The United States used more solar, nuclear, biomass and wind energy in 2008 than in 2007, according to a new report that shows overall energy use dropped. The nation used less coal and petroleum in 2008 compared to the previous year, and only slightly increased its natural gas consumption. Geothermal energy use remained the same. The estimated U.S. energy use in 2008 was 99.2 quadrillion BTUs ("quads"), down from 101.5 quadrillion BTUs in 2007, according to the report released today by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The drop, however, came as a result of declines only in specific sectors. Energy use in the industrial and transportation sectors declined by 1.17 and 0.9 quads respectively, while commercial and residential use slightly climbed. The drop in transportation and industrial use — which are both heavily dependent on petroleum — can be attributed to a spike in oil prices in summer 2008. Last year saw a significant increase in biomass with the recent push for the development of more biofuels including ethanol, the report concludes. "This is a good snapshot of what's going on in the country. Some of the year-to year changes in supply and consumption can be traced to factors such as the economy and energy policy," said A.J. Simon, an LLNL energy systems analyst who develops the energy flow charts using data provided by the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration. Simon said the increase in wind energy can be attributed to large investments in wind turbine technologies over the last few years as well as better use of the existing turbines. Nuclear energy also saw a slight increase from 8.41 quads in 2007 up to 8.45 quads in 2008. While no new nuclear power plants came online in 2008, the existing plants had less down time.
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