Fossil Fuels

Advantages of Fossil Fuels

Fossil fuels are available in many areas. Coal, petroleum (crude oil) and natural gas are easy to use for everyday needs that include electricity generation, heating, and transportation. Fossil fuels have become a dominant energy source because they contain a lot of transportable energy in a small package. Our country’s infrastructure was designed for using fossil fuels. Thus, fossil fuels are easily transported for their various uses by train, tanker or pipeline. The cost of electricity produced by burning fossil fuels is relatively inexpensive.

Petroleum (crude oil): Produces less CO2 emissions than coal during production. Scientists estimate that reserves may run out of oil in a century or two.

Natural gas: The cleanest burning fossil fuel. It produces less CO2 than oil and coal. It is easily transported via pipelines, reducing fuel costs for transportation. Electricity generation with natural gas is very efficient and produces little waste.

Coal: Coal is apparently plentiful. We will not run out of mined coal in the next few decades.

Disadvantages of Fossil Fuels

No form of fossil fuel use is considered sustainable. The rate at which we use it is many times greater than it can be created. All fossil fuels produce greenhouse gasses such as CO2 emissions when burned.

As fossil fuel resources become less plentiful, they will become more and more expensive to acquire. Global politics also influence fossil fuel prices.

Pollution emissions from fossil fuels may be harmful to ecosystems accelerate climate change.

Cooling towers for fossil fuel electricity power plants also require large amounts of water. If not cooled properly, water released into streams and rivers can cause thermal (heat) water pollution.

Petroleum (crude oil): Petroleum contains toxic chemicals that can cause air pollution during use. Oil spills, especially at sea, can damage ecosystems. Oil must be refined before use; this process creates toxic waste products.

Natural gas: The burning of natural gas may cause unpleasant odors and releases large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas. Also, it is expensive for international transport since natural gas has to be liquefied before transported.

Coal: Extraction of coal is very disruptive to surface and underground environments. It may involve the removal of mountaintops and hillsides. Coal removal results in large amounts of waste products that can be harmful to the environment. Groundwater can become contaminated during mining and surface mining can be contaminated by leftover waste. Pollutants are emitted during coal burning and may cause acid rain, global warming and climate change.

Mining coal is difficult and is considered one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.



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