Energy consumption in the United States from 1980 and projected to 2030. The figure dramatically illustrates our ongoing dependence on the three major fossil fuels: coal, natural gas, and petroleum. From approximately 1950 through the late 1970s, energy consumption soared, from about 30 exajoules to 75 exajoules. Since about 1980, energy consumption has risen by only about 25 exajoules.
This is encouraging because it suggests that policies promoting energy-efficiency improvements such as requiring new automobiles to be more fuel efficient and buildings to be better insulated have been at least partially successful. From an energy view- point, the next 20 to 30 years, as we move through the maximum production of petroleum, will be crucial to the United States and to the rest of the industrialized world.
The energy decisions we make in the very near future will greatly affect both our standard of living and our quality of life. From an optimistic point of view, we have the necessary information and technology to ensure a bright, warm, lighted, and mobile future. We can continue to take things as they come and live with the results of our present dependence on fossil fuels, or we can build a sustainable energy future based on careful planning, innovative thinking, and a willingness to move from our dependence on petroleum.