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The Necessary Evil Called Fossil Fuels
Fossil fuels refers to fuels that were formed as a result of certain natural processes like anaerobic decomposition of buried dead organisms, and which remained buried for millions of years sometimes exceeding 650 million years.
The various fossil fuels are coal, natural gas, and petroleum - these fuels are usually very high on carbon content. Fossil fuels have various types like volatile, liquid, and non-volatile. Volatile materials have low ratios of carbon and hydrogen, and an example of this type of material is methane. Petroleum is an example when in liquid form, and anthracite is an example of non-volatile material - which is almost pure carbon in composition.
It is believed that fossil fuels were formed due to the decomposition of dead wood, which was exposed to great heat and enormous pressure while in the Earth’s crust and the process continued for hundreds of millions of years.
Fossil fuels continue to be extensively used and have turned out to be the primary source for energy production - an estimation having been arrived at by Energy Information Administration, in the year 2007, indicates that petroleum has been catering by 36%, coal by about 27.4%, and natural gas has been contributing about 23% to the total energy production in the world. The total contribution from fossil fuels there by amounts to 86.4% which clearly indicates that fossil fuels have come to be the primary contributor for energy consumption in the world.
The draw back of fossil fuels is that it is non-renewable, which means once consumed it cannot be produced at the rate at which it is being consumed. As previously discussed it takes millions of years for fossil fuels to form.
Fossil fuel reserves are continuing to be depleted at an alarming rate. The daily production of the various fuels is - coal is produced at the rate of 16761260 metric tonnes per day, oil is produced at the rate of 84000000 barrels per day, and natural gas at the rate of 19000000 barrels per day.
At this rate of consumption the reserves left on ground is estimated to last by 417 years for coal, 43 years for oil, and 167 years for natural gas. The figures have been arrived by some optimistic estimation.
In reality, the consumption of all the three fuels continue be increasing, and the resources could be consumed more quickly than estimated. But, it is said that the production curve resembles a bell curve, wherein production of the resources whether within a particular area, or country, will reach a maximum value, beyond which, production would tend to decline till a point is reached when it would not be economically feasible to produce the fuel anymore.