Energy Use in the Manufacturing Sector

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Global energy consumption designated toward manufacturing has long been recognized as exceeding sustainability. The volume of non-renewable fossil fuels poured into this industry alone has been a cause for considerable and growing concern during the last several decades, and as the demand for manufactured goods in developed countries shows little sign of slowing down, fossil fuel use has taken center stage as a serious global crisis, on economic, ecological, cultural and global health related levels.

Most progress made on this front has involved the search for alternative fuels to meet industry demand. But while alternative options are explored and research progresses in the direction of more diverse and renewable fuels, coal, oil, natural gas remain central to the production of U.S. manufactured goods.

But as of a recent information published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the news may not be all bad. According to the data gathered by the administration, between 2002 and 2010, total energy use by the manufacturing sector within the U.S. actually dropped by 17 percent. Since U.S. manufacturing output only dropped by 3 percent during that same period, these two aligned data sets suggest a significant drop in the gross energy use per unit of manufacturing output. At varying levels, consumption of every fuel used by the manufacturing industry declined during this period.

Manufacturing energy use is measured in two formats: Fuel (or energy used for heat and power), and feedstock (or input material necessary to complete a final product.) Across both metrics, energy use declined during the measured period. Researchers have yet to pinpoint a specific source or primary reason behind the decline, but most prevailing theories suggest increases in manufacturing efficiency combined with changes in the U.S. manufacturing output mix.

The most measurable and notable declines occurred in the following subsectors of the industry: Primary metals, chemicals, petroleum and coal products, paper, and food. If these energy fluctuations are having an impact on your own manufacturing operation, or you’d like to know more about the data behind the study and the future of manufacturing and energy consumption in your area, arrange a consultation with the Little Rock staffing and business management experts at CSS.

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