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Animated chart of the day: US electricity generation by fuel source, 1949-2019 – Publications – AEI

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AEI Animated chart of the day: US electricity generation by fuel source, 1949-2019 Here’s a new animated “bar chart race” visualization using the online Flourish software, this one showing US electricity generation by energy source shares from 1949 to 2019 (through April) based on data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Here are few observations: 1. Coal has historically been the largest energy source for America’s electricity generation, and provided more than 40% of the nation’s electric power in every year between 1949 and 2011, and more than 50% in 43 of those 59 years. 2. Although natural gas provided more than 20% of US electric power from 1959 to 1972 it provided less than 20% from 1973 to 2008, less than 15% of US electricity from 1982 and 2005 and a record low of

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AEI
Animated chart of the day: US electricity generation by fuel source, 1949-2019

Here’s a new animated “bar chart race” visualization using the online Flourish software, this one showing US electricity generation by energy source shares from 1949 to 2019 (through April) based on data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Here are few observations:

1. Coal has historically been the largest energy source for America’s electricity generation, and provided more than 40% of the nation’s electric power in every year between 1949 and 2011, and more than 50% in 43 of those 59 years.

2. Although natural gas provided more than 20% of US electric power from 1959 to 1972 it provided less than 20% from 1973 to 2008, less than 15% of US electricity from 1982 and 2005 and a record low of less than 10% in 1988. In 2011, natural gas provided more than 25% of US electric power for the first time when oceans of shale gas were accessed for the first time in shale rock formations with revolutionary drilling and extraction technologies (hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling) and its share quickly surpassed coal for the first time in 2016. During the last full year (2018) natural gas provided 35.5% of electric power versus 27.7% for coal, its lowest share in the history of these EIA data.

3. Nuclear started provided a small share of US electric power in 1957, but its share never rose above 1% until 1968. By 1977, nuclear’s share of electricity rose above 10% for the first time and rose above 20% in 1990 for the first time and hit an all-time peak of 21.8% in 2001. Over the last 30 years, nuclear’s share of US electric power has been fairly stable in a range between about 19% and 21.5%.

4. Solar never contributed to US electricity generation until 1984, but its share never exceeded 1% until 2017 and its share in 2018 was 1.6%.

5. Conventional hydroelectric power provided nearly one-third (more than 30%) of the nation’s electricity in 1949, and its share was above 20% from 1950-1958 before steadily after that. By 1987, hydroelectric power was supplying less than 10% of US electricity and during this century the share has ranged between 6% and 8%.

6. The category “Other Renewables” includes “wood, black liquor, other wood waste, biogenic municipal solid waste, landfill gas, sludge waste, agriculture byproducts, other biomass, geothermal, solar thermal, photovoltaic energy, and wind” according to the EIA. I assume that category today mostly includes windmills, and it never supplied more than 1% of America’s electricity until 1989, and never more than 2% until 2006. During the last full year (2018), it provided 8.6% of the country’s electric power and its share increased to slightly above 10% for the first time during the first four months of this year.

MP: The environmentalists and Green New Deal supporters apparently want to eliminate all fossil fuels, nuclear power and even hydroelectric power, and replace those energy sources with millions of acres of solar panels and windmills. The chart above demonstrates what a massive change that would be, since coal, natural gas, nuclear and hydroelectric power currently supply more than 88% of America’s electric power.

Further, the CPI for electricity has increased on average only about 1% per year since 2010 compared to the average 1.8% increase in the overall CPI during that period, meaning that the real cost of electric power for Americans has been falling for the last decade. Replacing affordable and dependable fuels to generate electricity with costly and undependable renewables (solar and windmills) would have to result in significant increases in the cost of electricity and would also likely involve increases in taxes to continue to subsidize energy sources that aren’t scientifically and economic viable without taxpayer life support.

Higher energy costs and higher taxes from converting to renewables would burden Americans, especially low and middle-income households, and would significantly lower the standard of living in the US. The GND is what is an existential threat, a threat to affordable energy, a threat to our standard of living and a threat to the economy that supports our way of life.

Animated chart of the day: US electricity generation by fuel source, 1949-2019
Mark Perry

Mark Perry
Mark J. Perry is concurrently a scholar at AEI and a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan’s Flint campus. He is best known as the creator and editor of the popular economics blog Carpe Diem. At AEI, Perry writes about economic and financial issues for American.com and the AEIdeas blog.

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