October 11, 2022 7 min read
Did you know that the ground beneath us is full of rich natural resources enough to power cities for years, but for how long?
One of the most common power sources, fossil fuels, have been excessively used, from power plants to factories to vehicles around us.
The word fossils from the word fossil fuels come from the Latin word 'fossilis' meaning, 'unearthed.'
Fossils are remains of plants and animals whose bodies are preserved and buried in sediments, such as sand and mud, under ancient seas, lakes, and rivers.
So, what are fossil fuels?
A rich creation of decomposing plants and animals, fossil fuels are found in the Earth's crust and contain rich quantities of carbon and hydrogen that, when burnt, create energy
How many forms of fossil fuels exist?
Fossil fuels are non-renewable sources of energy, meaning they can't be generated naturally again and again and take thousands of years to form. The main fossil fuels are coal, crude oil, and natural gas.
Coal is usually found underground in sedimentary rock deposits where rock, dead plant and animal matter are piled up in layers 200 to 300 below the surface.
While coal is cheap, abundant, and heavy, it releases a lot of pollutants when burned.
Petroleum, or crude oil, is harder to find typically, a mile or two below the surface. They also need a lot of cleaner burning to be converted into refined fuels like gasoline or kerosene. But they can be easily carried through pipelines, unlike coal.
Usually found in pockets above oil deposits, Natural gas is made up of Methane found in sedimentary rock layers that don't contain oil. Natural gas is also relatively inexpensive and less polluting than coal or crude oil.
How are fossil fuels formed?
The carbon-containing molecules left over from the bodies of tiny plants and animals that lived and died millions of years ago help form Fossil fuels. This was when Earth's climate was warmer and wetter, and its waters bloomed with algae, bacteria, and other tiny organisms.
These bodies of once-living organisms became buried and compressed underground, forming a mineral called kerogen also called oil shale. The heat of the Earth’s layers then slowly transformed kerogen into fossil fuels, with some types of kerogens converting into coal and others crude oil or natural gas.
Why are fossil fuels exhaustible natural resources?
Fossil fuels are a non-renewable resource, which means that once used they cannot be replaced as they take millions of years to form again.
Not only are they irreversible resources, but their excessive use also causes harsh, unpredictable, and adverse environmental changes like pollution, which contributes to global warming.
Instead, we can opt for more renewable energy resources like tidal waves, wind, and solar energies in the future that are unlimited, non-exhaustible, and renewable, unlike fossil fuels.
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