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US Records Lowest Energy Use in 30 Years

2020-7-30

Government officials say the United States is using less energy than it has in thirty years.

The officials noted that this was because much of the nation’s economy has been shut down by measures meant to contain the new coronavirus.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said in a report that reduced demand for coal, gasoline and jet fuel drove the decrease.

The numbers were similar in countries around the world where energy use has fallen. Those trends are expected to turn around as commercial activity restarts. But a decline in U.S. and worldwide greenhouse gas emissions is expected. Greenhouse gases are gasses in the atmosphere that trap heat and are believed to cause rising temperatures.

Overall U.S. energy usage dropped 14 percent during April compared to the same time a year earlier, the energy administration said. That is the lowest monthly level since 1989. It is also the largest decrease ever recorded since the government began collecting the data in 1973.

Before April, the largest drop was in December 2001. That period followed the September 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. which shocked the economy. A mild winter also depressed demand for electricity.

Not all forms of energy, however, have had decreases. Natural gas usage did not follow the trend and increased by 15 percent during April. Lockdown or stay-at-home orders may have played a part in the increase.

Petroleum use fell to 14.7 million barrels a day in April, down almost a third compared to the same period last year. However, demand already has rebounded after stay-at-home orders ended and large parts of the economy started moving again.

Cars are parked in an auto dealer lot Wednesday, April 15, 2020, in Green Park, Mo. U.S. retail sales recorded a record drop in March, with auto sales down 25.6%, as the coronavirus outbreak closed thousands of stores and shoppers stayed home.
Cars are parked in an auto dealer lot Wednesday, April 15, 2020, in Green Park, Mo. U.S. retail sales recorded a record drop in March, with auto sales down 25.6%, as the coronavirus outbreak closed thousands of stores and shoppers stayed home.

Americans are driving again

People appear to be returning to their old driving habits. Petroleum use in June was back up to 17.6 million barrels a day. That number comes from the American Petroleum Institute. However, the group noted that new drilling activity continues to be weak.

Oil exploration has decreased for seven straight months as stockpiles of oil and petroleum products remain near record levels.

“While we are not out of the woods yet, we do appear to be headed in the right direction,” said Dean Foreman, the industry group’s chief economist.

Coal companies are expected to have more difficulty than petroleum producers in recovering from the coronavirus crisis. The industry has been decreasing since 2007 although President Donald Trump has sought to support it.

Coal use fell 27 percent in April compared to the same period in 2019. Most coal produced in the U.S. is used to create electricity, but many electricity producers have switched to less costly natural gas and renewables: wind and solar.

The energy administration predicts that all energy usage will remain below 2019 levels for the rest of the year.

I’m Mario Ritter, Jr.

Matthew Brown reported this story for the Associated Press. Mario Ritter Jr. adapted it for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

trend –n. the general direction in which something is moving

rebound –v. to bounce back to an earlier level, to improve to where it once was

stockpile –n. a surplus supply kept to prevent a future shortage