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U.S. installed capacity and electricity generation by energy resource, 1949 to 2009

The U.S. electricity sector has seen tremendous growth in the past 60 years. From 1949 to 2009, U.S. electricity consumption increased by a factor of 13. To meet this rising demand, the U.S has built vast amounts of new electricity generating infrastructure. The total U.S. installed capacity in 2009 was 998 GW, compared with just 65 GW in 1949.


U.S. oil combustion: present and projected

The U.S. burns 13 million barrels of oil a day for transportation. Most of this oil powers cars and light trucks. By 2050, the U.S. is expected to burn upwards of 17 million barrels of oil a day for transportation alone.


Estimated health effects from U.S. coal-fired power plant emissions

Fossil fuel combustion harms air quality and human health. A 2010 study by the Clean Air Task Force estimated that air pollution from coal-fired power plants accounts for more than 13,000 premature deaths, 20,000 heart attacks, and 1.6 million lost workdays in the U.S. each year. The total monetary cost of these health impacts is over $100 billion annually.


U.S. natural gas consumption

In Reinventing Fire, natural gas consumption in 2050 is reduced by 36% relative to business-as-usual. This reduction is primarily enabled by improved efficiency in commercial and residential buildings and less reliance on natural gas in the electricity sector.


Estimated water withdrawals in the U.S., 1950–2005

In 2005, half of U.S. water withdrawals were made by the electricity sector. A “business-as-usual” U.S. electricity future will increase reliance on large thermal power plants and keep water demands high.


Electricity scenarios

In Reinventing Fire, Rocky Mountain Institute investigates the implications of four radically different future electricity scenarios - from a “business-as-usual” case to a network of intelligent microgrids powered largely by distributed renewables.


U.S. biomass consumption, 2010-2050

In Reinventing Fire, non-cropland biomass provides 16 quads of primary energy in 2050. That’s six times today’s biomass consumption and 60% higher than U.S. government projections extrapolated to 2050.


Biofeedstock supply curve

The 16 quadrillion BTU of biomass used in 2050 in Reinventing Fire is supplied by agricultural residue, mill residue, dedicated energy crops, municipal solid waste and forestry residue. No cropland or edible feedstock is required.


Historic and projected CO2 emissions from the U.S. electric sector, 1990–2050

Rocky Mountain Institute’s four scenarios for the future U.S. electricity system ( detailed here ) all have markedly different projected CO2 emissions over the next 40 years.


Reinventing Fire U.S. energy consumption, 2050

In 2050, Reinventing Fire envisions an economy that uses 71 quadrillion BTUs of primary energy—70% of that energy is supplied by wind, solar and biomass.


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