A look at the dramatic change in American energy consumption since the country's independence.
In some ways, 1776 doesn't seem so far in the past. The year of America's independence (237 years ago) is orders of magnitude nearer to us than other commonly discussed phenomenon, such as the birth of Jesus (2,013 years ago) or the life of Confucius (born 2,564 years ago), let alone the extiction of the Neanderthals (33,000 years ago). It is therefore easy for us to see the world of 1776 to be much like our own. But that is a mistake.
The animated chart below shows the dramatic change in energy consumption seen in the US since the country's independence, all the way to 2011. It draws from a combination of two datasets provided by the US Energy Information Administration (here and here).
Click "See the visual" below and to the right to get the thing started (if you're on a mobile device you should probably rotate to landscape mode and zoom out). You can roll over the area chart (left) to pause the animation, and remove your mouse or finger to get it going again. Moving around this left chart will also allow you to get more info on specific years in the data, with details shown on the donut chart (right).
Notes on data: Data points are sparse until 1945, just one every five years. "Captured Energy" refers to: conventional hydroelectric power, geothermal, solar thermal, photovoltaic, and wind. "Biomass" is almost entirely wood until the 19th century. See US EIA links here and here for more info.
Technical stuff: Data visualization made by Nikhil Sonnad with D3js. My code is heavily commented with others in mind, so if you're interested in trying something similar feel free to fork it on github.