Total U.S. energy consumption last year fell to just 93 quadrillion BTUs, down 7% from the year prior, according to data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
The decrease is the largest one on record—both in absolute terms and percentage terms, and can mostly be attributed to the toll that the pandemic took on the United States last year. This brings U.S. energy consumption in 2020 to absolute levels not seen in decades.
The next largest decrease in U.S. energy consumption was between 2008 and 2009, when U.S. energy consumption fell 5% during the economic recession, according to the EIA.
The transportation sector accounted for the largest part of the 2020 decrease, with a 15% decrease in that sector alone, to 24 quadrillion BTUs, as travel inside the United States dropped off considerably given rampant lockdowns and other restrictions.
The next largest dropoff was seen from the commercial sector, which fell 7% to less than 17 quadrillion BTUs as work from home orders and closed businesses took a toll on this sector’s energy usage.
The third-largest impact to U.S. energy consumption was in the industrial sector, which fell 5% to 31 quadrillion BTUs, as the United States produced significantly less crude oil and natural gas. As a consequence, these sectors required less energy to extract and refine their products.
The final sector—the residential one, fell by just 1% as people were relegated to their homes and as the weather was unseasonably warm, decreasing the need for home heating. The total use from this sector was 21 quadrillion BTUs.