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Energy Use

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This woman in Burkina Faso uses a simple wood fire for cooking. For many people in the world, wood is their main energy resource. They burn it to stay warm as well as to cook their food. Other energy resources, such as oil or gas, are simply not available to them or are far too expensive for most people to use. However, if you live in the U.S. or another of the richer nations of the world, you probably depend almost totally on these more expensive energy resources, especially oil.

Use of Energy Resources

Look at the circle graph in the Figure below . It shows that oil is the single most commonly used energy resource in the U.S., followed by natural gas, and then by coal. All of these energy resources are nonrenewable. Nonrenewable resources are resources that are limited in supply and cannot be replaced as quickly as they are used up. Renewable resources, in contrast, provide only 8 percent of all energy used in the U.S. Renewable resources are natural resources that can be replaced in a relatively short period of time or are virtually limitless in supply. They include solar energy from sunlight, geothermal energy from under Earth’s surface, wind, biomass (from once-living things or their wastes), and hydropower (from running water).

Circle graph of energy sources for the United States

Oil Use by Nation

People in the U.S. use far more energy—especially energy from oil—than people in any other nation. The bar graph in the Figure below compares the amount of oil used by the top ten oil-using nations. The U.S. uses more oil than several other top-ten countries combined. If you also consider the population size in these countries, the differences are even more stunning. The average person in the U.S. uses a whopping 23 barrels of oil a year! In comparison, the average person in India or China uses just 1 or 2 barrels of oil a year. At the following URL, you can explore energy use per person in the U.S. and other countries or regions of the world over the past 50 years.

http://www.google.com/publicdata/explore?ds=d5bncppjof8f9_&met_y=eg_use_pcap_kg_oe&idim=country:USA&dl=en&hl=en&q=energy+use

Bar graph illustrating oil use by country

Q: How does the use of oil and other fossil fuels relate to pollution?

A: Greater use of oil and other fossil fuels causes more pollution.

Q: How do people in the U.S. use all that energy?

A: You can find out at the following URL. http://needtoknow.nas.edu/energy/energy-use/

Summary

  • Oil is the single most commonly used energy resource in the U.S., followed by natural gas, and then by coal. These are all nonrenewable energy resources. Only 8 percent of all energy used in the U.S. comes from renewable energy resources, such as solar, wind, and biomass energy.
  • People in the U.S. use far more energy per person—especially energy from oil—than people in any other nation.

Vocabulary

  • nonrenewable resource : Natural resource that is limited in supply and cannot be replaced except over millions of years.
  • renewable resource : Natural resource that can be replaced in a relatively short period of time or is virtually limitless in supply.

Practice

At the following URL, find the ranking of the U.S. in total energy use and in the use of each of the major energy resources. Make a table to summarize the information.

http://yearbook.enerdata.net/#/2010-energy-consumption-data.html

Review

  1. Outline the use of energy resources in the U.S.
  2. Compare the use of oil in the U.S. with oil use in other nations.

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