Americans used fewer fossil fuels in 2020 than any other year over the last three decades. This is according to a report released by the US Energy Information Administration. The report noted that overall, the consumption of petroleum, natural gas, and coal was down 9% compared to the same period in 2019. This was the largest annual decrease in consumption since 1949.
Much of this drop in fuel consumption has largely been attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the virus spread all over major population centers in the United States, many people were forced to stay home. This meant that they were using less transportation, something that inevitably led to the reduction of fuel consumption.
After all, transport is the biggest consumer of fossil fuels in the US. But demand for gas was low during the COVID battered 2020 to a point where prices per gallon nosedived to nearly zero. The US Energy Information Administration also noted that the winter in 2020 was slightly warmer than normal. This allowed homes to use less energy in heating compared to previous years.
The reduced energy consumption also had some noticeable effects on greenhouse gas emissions. In 2020, for example, total greenhouse gas emissions hit a new 40-year low. This downturn will of course have to hold if indeed it will have any impact on reducing global warming and addressing the climate change crisis. But it's highly likely unless there is a fundamental shift in the way the US uses fossil fuels.
Either way, the Biden administration made good on its promise to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement after former president Donald Trump had initially withdrawn the United States from the obligation of the deal. The US will not have to put in the work as it continues to work towards its climate commitment. There are growing calls to cease new investments in the development of new fossil fuels.
Oil and gas companies have also felt the pinch with lawsuits from environmental activists derailing any efforts to bring in more gas and oil into the market. With the advancement of electric cars and the rise of battery technology, it seems like renewable energy sources such as solar and wind will become part and parcel of energy consumption in the US.
But the question is how fast this can happen. Nonetheless, it seems the US is on the right track. Data released by the Energy Information Administration shows that renewable sources of electricity grew at a faster pace last year than they have since 1999. Renewable energy sources have been responsible for up to 90% of the entire growth in the power sector.
This means that investments in renewable energies are rapid and oil and gas will soon start fading out. But it’s still an uphill battle to say the very least. Cutting greenhouse emissions and saving the planet from rising temperatures will require a lot of commitment from all nations. But at least the US is finally leading the way.