From Forests to Fossil Fuels: U.S. Energy Consumption Since 1776

Science & Space

What did the Founding Fathers use to power the American Revolution? Pretty much one fuel source: wood. And until the late 19th century, forests remained America’s chief energy source. Since then, it’s been mostly fossil fuels — coal, oil and natural gas — with a little bit of hydroelectric, nuclear and a smidgen of renewables like wind and solar.

That’s the takeaway from a neat infographic put out yesterday by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the invaluable — and too often underappreciated — statistics arm of the Energy Department. The EIA has been keeping close tabs on U.S. and international energy use going back several decades, but obviously there was no U.S. of A in 1776, let alone an EIA. So Tyson Brown, the analyst who put together the brief, estimated energy use in the colonial era based on population at the time. Wood was just about the only fuel source…

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