Fossil Fuel: noun – a fuel (as coal, oil or natural gas) that is formed in the earth from plant or animal remains.
Fossil fuels are an important part of everyday life. These resources — coal, oil and natural gas — are currently the main sources of the world’s energy, although wind, nuclear, hydro and solar power are also significant energy sources. We use fossil fuels to power our homes, our vehicles, businesses and more, yet they are a nonrenewable resource, which means they will eventually run out. That is why it is important to continue exploring alternative sources of energy and not waste the resources we have.
Let’s take a look at the different fossil fuels and the ways we use them.
Oil is the world’s primary source of fuel for transportation. Most cars, trucks, trains, planes and boats run on gasoline or some other petroleum product that comes from oil. Most oil is pumped out of the ground, although there are new technologies that make it possible to extract oil from shale and tar sands. Once oil is out of the ground, it is refined to create fuel oil, gasoline, liquefied petroleum gas and other nonfuel products such as pesticides, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals and plastics.
Coal is used to generate electricity. In the United States in 2014, almost 40 percent of electric power in the came from coal. Coal is mined from the earth. Coal mining releases a lot of pollutants into the air, including acid rain-inducing sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury, which can also destroy vegetation and pollute rivers and streams with waste. The coal industry is looking for new ways to mine this resource without hurting the environment including a process called carbon capture and storage.
In 2014, 27 percent of the energy used in the U.S. came from natural gas. This resource is mostly used to produce heat and electricity for buildings or for industrial processes. It is also used to make fertilizer, paints and plastics. One thing that many people like about natural gas is that it burns cleaner than coal so it does not cause as much pollution.