Fossil fuels are energy resources that come from the remains of
plants and animals. These remains are millions of years old. There
are three fossil fuels: petroleum oil, natural gas, and coal.
fuels, like coal, oil, and natural gas, provide the energy that
powers our lifestyles and our economy. Fossil fuels power everything
from the planes in the sky to the cars on the road. They heat our
homes and light up the night. Theyre the bedrock we base our
energy mix on. But they are a limited resource. What part will fossil
fuels play in the future of your energy supply?
image courtesy EREN
One of the main uses
of fossil fuels it to generate electricity. Coal is the number one
fuel source for electric generation, accounting for more than half
of all resources used. Natural gas and petroleum also contribute
their fair share. So when you look at all the different resources
used to generate electricity, its overwhelmingly fossil fuels
doing the work.
fuels are also overwhelmingly responsible for fueling our transportation
system. Petroleum-based fuels are the standard. Our countrys
and gas stations is built around fossil fuels. You can drive across
the country and find a gas station to fill up your car. That infrastructure
is one of the hurdles preventing new fuel sources from competing
with fossil fuels. Its extremely expensive to change a nationwide
infrastructure, so to be competitive, new fuel sources must adapt
to existing infrastructure.
and cooling are also accomplished mainly through the use of fossil
fuels like natural gas and oil. Regions of the country that experience
harsh winters rely heavily on these fuels to heat their homes and
businesses. Regions that stay
dont have that expense. Air conditioning is a huge consumer
of electricity, power thats generated mainly from fossil fuels.
of the biggest benefits of fossil fuels is their cost. Coal, oil
and natural gas are abundant right now and relatively inexpensive
to drill or mine for. In fact, coal is the most plentiful fossil
fuel and it is found over much of the world. Because the costs are
contained, electricity and fuels for transportation and heating
are available to everyone.
fuels are a nonrenewable resource. Fossil fuels take millions of
years to develop under extreme conditions. Once they are gone, they
can no longer be part of our energy mix.
Fossil fuels downfall
is their environmental impact. The burning of fossil fuels is blamed
for emissions that contribute to global climate change, acid rain,
and ozone problems.
There are new
technologies under development that could make burning fossil fuels
much more efficient and much cleaner. These technologies could keep
fossil fuels in the energy mix for the future. (See the feature
on clean coal technologies.)
Because fossil fuels
play such an important role in powering our lifestyles and economy,
controlling these resources is big business. The United States has
large deposits of coal, one of the main fuels for electric generation.
The biggest supply of oil is not in the U.S. but in the Middle East.
The US is extremely dependent on a steady supply of that imported
oil. Any disruptions in that supply or increase in the cost of that
supply could have huge effects on our daily lives. Shipping the
oil across the ocean can lead to other risks, such as oil spills.
The reason fossil
fuels are currently relied on so heavily is due to simple economics
- supply and demand. Coal is currently an abundant resource, and
the US government has worked to keep a steady supply of oil flowing
to the United States, which has kept costs down for consumers.
Our supply of fossil
fuels can be a limitation. While the US has considerable deposits
of coal and natural gas, most oil is imported. Our overwhelming
dependence on foreign oil means, as a nation, we are not in control
of the price or amounts available, which can lead to problems like
the energy crisis of the 1970s. During this time, our foreign sources
of oil declined to trade with us for political reasons. Gasoline
was rationed. People with odd and even numbered license plates could
purchase gas only on certain days. Americans became aware of how
much they relied on foreign sources of oil. Since then, our dependence
on foreign oil has increased, not decreased.
do you think?
Does the relatively
low cost of fossil fuels outweigh any limitations of this resource?
Should fossil fuels remain the mainstay of our energy mix in
the US? Is it worth exploring alternatives? What role do you
think fossil fuels will play in our energy mix fifty years from
of Energy. "Clean Coal." (Online) HTTP://www.fe.doe.gov/coal_power/cct/.
of Energy. "Fossil Fuels Future." (Online) HTTP://www.fe.doe.gov/education/.
of Energy and National Energy Technology Laboratory. "Clean
Coal Technology Compendium." (Online) HTTP://www.lanl.gov/projects/cctc/index.html.
- Energy Information
Administration and Department of Energy."EIA Kid's Page."
- Energy Information
Administration and Department of Energy. (Online) "Official
Energy Statistics from the US Government." HTTP://www.eia.doe.gov/.
fuels, like coal, power our economy and our lifestyles. More
2001, Vice President Cheney headed up a team to design a new energy
policy for the US. President Bush said... More
Fuels: Millions of Years in the Making
fuels get their name from the organisms that created them. Fossil
fuels were formed from plants and animals that lived hundreds of
millions of years ago. More
Facts and Stats
you have any statistic to support what you're saying? Explore these
fossil fuel facts.
President Bush's 2001 Energy Policy considers fossil fuels a
key player in the future of America's energy. Experts debate fossil
fuel's role at this site.
Warming. Does it exist? Read what the other side thinks.
Academy of Sciences report concludes
the Earth is getting warmer and humans are helping cause it.
global strategy to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases
which scientists believe are warming the Earth.
Nearly 180 nations
agreed to details of a pact
to combat global warming today