Well, here's a refreshing bit of news for a Monday afternoon: A new data set released by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory reports that we used a lot less coal and petroleum last year, compared with 2008. Meanwhile, there were demonstrable increases in the use of renewable energy sources, especially generation systems based on wind technologies.
The researchers attribute the decrease in coal and petroleum use to lower electricity demand, a shift to natural gas as a fuel source, and wind power production offsets.
How much energy did Americans use last year? For 2009, we burned up 94.6 quadrillion British Thermal Units (BTUs), down from 99.2 quadrillion BTUs in 2008. Energy use declined across residential, commercial, industrial and transportation uses -- the biggest decline coming from the last category.
That's the good news. The bad news, if you will, is that Lawrence Livermore believes that at least part of the decline in energy use was simply attributable to the chaotic economy, which does not bode well when things turn around. Let's hope that by that time, more renewable energy technology will be in place to pick up the slack without defaulting to "dirty" sources.