US energy security reaches highest level in a quarter century

HOUSTON — The United States produced enough energy to satisfy 84 percent of its needs in 2013, a rapid climb from its historic low in 2005, according to a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The nation produced 81.7 quadrillion British thermal units of energy last year and consumed 97.5 quadrillion, the highest ratio since 1987. The nation’s energy output rose 18 percent from 2005 to 2013, as a surge in oil and gas production offset declines in coal. Meanwhile, its total energy used fell 2.7 percent during that period.

The nation’s ability to meet its own energy needs hit an all-time low in 2005, when the amount of energy produced domestically met just 69 percent of demand. The last time the United States’ energy production exceeded its energy use was in the 1950s, according to the Energy Information Administration, an agency of the Energy Department.

It attributed the nation’s rising energy security largely to the increased production of oil and natural gas, which has been fueled by the domestic shale boom. The rise of new drilling and production technology, namely hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, has allowed companies to tap more reservoirs deeply buried in dense rock formations.

“At the same time, reduced road travel, improved vehicle efficiency, and competition among fuels for electric power generation have limited consumption of petroleum and coal,” the agency wrote in the report.

Trade balance: US net gas imports drop as production hits record volume

More than three-quarters of energy produced in the United States in 2013 was fossil fuel, with natural gas leading the pack for the third consecutive year. About 11 percent of production was renewable energy and 10 percent was nuclear power.

While the shale boom caused oil and gas production to soar, renewable energy has grown even faster. Measured by energy content, domestically produced oil and natural gas grew 38 percent from 2005 to 2013. Renewable energy — though a much smaller portion of the nation’s energy portfolio — jumped 49 percent during that period, led by a surge in new wind power and a more modest jump in solar.

The portfolio of energy consumed in the United States was slightly less diverse. Fossil fuels fed 82 percent of U.S. energy needs last year, followed by renewables (10 percent) and nuclear (8 percent). The nation is only slightly less dependent on fossil fuels than it was in 2005, when they represented 85 percent of the energy consumed.

But the nation’s focus on cleaning up its energy portfolio is evident. Since 2005, coal consumption has fallen 21 percent while use of the cleaner-burning fossil fuel natural gas rose 18 percent. Renewable energy use climbed 49 percent during that time.