Frequently Asked Questions

Energy

The USGS conducts basic research on geologic energy resources including oil, gas, gas hydrates, geothermal, and coal.

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Orthoimage of a four-way interchange, Los Angeles, CA
Atmospheric carbon dioxide comes from two primary sources—natural and human activities. Natural sources of carbon dioxide include most animals, which exhale carbon dioxide as a waste product. Human activities that lead to carbon dioxide emissions come primarily from energy production, including burning coal, oil, or natural gas.
WERC Redwood forest field photo
The USGS is congressionally mandated (2007 Energy Independence and Security Act) to conduct a comprehensive national assessment of storage and flux (flow) of carbon and the fluxes of other greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide) in ecosystems. At this writing, reports have been completed for Alaska, the Eastern U.S., the Great Plains, and the ...
Image: Coal Burning Power Plant
The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that in 2014, the United States emitted 5.4 million metric tons of energy-related carbon dioxide, while the global emissions of energy-related carbon dioxide totaled 32.3 billion metric tons.
Image shows a drill core in a box with cardboard dividers
It is difficult to characterize one area as “the best,” for carbon sequestration because the answer depends on the question – best for what? However, the area of the assessment with the most storage potential for carbon dioxide is the Coastal Plains region, which includes coastal basins from Texas to Georgia. That region accounts for 2,000 metric...
imaging from Mars
In 2013, the USGS released the first-ever comprehensive, nation-wideassessment of geologic carbon sequestration, which estimates a mean storage potential of 3,000 metric gigatons of carbon dioxide. The assessment is the first geologically-based, probabilistic assessment, with a range of 2,400 to 3,700 metric gigatons of potential carbon dioxide ...
Uncovering the Ecosystem Service Value of Carbon Sequestration in National Parks. Photo by Robert Crootof, NPS.
Geologic carbon sequestration is the process of storing carbon dioxide (CO2) in underground geologic formations. The CO2 is usually pressurized until it becomes a liquid, and then it is injected into porous rock formations in geologic basins. This method of carbon storage is also sometimes a part of enhanced oil recovery, otherwise known as...
Major Carbon Pools
Carbon dioxide is the most commonly produced greenhouse gas. Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide. It is one method of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere with the goal of reducing global climate change. The USGS is conducting assessments on two major types of carbon...
Preview of the USGS WindFarm – Wind Turbine Interactive Web Map: Conterminous United States
The USGS is working on an agreement between a number of federal and private groups that will allow the generation of a new database and map twice a year. If the agreement goes through, the USGS will post a notice on the WindFarm Mapper website.
Wheat field wind turbines in Wyoming.
No publically-available, national database of wind turbines existed prior to the creation of the USGS WindFarm database. WindFarm is a spatially referenced, national dataset of onshore wind turbine locations and their corresponding facility information and turbine technical specifications. The database has ~47,000 wind turbine records. Knowing the...
Image: Sandhill Cranes Near Wind Turbines
Wind energy can affect both wildlife and their habitats. Birds and bats can be killed by collisions or near-collisions with wind turbine blades. Tens to hundreds of thousands of bats die each year after interacting with the moving blades of win The installations of the turbines can impact habitats by disturbing the land surface and through the...
Wind Farm
The USGS has extensive experience assessing energy resources, and it’s that expertise that makes the USGS qualified to assess nationwide effects of wind energy development. The scientifically robust methods used by the USGS produce energy resource assessments that are publicly available and externally peer reviewed. The same methods are used in...
Image: Coal Burning Power Plant
The United States has the largest proven coal reserves, with an estimated 260.5 billion short tons of coal in 2008, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.