The United States is a highly developed and industrialized society. Americans use a lot of energy in homes, in businesses, and in industry. Americans also use energy for personal travel and for transporting goods. There are five energy consuming sectors:
1. The industrial sector includes facilities and equipment used for manufacturing, agriculture, mining, and construction.
2. The transportation sector includes vehicles that transport people or goods, such as cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, trains, aircraft, boats, barges, and ships.
3. The residential sector consists of homes and apartments.
4. The commercial sector includes offices, malls, stores, schools, hospitals, hotels, warehouses, restaurants, and places of worship and public assembly.
5. The electric power sector consumes primary energy to generate most of the electricity consumed by the other four sectors.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that cars, light trucks, and motorcycles use the largest share of the total energy consumed for transportation in the United States. Cars, vans, and buses are commonly used to transport people. Trucks, airplanes, and trains are used to move people and freight. Barges and pipelines move freight or bulk quantities of materials. Estimates of shares of total U.S. transportation energy use by types or modes of transportation in 2016 says Light-duty vehicles (cars, small trucks, vans, and sport utility vehicles) and motorcycles to 56%, Large trucks to 23%, Jets, planes, and other aircraft to 8%, Boat, ships, and other watercraft to 4%, Trains and buses to 3%. The military, all modes to 2%, Pipelines to 2%, Lubricants to less than 1%.
U.S. gasoline consumption for transportation has increased even though overall fuel economy in cars and light trucks has improved. The national average fuel economy for light-duty vehicles, which include passenger cars, pickup trucks, vans, sport utility vehicles, and crossover vehicles, has improved over time mainly because of fuel economy standards the federal government established for those types of vehicles. However, total motor gasoline consumption for transportation has generally increased after fuel economy standards were set because of increases in the number of vehicles in use —especially light pickup trucks, minivans, sport utility vehicles, and crossover vehicles, which have lower fuel economy than many passenger cars—and in the number of miles traveled per vehicle. The U.S. economic recession and recovery from 2008 through 2012 and relatively high gasoline prices contributed to lower gasoline use during that period. The improving economy and decreases in gasoline prices contributed to increases in gasoline consumption since 2012.
Each sector consumes primary energy. The industrial, transportation, residential, and commercial sectors also use most of the electricity (a secondary energy source) the electric power sector produces. These sectors are called end-use sectors because they purchase or produce energy for their own consumption and not for resale. In all but 14 of the years from 1949 to 2007, energy consumption increased over the previous year. Total U.S. energy consumption reached its highest level in 2007. In 2009, this general historical trend of year-over-year increases in energy consumption changed sharply because of the economic recession. In 2009, real gross domestic product (GDP) fell 2.8% compared with 2008, and total energy consumption decreased by nearly 5%, the largest single-year decreases in both real GDP and in total energy consumption from 1949 through 2016. Decreases in energy consumption occurred in all four major end-use sectors in 2009 (residential–3%, commercial–3%, industrial–9%, and transportation–3%). Energy consumption increased by about 4% in 2010, then decreased in 2011 and in 2012. Consumption increased by about 3% in 2013 and by 1% in 2014. Consumption decreased by about 1% in 2015 and increased by less than 1% in 2016. Total U.S. energy consumption in 2016 was about 4% less than consumption in 2007. Economic growth and other factors such as weather and fuel prices can influence consumption in each sector differently.
It is important to mention that the data for 2007-2013 are based on new categories and are not comparable to previous years. The new category of light duty vehicle with short wheel base includes passenger cars, light trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles with a wheelbase (WB) equal to or less than 121 inches.