The National Academies: What You Need To Know About Energy

The National Academies

What You Need To Know About Energy

Industrial Efficiency

Researchers are exploring ways to make industrial and manufacturing processes much more efficient. Industry accounts for about 31% of all energy consumption in the United States, more than any other sector of the economy. Seven energy-intensive industries use three-fourths of that power: aluminum, chemicals, forest products, glass, metal casting, mining, and steel. As a result, public/private-sector partnerships and research programs are focusing on those areas.

One of the prime targets is the chemical industry, which uses 29% of all fuel consumed in the U.S. industrial sector.

One of the prime targets is the chemical industry, which uses 29% of all fuel consumed in the U.S. industrial sector. There are more than 80,000 chemicals registered for use in the United States, and an estimated 2,000 new ones registered each year. Much of the fuel used by this industry comes from oil and natural gas, which are used both as energy sources for heat and as feedstocks, or raw materials, in the production of many chemicals. There are many opportunities to use energy more effectively in this industry, one being the processes used to separate chemicals and to enable chemical reactions.

The extraction and processing of mined materials, such as coal, consumes about 1.3 quads annually. In 2004, mining accounted for about 11% of the total energy consumed by the industrial sector and there are a variety of opportunities to improve the efficiency of mining operations. The equipment and processes used to search for and extract the ore, separate it from unwanted materials, and transport it all present opportunities for energy savings.

A similar effort is under way in analyzing the energy-intensive forest products industry. Researchers have identified enhanced raw materials, next-generation mill processes, improved fiber recycling, and wood processing as candidates for improvements in efficiency.

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Energy Hands-on

What do you know about energy?

Of the following fossil fuels, which is typically the least expensive for its energy content?

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    In 2005, a million Btu of energy from coal cost approximately $2, versus $5 for natural gas and $10 for oil. However, prices can fluctuate due to changes in the economy and new government policies.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    In 2005, a million Btu of energy from coal cost approximately $2, versus $5 for natural gas and $10 for oil. However, prices can fluctuate due to changes in the economy and new government policies.

  • Correct!

    In 2005, a million Btu of energy from coal cost approximately $2, versus $5 for natural gas and $10 for oil. However, prices can fluctuate due to changes in the economy and new government policies.

Energy Defined

Public-Private Sector Partnership (PPP)

A contractual agreement between a public agency (local, state, or federal) and a private-sector entity to deliver a service or product to the general public. For example, the FutureGen project is a collaboration of the U.S. Department of Energy and members of the coal industry to develop a near-zero emissions coal-fired power plant.

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National Academies Press

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