The National Academies

The National Academies: What You Need To Know About Energy

What You Need To Know About Energy

Industry

© PhotoDisc/C. Lee/PhotoLink

Industry

About one-third of the energy used in the United States in 2013 went to industry. That’s understandable in view of the wide range of activity in this economic sector. Every product on which we rely—from gasoline and automobiles to food, buildings, machinery, and appliances—takes energy to produce. The use of energy in industry affects every single citizen directly 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 directly 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. One major application involves raising the temperature of components in the manufacturing process, which is called process heating. Refining crude oil, where heat is used to separate various distillates, is an example of this. Another common use of energy in industry is to heat a boiler that generates steam or hot water. 

A few industries use a very large share of energy in the industrial sector. Petroleum refining is the principal consumer, with the chemical industry a close second. Those users, plus the paper and metal industries, account for 78% of total industrial energy use.

Industry and manufacturing rely heavily on natural gas  (37% of all energy consumed by the industrial sector in 2013), petroleum  and other liquids (34%), and electricity  (13%), with coal , renewables , and biofuels  making up the rest. 

Industrial energy needs are projected to grow by 22% during the next 25 years, when they will account for about 36% of total U.S. consumption. Part of this increase may occur because some manufacturing activities formerly located overseas are returning to the United States, in response to a recent trend toward lower natural gas prices prompted by increases in domestic production.

Related topics

Explore Other Topics

Energy Hands-on

The Promise of Better Lighting

Energy savings through lighting technology

Energy Defined

Global Warming

A term used to describe the phenomenon of Earth’s rising average near-surface temperature. Although such fluctuations have occurred in the past due to natural causes, the term is most often used today to refer to current warming trends. Most scientists have concluded that this is very likely due to the observed increase in human-generated greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

View our full glossary

National Academies Press

Search the National Academies Press website by selecting one of these related terms.