The National Academies: What You Need To Know About Energy

The National Academies

What You Need To Know About Energy

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Industry

About one-third of the energy used in the United States in 2006 went to industry. That’s not so surprising when you consider everything that falls under this economic sector. Every product we rely on—from aluminum cans to fertilizer to glass to paper products—takes energy to produce. The use of energy in industry affects every single citizen personally through the cost of goods and services, the quality of manufactured products, the strength of the economy, and the availability of jobs.

The use of energy in industry affects every single citizen personally through the cost of goods and services, the quality of manufactured products, the strength of the economy, and the availability of jobs.

The industrial sector uses energy in many ways. Often energy is needed directly to raise the temperature of components in the manufacturing process, which is called process heating. Refining crude oil, where heat is used to separate various products, is an example of this. Another common use of energy in industry is to heat a boiler that generates steam or hot water.

Natural gas and oil are heavily relied upon in industry and manufacturing. Electricity, a secondary energy source, is also critical for powering operations. (Explore Our Energy System to see how industry fits into the big energy picture.) While a broad range of activities is included in this sector, a few stand out as the biggest energy users. The chemical, forest products, and petroleum refining industries draw a large amount of energy, as do aluminum, glass, metal casting, mining, and steel. In fact, those industries consume about 75% of the energy used by this sector. For this reason, many efforts to improve the nation’s energy efficiency focus on industry and manufacturing.

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Energy Hands-on

What do you know about energy?

Which of the following is frequently used as a unit of measurement for the energy content of fuels?

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    The British Thermal Unit, or Btu, is frequently used as a measure for energy content of fuels. One gallon of gasoline contains about 124,000 Btu.

  • Correct!

    The British Thermal Unit, or Btu, is frequently used as a measure for energy content of fuels. One gallon of gasoline contains about 124,000 Btu.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    The British Thermal Unit, or Btu, is frequently used as a measure for energy content of fuels. One gallon of gasoline contains about 124,000 Btu.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    The British Thermal Unit, or Btu, is frequently used as a measure for energy content of fuels. One gallon of gasoline contains about 124,000 Btu.

Energy Defined

Greenhouse Gas

A gas which, like a greenhouse window, allows sunlight to enter and then prevents heat from escaping—in this case, from Earth’s atmosphere. The most common greenhouse gases are water vapor, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), halocarbons, and ozone (O3).

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National Academies Press

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