Learn What is Powering America
During the month of August, Aii educated on the importance of energy resources to the nation and the world. Throughout the month, we highlighted the seven primary natural and energy resources used to generate electricity in the United States. New content and briefs were uploaded to this page throughout Energy Month. Stay tuned for next year as we refresh the page with the latest available data for 2022.
America generates energy from a number of sources. At its most basic level each source – except for solar panels – turns a turbine to generate electricity. That power is then fed into the electrical grid to be distributed to homes and businesses. America consumes 4 trillion kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity per year (equivalent to 4,000 terawatt hours). The energy mix to generate this electricity is a blend of public policy and private action. The primary resources used to generate that power comes from Natural Gas, Nuclear Fission, Coal, Wind, Hydropower, Solar, Petroleum, and Geothermal. Many of these are also used directly for certain industrial processes, heating, cooking, transportation fuels, and other energy needs well beyond electricity.
The utilization of these resources have changed over the course of history, with some experiencing sharp declines in popularity and others remaining steady sources. We’ve put together a policy brief series outlining eight key factors that shape the current and future utilization of each resource for American energy needs. To help build a comprehensive picture of the nation’s energy outlook, these briefs examine energy density, costs to generate energy, availability and reserves, land required to generate energy, overall safety record, climate impact, long-term impact, and potential limitations of the energy source. For Energy Month this year, we’ve added new One-Pagers, an Energy Spotlight brief, and insightful expert interviews!
America's Energy Mix
Percentage of Utility-Scale Electricity Generated by Resource
August is Aii Energy Month
This Energy Month, learn about the energy resources making modern life possible. See these seven sources of energy as you’ve never seen them before. Read about your preferred resource or compare them all side by side.
Check out our video content for #AiiEnergyMonth! This month, we spoke with industry professionals to hear their perspective on the energy resource relevant to their line of work. Check back for updates!
What is Coal? | Duration: 21:04
What is Geothermal Energy? | Duration: 20:33
What is Hydropower? | Duration: 20:36
What is Natural Gas? | Duration: 18:15
What is Nuclear Energy? | Duration: 19:53
What is Petroleum? | Duration: 24:17
What is Solar Energy? | Duration: 18:27
What is Wind Energy? | Duration: 16:38
Aii Energy Month Briefs
Learn The Critical Factors For Energy Resources
Download from the Aii Toolkit
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Many of the energy resources used to generate power can be found right in our own back yard. The United States has vast reserves and access to plentiful natural resources. We have so much natural gas, nuclear material, coal, wind, water, sunlight, and oil that we could be entirely energy independent forever with the right public policy and energy mix. In addition to the raw energy resources used to generate power, it is worth considering the materials needed to transport, build, and maintain our energy infrastructure – much of which is derived from countries with lower environmental, health, and safety standards than the United States. Take a look at the availability of resources themselves in the nation’s current reserves.
Fossil Resource Reserves
The U.S. has vast reserves of coal, oil, and natural gas. Combined, these resources could power the country for nearly 1,000 years.
Sunshine, wind, water, and subsurface heat are the freely available resources powering solar panels, wind turbines, hydropower, and geothermal plants. While sun, wind, water, and the Earth’s own heat are present across the whole globe to varying degrees, certain areas have concentrated and regular access to these natural resources.
Nuclear Material Reserves
Nuclear power utilizes uranium drawn from the earth. While deposits of this material can be found around the globe, the U.S. has its own reserves.
How Much Land Does Each Resource Require?
Given the differences in energy density and other factors, the amount of land required to generate power ranges widely.
For coal, the total footprint includes the mines, transportation infrastructure, and power plants needed to produce electricity, along with waste storage. For wind, turbines must be spaced far enough apart to not decrease the efficiency of other towers.
Land use may inform where we generate power, whether it is close to home or far away, and how we transmit that power through the energy grid. Before public policy favors certain resources, it is critical to understand land use. See the total footprint each energy resource currently makes in the U.S. without accounting for power lines to carry the electricity.
Read Our Other Reports
Energy infrastructure in the United States includes a range of industries and technologies. At Aii, studying the underlying challenges and presenting factual information is the first step to building a safer, more resilient future. Learn more: