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Geography of United States Energy Sources

Learn about the Different Types of Energy Used in the U.S.


The United States of America is the third largest country in the world based on population and land area. It also has the world's largest economy and is one of the most influential nations in the world. As such, it is also one of the world's largest consumers of energy. In the U.S., the largest sources of energy are petroleum, natural gas and coal as well as renewable sources. 

The following is some information and links about energy resources. All information was obtained from the U.S. Department of Energy.

1. Petroleum or Oil

Petroleum includes crude oil, diesel fuel, propane, jet fuel and other products that are based on oil. It is one of the U.S.'s most desired energy sources as the entire transportation sector is based on it. Currently 40% of the energy used in the U.S. is based on oil. The U.S. also imports most of its petroleum and crude oil products from places like the Middle East (as does the rest of the world) because its demand far exceeds its supply.

2. Natural Gas

Natural gas is a fuel that is produced in the U.S. and Canada and is a major source of energy for today and the future as it is cleaner burning than petroleum products. Currently, car companies are developing alternative fuel vehicles powered by natural gas, but infrastructure and the need for other fuel sources to create hydrogen fuel for the cars remains as the barrier to widespread use.

3. Coal

Coal is the main energy source that is produced in the U.S. as one quarter of the world's reserves of coal are found within the country's borders. Coal is also the main source of energy for the country's electricity generation and one half of American homes are powered by coal because of its abundand supply and low cost. Coal however, is not a favorable energy source for many locations because it is the dirtiest burning of the fossil fuels and it is unhealthy and dangerous for those mining it.

4. Nuclear

Nuclear energy is one of the most controversial energy sources in the U.S. but it is being heavily promoted by the Department of Energy as one of the better alternatives to fossil fuel based energy sources as it is clean and can power large areas. There are many problems with nuclear energy though that make it unpopular in many areas. These include storage of radioactive nuclear waste, uranium supplies, accidents and security of the nuclear power generators or nuclear proliferation. Many U.S. states however, do have active nuclear power generators.

5. Renewable and Alternative Sources

In addition to fossil fuels and nuclear power, the U.S. also has many renewable power resources and is looking to alternative energy sources for the future. Renewables include sources like solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, and biomass. Each of these represents a different proportion of the energy mix in the U.S. based on location (because each does not work well everywhere) and each has positive and negative effects when used. For example, solar is being widely used in the U.S. southwest, while the California's Central Valley has nearby windfarms.

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