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U.S. Fossil Fuel Consumption Plunged Most On Record In 2020

Total U.S. consumption of petroleum, natural gas, and coal slumped by 9 percent in 2020 reaching the lowest level since 1991 and marking the largest annual decrease in U.S. fossil fuel consumption in both absolute and percentage terms since at least 1949, the EIA said this week.

Lockdowns and economic responses to COVID-19, as well as relatively warmer weather last year, were the key reasons for the plunge in consumption of transportation fuels, heating fuels, and fossil fuels used for industrial purposes.  

The U.S. transportation sector, which accounts for much of U.S. petroleum consumption, saw a 15-percent decline in energy consumption, which drove much of the decline.

Demand for petroleum products, which accounted for 44 percent of fossil fuel consumption in the United States, plunged by 13 percent last year compared to 2019. Natural gas consumption fell by 2 percent and made up 43 percent of total U.S. fossil fuel consumption in 2020. Coal consumption plummeted by 19 percent, the single biggest decline on record. Coal also fell to its lowest annual share of U.S. fossil fuel consumption since 1949. Most of the coal demand, 90 percent, went to power generation. Coal consumption in the electricity sector has been steadily declining over the past decade, EIA data shows.

This year, however, the EIA expects U.S. coal-fired power generation to stage a short-term recovery as higher prices of coal’s main fossil fuel competitor, natural gas, will discourage parts of gas-fired electricity generation.

In overall U.S. energy consumption in 2020, renewables were the only energy source whose consumption in the United States rose in 2020 amid a record 7-percent decline in overall energy consumption, the EIA said last month. Total U.S. energy consumption last year fell to just 93 quadrillion British thermal units—the largest decrease on record—both in absolute terms and percentage terms, and can mostly be attributed to the toll that the pandemic took on the United States last year. This brings U.S. energy consumption in 2020 to absolute levels not seen in decades. The next largest decrease in U.S. energy consumption was between 2008 and 2009, when U.S. energy consumption fell 5 percent during the economic recession, according to the EIA.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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