Sulfate-reducing bacteria play major roles in the global carbon and sulfur cycles, but it remains unclear how reducing sulfate yields energy. To determine the genetic basis of energy conservation, we measured the fitness of thousands of pooled mutants of Desulfovibrio alaskensis G20 during growth in 12 different combinations of electron donors and acceptors. We show that ion pumping by the ferredoxin:NADH oxidoreductase Rnf is required whenever substrate-level phosphorylation is not possible. The uncharacterized complex Hdr/flox-1 (Dde_1207:13) is sometimes important alongside Rnf and may perform an electron bifurcation to generate more reduced ferredoxin from NADH to allow further ion pumping. Similarly, during the oxidation of malate or fumarate, the electron-bifurcating transhydrogenase NfnAB-2 (Dde_1250:1) is important and may generate reduced ferredoxin to allow additional ion pumping by Rnf. During formate oxidation, the periplasmic [NiFeSe] hydrogenase HysAB is required, which suggests that hydrogen forms in the periplasm, diffuses to the cytoplasm, and is used to reduce ferredoxin, thus providing a substrate for Rnf. During hydrogen utilization, the transmembrane electron transport complex Tmc is important and may move electrons from the periplasm into the cytoplasmic sulfite reduction pathway. Finally, mutants of many other putative electron carriers ave no clear phenotype, which suggests that they are not important under our growth conditions.