Fossil Fuels are a non-renewable energy source. They are found in Earth’s depositions made over millions and millions years ago and are called non-renewable because they can’t be used again once they are spent.
There are three major forms of fossil fuels: coal, oil and natural gas.
Coal is made up of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and some amounts of sulphur
-Three main types of coal:
•Anthracite : the hardest and has the most carbon in it, meaning higher energy content
•Lignite: softest, low in carbon, but high in oxygen & hydrogen
•Bituminous: All of the above found in similar amounts
Coal is mined out of the ground using various methods. Some coal mines are dug by sinking vertical or horizontal shafts deep underground, and coal miners travel by elevators or trains deep underground to dig the coal.
Other coal is mined in strip mines where huge steam shovels strip away the top layers above the coal. The layers are then restored after the coal is taken away.
The coal is then shipped by train and boats and even in pipelines. In pipelines, the coal is ground up and mixed with water to make what’s called slurry. This is then pumped many miles through pipelines.
At the other end, the coal is used to fuel power plants and other factories.
Oil is the second main type of Fossil Fuels, and is formed 300 million years ago, same as coal did. It has been used for more than 5,000-6,000 years.
Oil contains carbon, same as all Fossil Fuels and is found on the bottom of the sea. How?
Well, the carbon found on the sea bottom, eventually turned into oil under great pressure and heat. As the earth changed and moved and folded pockets where oil and natural gas can be found were formed.
To find oil and natural gas, companies drill through the earth to the deposits deep below the surface. The oil and natural gas are then pumped from below the ground by oil rigs (like in the picture). They then usually travel through pipelines or by ship.
Natural gas is lighter than air. It is mostly made up of methane.
Methane is a simple chemical compound that is made up of carbon and hydrogen atoms. Its chemical formula is CH4 – one atom of carbon along with four atoms hydrogen. This gas is highly flammable.
Natural gas is usually found near petroleum underground. It is pumped from below ground and travels in pipelines to storage areas.
Benefits of Fossil Fuels
Fossil Fuels bring a lot to the world. Currently they are the most used source of energy.
There are reasons for that. To start with, they produce large amounts of energy from a little amount of fuel. That is highly economically beneficial. Also, just the fact that Fossil Fuels are the most common used means a lot Industrial revolution has popularized the usage of fossil fuel in the entire planet. That resulted in most of machines, devices, vehicles depend on the fossil fuels, may it be coal, petroleum or natural gas.
Also, it is much simpler to use and extract energy when most of the machinery is set for Fossil Fuels what makes them easily available too when you think about it. Sustainable fuel sources like solar, wind or geothermal have complex process to harness energy from them.
Limitations of Fossil Fuels
Unfortunately, Fossil Fuels carry more limitations than benefits. It is up to each person to decide if the benefits are really dominant over limitations.
They are non-renewable which their main limitation is because as they are extracted to an unlimited level it is for sure that they will deplete some day or the other. Since they are non-renewable it is likely that fuels expenses will face a hike in near future. It would take millions of years to replace coal, and oil, and we are using them quickly.
Fossil fuels are the major energy source, as previously mentioned, but still when over consumption takes place lead to disastrous effects such as air pollution. Also, burning of fossil fuels releases: carbon dioxide, nitrogen monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide etc. Those have severe consequences on the habitats.
Then they also affect human health, because of all the substances are released that we breathe in. Also, the ozone layer is being worn-out due to the release of greenhouse gases from the fuels. Hence, ozone holes are being created from which harmful UV rays enter the earth surface that affect human life causing diseases like cancer.
As it is possible to tell from all the limitations mentioned, the Fossil Fuels really do put the Earth in a great environmental risk every day.
Other than previously mentioned, there are also a few examples of Fossil Fuels having an impact on the environment.
For example: acid rain. When burnt, sulphur dioxide gas is also produced which is the factor for acid rain. Acid rain leads to destruction of monuments made up of brickwork or marbles, even crops are affected due to acidification of loams.
Then the coal mining results in destruction of abundant lands and also endangers the lives of mineworkers. The natural gas causes nasty smells and also a lot of problems with transportation.
Also, there is a great impact on the aquatic life. Transportation of crude oil causes oil spills over seas reasoning to hazards to the aquatic life by lessening the oxygen content of water.
Renewable types of fuels are much better than Fossil Fuels. Yes/No?
As the years go on, and the amounts of Fossil Fuels are decreasing, a new, non-renewable energy has been introduced. It is a great question whether it is better and even doable to switch completely to the renewable energy.
Renewable energy is the energy which is generated from natural sources i.e. sun, wind, rain, tides and can be generated again and again as and when required. They are available in plenty and by far most the cleanest sources of energy available on this planet. For eg: energy that we receive from the sun can be used to generate electricity. Similarly, energy from wind, geothermal, biomass from plants, tides can be used to fulfill our daily energy demands. 
There are pros and cons to this new, renewable energy. To start with the pros, firstly and most importantly, all the sources for this type of energy are in an abundant quantity and free to use. Then they are much more environmentally friendly, meaning much lower pollutants emission.
Also, renewable energy helps in stimulating the economy and creating job opportunities. The money that is used to build these plants can provide jobs to thousands to lakhs of people.
The cons of this renewable energy are that it is not easy to set up a plant for the extraction of energy and that it would cost a lot more because we will have to adapt everything we have to something new, more complicated.
Then, almost every type of renewable energy is dependent on the weather conditions, parts of the day, week, and months. It is not reliable all the time.
With all of this stated and the pros and cons of the non-renewable energy I must conclude that renewable types of fuels are better. Yes, there are limitations to both but the crucial thing with the renewable energy is that it saves the environment in a much greater measure and that is what matters the most. The cost for the switch to renewable energy will cost a lot but it pays of much more because if we don’t nurture the place we live in it will no longer be a nice place to stay in.
There are steps being taken because people & nations worldwide are becoming more aware of the environmental risks for which the Earth is being exposed to with the non-renewable energy consumption.
Besides the new movements, actions and propaganda for lowering the Fossil Fuels usage, there have been laws brought by many nations together to save the environment, such as the Clean Air Act. This act focused on the reduction of sulfur, nitrogen oxides and particulate emissions.
An example of newer actions is Denmark whose goal is to completely get rid of the usage of Fossil Fuels by 2050.
From 1980 till 2010 the share of renewable energy in Denmark rose from 3 % to 19 %. With this strategy the rise will continue to 33 % by 2020, meaning a full third of our energy will be produced by green energy primarily wind and biomass. And finally, up until 2050 the fossil fuels energy will be almost non-existent.
Courtney from Study Moose
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