the United States used about 97.7 quadrillion Btu of energy -- an increase of 2.7 quadrillion Btu over the previous year. And there is no doubt the energy use in this country is still growing. The U.S. has always used more than its share of energy. The entire world used about 500 quadrillion Btu of energy in 2010 (according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration). That means that this country used about 19.54% of the world's energy (or about 1 out of every 5 Btu), even though it only has 4.5% of the world's population.
That is a problem. It is going to be very hard to continue hogging this much of the world's energy, with the rest of the world's countries modernizing (and requiring more energy themselves each year). But it is not the only problem. The other problem rests in where we get that energy we use. Renewable energy sources make up about 8.2% of usage, and nuclear energy makes up about 8.6%. That means the fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, coal) still provide 83.2% of all the energy used in the United States.
Some people seem to think that the supply of oil is endless, and all we have to do is increase drilling and that will solve all our problems. That is both a short-sighted and ridiculous view. Most energy experts realize that the point of "peak oil" is fast approaching (if we have not already reached it). "Peak oil" is the point at which production starts to drop, no matter how much drilling is done. Like it or not, all of the fossil fuels exist in a finite quantity -- which means they will all run out eventually.
The most plentiful of the fossil fuels, especially in this country, is coal. It has been said that we have hundreds of years of coal. But coal will also run out eventually -- and coal is the dirtiest of the fossil fuels. We hear about "clean coal" these days, but that is just propaganda put out by the coal producers. There is no such thing as clean coal -- and probably never will be. Increasing (or even just maintaining) the usage of coal energy will do nothing except hasten global climate change (an impending disaster regardless of what Republican politicians say).
The hard truth is that the United States needs to change its energy ways -- and it needs to do it pretty fast. We need to cut our use of fossil fuels drastically (all of them), increase the percentage of renewable energy used, and vastly increase the efficiency with which we use available energy. This can be done, but it will require some political will, and it will require Americans to change.
We must invest more money in renewable energy, and do it now. And we must increase the efficiency of our transportation and homes. There must be more public transportation. And vehicles must be made much more efficient. One of the biggest wasters of energy in the U.S. is in the kind of homes we build. They are incredibly inefficient and waste large amounts of energy. The technology already exists to make more efficient homes. We are just not using it, and that must change.
Americans have a decision to make. Are we more interested in a few more years of comfort and resistance to change, or are we going to pass on a better world to our grandchildren and great-grandchildren? There's not a lot of time. What will we choose?