. power plants rose 0.6 % in 2018 following three straight years of decreases, as utilities switched to natural gas to meet record electricity demand.