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By 2050, the U.S. can phase out its use of oil, coal and nuclear energy by relying on energy efficiency to reduce its energy needs, and meeting remaining the energy requirements with renewables and natural gas.
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.
Electricity is 75% of primary energy consumed by U.S. buildings, but 68% of that electricity is lost in conversion and delivery. Oil and natural gas are almost 10 quads of energy, or 25% of total primary energy.
Increased adoption of energy efficient technologies as well as cogeneration and waste heat recovery systems will reduce energy use by an additional 4.7 quadrillion BTUs from business-as-usual. These and other changes (energy changes due fuel switching or transformation in other sectors) can reduce projected primary energy use by 27% in 2050.
Energy use for U.S. industry is conventionally projected to grow from 24.4 quads in 2010 to 30.5 quads in 2050.
In 2010, more than four-fifths of energy use in U.S. industry came from fossil fuels. Natural gas is the dominant source of energy (~35%).
This chart shows why less than 0.5% of the energy in a typical modern auto’s fuel actually moves the driver, and only 5–6% moves the auto. An auto's weight is responsible for more than two-thirds of the energy needed to move it. All told, 86% of the fuel energy never reaches the wheels.
Industry has a huge variety of subsectors that differ markedly in energy consumption and intensity (energy used per $ of shipment).
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.
Americans spent more than 3% of the nation's GDP in 2008 on building heating, cooling, and lighting—almost two-thirds of the entire defense budget and more than federal government spending on Medicare.
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.