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Last year was a difficult one for the energy industry, thanks in part to the continuing push for green energy over fossil fuels and in part because of business restrictions imposed to fight the COVID-19 virus.

On Monday, the Energy Information Administration provided a look into how COVID measures affected energy consumption in the United States. According to the EIA, total energy consumption in the United States fell 7% compared with 2019.

“Last year marked the largest annual decrease in U.S. energy consumption in both percentage and absolute terms in our consumption data series that dates back to 1949. Much of the 2020 decrease in energy use is attributable to economic responses to the COVID-19 pandemic that began in the United States during the spring of 2020,” the EIA reported.

The transportation sector was affected the most. Energy consumption there decreased by 15% from 2019, and that was almost entirely attributable to decreased petroleum use for travel.

“Many travel restrictions were enacted in the United States during 2020, and even after some restrictions were eased, petroleum demand remained lower than previous levels. U.S. jet fuel use during Thanksgiving week of 2020 was about half of the 2019 volume. Overall, consumption of jet fuel by the transportation sector in the United States dropped by 38%, motor gasoline by 13% and distillate fuel oil (diesel) by 7%.

“Commercial enterprises used 7% less energy. Industrial consumption decreased by 5%. Residential use of energy declined only 1%.

“With people spending more time in their homes because of various stay-at-home orders during 2020, sales of electricity to the U.S. residential sector increased by 2%. However, 2020 was a relatively warm year, which led to less energy consumption for home heating. U.S. residential consumption of biomass (mostly wood), fell by 16%, petroleum by 11% and natural gas by 7%,” the EIA reported.

The Tri-State region is a hub for energy production and transportation. Here crude oil is refined into other products, with most of them being used in transportation. There are at least eight power plants within a one-hour drive of downtown Huntington, and a few more if that radius is expanded to two or three hours. Above ground are dozens of power lines connecting those plants, and underground are several large pipelines carrying natural gas.

Then there is transportation infrastructure — rail, river and truck — and smaller companies that keep the whole system running.

Last year truly was a difficult one for the energy industry. With the first quarter of 2021 over, companies will be releasing earnings reports that should provide a glimpse into how much the various segments are recovering. And that ought to give some guidance on what people should expect for the rest of the year.

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