Coal rail cars in Ashtabula, Ohio

Fossil fuels, also known as mineral fuels, are hydrocarbon [1]-containing natural resources [2] such as coal, oil and natural gas.

How helped[]

The utilization of fossil fuels has enabled large-scale industrial development and largely supplanted water driven mills, as well as the combustion of wood or peat for heat.

When generating electricity, energy from the combustion of fossil fuels is often used to power a turbine. Older generators often used steam generated by the burning of the fuel to turn the turbine, but in newer power plants the gases produced by burning of the fuel turn a gas turbine directly.

With global modernization in the 20th and 21st centuries, the thirst for energy from fossil fuels, especially gasoline derived from oil, is one of the causes of major regional and global conflicts. A global movement toward the generation of renewable energy is therefore underway to help meet the increased global energy needs.

Atmospheric pollution[]

The burning of fossil fuels by humans is the largest source of emissions of carbon dioxide, which is one of the greenhouse gases that allows radiative forcing [3] and contributes to global warming. A small portion of hydrocarbon-based fuels are biofuels derived from atmospheric carbon dioxide, and thus do not increase the net amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

A limited resource[]

Annual carbon dioxide emission broken down into various fuel types during 1800-2000 AD. Shows the increasing rate at which fossil fuels are being consumed.

Oil is believed to be a finite resource. Significant usage of renewable energy sources such as hydroelectricity and nonrenewable nuclear power and scientific advances have reduced the dependency on fossil fuels, of which household usage has increased nonetheless. Petroleum is also important because it is a source of petrochemicals [4], for which there are a vast variety of uses.

The principle of supply and demand suggests that as hydrocarbon supplies diminish, prices will rise. Therefore higher prices will lead to increased alternative, renewable energy supplies as previously uneconomic sources become sufficiently economical to exploit. Artificial gasolines and other renewable energy sources currently require more expensive production and processing technologies than conventional petroleum reserves, but may become economically viable in the near future. See future energy development [5].

External links[]

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