American Power

It may be the most important question the country faces: What will we do about energy?

Energy is the blood that runs through our economy: the highway miles paved with crude, the kilowatts of coal, those tentative first heartbeats of large-scale wind and solar. America famously uses more energy than any other country—measured either per capita or in total—and conservation measures aside, our rising standard of living will mean that we will consume even more in the future.

The question is: From where? Will we continue to pay overseas suppliers for increasingly scarce crude? Will we continue to burn mountains of coal and hope the effects aren't catastrophic? Or will we encourage new technologies, new domestic sources that we control (and export), new energy industries that create jobs and boost the economy? Below, we explore the data points that must inform how the U.S. moves forward. Our lifeblood depends on it.

Dead Calm
When Congress allows tax credits for wind producers to expire, capacity plummets. The credits will lapse again on January 1.Xplanations by Xplane
Energy Consumption By Source
Where it comes from ... The four main consumers of energy in America: electric power plants, transportation, industry, and the boilers in individual homes and businesses.Xplanations by Xplane
Energy Sources By Consumption
...and where it goes. Fossil fuels make up more than 80 percent of the total, and a closer look at renewables shows that most of that comes from damming rivers and burning wood.Xplanations by Xplane
Oil in the U.S.
American oil consumption continues to rise, even though domestic production peaked in the early 1970s.Xplanations by Xplane
The Wealth of Nations
The imports that make up the difference come at an increasingly high price and are projected to lead to wealth transfer from the U.S. to increasingly hostile nations.Xplanations by Xplane
Worldwide Natural Disasters
The resulting carbon emissions have led to ever more erratic weather and thus more natural disasters.Xplanations by Xplane
Wind
Stiff breezes blow across the Great Plains and the Northeast. One major challenge is developing an infrastructure that can carry power from rural wind farms to urban centers.Xplanations by Xplane
Biomass
Prime growing areas stretch from the Midwest to the Southeast. Yet the truly effective "second-generation" biofuels made from grasses and wood waste are still a few years away.Xplanations by Xplane
Geothermal
Xplanations by Xplane
Solar
The sun's radiant power is strongest in the desert Southwest, where the greatest energy demand—hot-afternoon air conditioning—coincides with peak power supply.Xplanations by Xplane