The fossil fuel share of total U.S. energy consumption decreased to just more than 80% in 2017, the lowest share since 1902 and the third consecutive year fossil fuel consumption fell, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Fossil fuel consumption fell in 2017 as coal and natural gas consumption decreased.
Coal consumption fell 2.5% in 2017, 8.5% in 2016 and 13.6% in 2015. Coal consumption reached a peak in 2005, and since then, coal consumption has fallen 40%. Natural gas consumption declined 1.4% in 2017, but unlike coal consumption, natural gas consumption has risen in the past eight of 10 years. In 2017, natural gas consumption was twice that of coal. The consumption of natural gas has risen as a result of increased use in the electric power sector, and between 2005 and 2017, natural gas consumption rose 24%.
In 2017, petroleum consumption increased but is 10% less than its peak consumption level set in 2005. Petroleum-based fuels are primarily used in the transportation sector, but they are also used in home, businesses and industries. In 1950, petroleum surpassed coal as the largest source of energy consumption in the United States.
The renewable share of energy consumption rose to 11.3% in 2017, and was the highest level since the late 1910s, when overall energy consumption was lower and biomass consumption — primarily wood — comprised of a larger share. Along with biomass, other renewable sources that make up the share include hydroelectricity, wind and solar. Over the past decade, the largest growth in renewables has been wind and solar electricity generation.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, wood was the primary resource for U.S. energy consumption, but how the United States consumes energy has changed with the onset of coal and petroleum use, the rise of nuclear power in the late 20th century and renewables in the early 21st century.