U.S. Energy History and Numbers

The Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration has a graph showing U.S. energy consumption since 1775:

In 1880, the U.S. used about 5 quads in total. In 2010, the DOE’s revised (downward) estimate was 98 quads. The compound annual growth for those 130 years was 2.32%, which is almost exactly what the DOE EIA projects for the developing world between now and 2035. But growth was not evenly spaced throughout this period.

The great energy development phase for the United States occurred between 1900 and 1975, when energy consumption grew from 9.5 quads to 72 quads, a CAGR percentage of 3.71. However, this growth started after the U.S. was halfway finished with the grand demographic transition, the move away from agriculture as the primary means of existence for most of the population. By 1900, the percentage of Americans farming for a living had already fallen from 90% to 40%.

That transition has yet to take place in most of the developing world. Because it is their stated intention to telescope this process into a shorter timeframe than that used by the U.S. (and the rest of the developed world), their consumption of energy will increase at a faster percentage. But that’s another story.

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