How Much Energy Does the U.S. Waste?

Each year the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory releases an analysis of the energy input and energy use of the U.S. economy to determine the energy efficiency. It might be somewhat surprising to know that in 2012 the U.S. wasted 61 percent of all energy input into its economy, making it just 39 percent energy efficient.

Of the 95.1 quadrillion British Thermal Units of raw energy that entered the U.S. economy, only 37.0 quadrillion BTUs were actually used, with the other 58.1 quadrillion BTUs being wasted.


U.S. energy efficiency. (LLNL)

In 1970, the U.S. economy actually managed to use more energy than it wasted, using 31.1 quadrillion BTUs and only wasting 30.6 quadrillion BTUs, achieving an energy efficiency of higher than 50 percent. Since then the overall energy efficiency of the economy has steadily fallen as the use of electricity generation and transport has increased. Power plants and internal combustion engines are notoriously inefficient, and as there use has increased, so the efficiency of the economy has fallen.

Some people even suggest that the 39 percent energy efficiency stated in the analysis is generous, with physicist Robert Ayres stating that the figure should be closer to 14 percent.


CleanTechnica show an interesting diagram explaining the amount of energy wasted by the U.S. (CleanTechnica)

For the past ten years the National Laboratory has calculated the U.S. energy waste to be in the region of 50 percent-58 percent, but in 2012 this figure jumped to one of the worst levels in decades.

AJ Simon, a senior researcher at the laboratory explained that the jump was mostly due to a change in the ways that they calculated the end use of the energy for vehicles and households. After separate studies into the efficiency of household energy use in areas such as heating, air conditioning and lighting, the figure was dropped from 80 percent to 65 percent. Likewise, the efficiency of the internal combustion engine was revised down to 21 percent from 25 percent.

Originally written for, a website that focuses on news and analysis on topics of alternative energy, geopolitics, and oil and gas. is written for an educated audience that includes investors, fund managers, resource bankers, traders, and energy market professionals around the world.

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