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Non-petroleum transportation energy

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Petroleum is the US’ most consumed transportation fuel by far, however the share of fuels other than petroleum for US transportation has increased to its highest level since 1954, a time when the use of coal fired steam trains was declining and automobile use was on the up. The recent increase can be mainly attributed to increased blending of biomass based fuels with traditional vehicle fuels and the growing use of natural gas in the transportation sector.

On the up

Following nearly 50 years of stability at 4%, the non-petroleum share started to increase steadily in the mid 2000s, and hit 8.5% in 2014. Of the non-petroleum fuels used for transportation, fuel ethanol has grown rapidly in recent years, increasing by approximately 1 quadrillion Btu between 2000 and 2014. Practically all of the ethanol consumed was blended into gasoline in blends of 10% or less, but a small amount was used in vehicles capable of running on higher blends as the availability of those flexible fuel vehicles grew. Consumption of biodiesel, most of it blended into diesel fuel for use in trucks and buses, grew to over 180 trillion Btu by 2014.

Last year, transportation use of natural gas hit a historic high of 946 trillion Btu. 3.5% of all natural gas used in the US. Transportation natural gas is mostly used in the operation of pipelines, primarily to run compressor stations and to deliver natural gas to consumers. Natural gas used to fuel vehicles, although a much smaller amount, has more than doubled since 2000.


Electricity retail sales to the transportation sector increased by more than 40% between 2000 and 2014, although sales have declined slightly since 2007. Electricity for transportation is mostly sold to railroads and railways. However, this increase does not include the consumption of electricity in electric vehicles that are not used in mass transit, because charging stations for these types of vehicles are likely associated with meters on residential, commercial, or industrial customer sites where this specific use may not be differentiated from other uses.

Edited from press release by Claira Lloyd

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