Smoke puffs from a coal power plant Oct. 30, 2009, in New Haven, W.Va. Coal consumption ticked up slightly in 2013, the Energy Department says.

U.S. Coal Use Up, Says Energy Department

New chart shows how Americans power their homes, cars, businesses and factories.

Smoke puffs from a coal power plant Oct. 30, 2009, in New Haven, W.Va. Coal consumption ticked up slightly in 2013, the Energy Department says.

Smoke puffs from a coal power plant Oct. 30, 2009, in New Haven, W.Va. Coal consumption ticked up slightly in 2013, the Energy Department says.

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Coal consumption increased last year for the first time in three years, and the use of natural gas also rose slightly, according to data recently released by the Energy Department.

The information was contained in a new flow chart put out by the agency’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which illustrates how Americans power their homes, cars, businesses and factories.

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Most of that energy, by far, came from petroleum, which was largely consumed by vehicles and industry. Natural gas made up the second-largest chunk, followed by coal, nuclear, biomass, hydropower, wind, solar and geothermal.

An Energy Department lab charted how Americans got their electricity in 2013.
An Energy Department lab charted how Americans got their electricity in 2013. 

Power plants got most of their electricity from coal, which supplied about twice as much power last year as natural gas and nuclear.

“That is due in part to natural gas prices coming back off the floor they were on in 2012,” says A.J. Simon, group leader for energy at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

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Wind energy saw an 18 percent growth in output, thanks to new wind farms and more efficient turbines. Overall, energy use increased 2.4 percent over last year.

To view charts from 2012 and 2011, visit the Energy Department website.


Corrected on April 9, 2014: A previous headline for this story mischaracterized the use of natural gas in 2013 compared to 2012.