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The Necessary Evil Called Fossil Fuels

Updated on February 7, 2012
Wrong use of oil!
Wrong use of oil! | Source

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.


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    • surra profile image

      surra 6 years ago from Bangalore, INDIA

      Thank you for your comments hballard and Natashalh. Fossil fuels will run out for sure, but what would happen to earth’s climate system is unknown. We can be doubly assured that we are headed for disaster. Unfortunately, like what hballard mentioned the renewable energy sources are not being extensively tapped, or they are not ‘up to speed’, or simply said they are not being extensively encouraged. Solar energy is available in abundance and it will continue to be available for billions of years to come. The cost to install a solar energy system at one’s home is simply impossible in the present scenario, due to its enormous cost. It is time we stopped hunting for new oil fields, but rather divert our attention to tapping renewable energy. Only oil-loving governments can make this possible, but will they?

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 6 years ago from Hawaii

      I like that you wrote "not economically feasible." Too often, people try to phrase it as "running out." It's not exactly runnign out. There will still be petroleum products somewhere, it just won't be worth it to get them. Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing when we have reached the high point of the bell curve, or when a forced supply crunch will occur. Looking back, it is easy to see this bell curve in action with the Texas/domesting US oil industry. When it will happen for individual nations, or the planet, is anyone's guess.

      Well-written and informative article!

    • hballard profile image

      hballard 6 years ago from Arizona

      Interesting hub. It is true that we are using fossil fuels at a rapid pace, and I think it is very important that we keep exploring renewable energy sources. But at the same time, the renewable energy technologies we have aren't at a level yet to where they could sustain a whole country, they just aren't reliable enough yet. So why not open up more mining, and oil fiels in the U.S. until they do get those technologies "up to speed." By doing that, it would lower our energy costs, and help our economy. In the state of Utah alone, there is enough Oil Shale to keep up with the U.S. level of consumption for the next 150 years! That's with projected increase of use, and that's only the shale! That's not even counting the oil underneath the surface. The only problem is, the government won't let us use it, because if we were to do that, our energy costs would go way down, and the giant oil companies would be losing money. That's part of the reason that renewable energy hasn't been pushed more, there's to much money involved in oil