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The Journey of the Joule

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Energy is the backbone of the modern society and fossil fuels are the backbone of the modern energy industry. According to the work by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in their 2017 annualized Sankey diagram, nearly 80% of our energy comes from either oil, gas, or coal. That's in 2017; that's in the United States.

Other interesting takeaways:

  • More than 65% of the energy generated is "rejected" and turns into wasted heat. Huge opportunity to increase energy efficiency.

  • Oil generates nearly 40% of the total energy mix, and makes up more than 90% of the energy used in the transportation sector.

  • Natural gas is the most diverse energy source providing heating and electricity in the industrial, commercial, and residential applications. It is also used in the transportation sector.

  • Solar generates <1% of the total energy mix, and about 1.3% of the electricity generated.


As we continually debate prioritizing energy abundance, availability, reliability, and environmental impact, it is important to recognize that the best solution may be to minimize consumption. When we reduce our consumption, we also dramatically reduce our rejected energy which generates wasted heat.

Some easy tips to reduce your energy footprint:

  • Use public transportation.

  • Carpool to and from work.

  • Plan out your driving route and/or combine errands.

  • Adjust your thermostat a couple degrees up in the summer and a couple degrees down in the winter.

  • Turn off the lights as you leave the room.

Tarang Lal is an emerging energy leader with over 7 years of energy industry experience. As an active SPE member since 2013, he has served in various SPE board positions and is a member of the TWA Editorial Committee. Outside of work, he enjoys sports, hiking, writing, and reading about industry trends. In January 2016, he started a blog focusing on the energy industry. Lal holds an MSc from Texas A&M University and a BS from the University of California, Los Angeles.


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