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Fossil and Alternative Fuel Sources

Updated on May 18, 2012

Fossil and Alternitive Fuel Sources

Fossil and Renewable Fuel Sources.

Christian L. Perry

Argosy University

Fossil fuels make up a large part of our energy resources. The major problem with these resources is that it takes millions of years to replenish them. Take for example the fossils created by plant matter. Beyond the slow process of it rotting and becoming peat it must undergo massive amounts of pressure before the water is squeezed out and it eventually becomes fossilized. Because of this scientists have been fervently seeking alternative energy resources such as hydroelectric, geothermal, and wind driven power transformers.

The main source of energy from fossil fuels is the release of stored energy from the sun in the original matter before fossilization. To release this energy the materials are burned creating heat. This heat can be used to create steam pressure to push turbines that then convert the force into electricity. Each fossil fuel has different values of energy released upon combustion. The energy output is determined by the hydrogen to carbon ratio of the fossil. The higher the hydrogen content the higher the energy released. ( 2012) Natural gas has the highest energy output at 51.6 kJ/g. Second is petroleum at 43.6 kJ/g followed by coal at 39.3 kJ/g and ethanol at 27.3 kJ/g. ( 2012) As stated before however these resources are expendable and hard to replace. Scientists have been researching alternative resources for energy for many years. Those developed are in the areas of wind, water, geothermal and biomass. With wind and water the natural movement of the element is used to push turbines that use this force to transform it into electricity. Geothermal energy takes advantage of the natural energy emitted by the planet and biomass uses plants and materials derived from plants as an energy source.

The major problem with natural alternative sources is not that they are in danger of being depleted but that they are unpredictable and uncontrollable. Take for example hydroelectric power. The turbines used to generate electricity rely on the pressure of built up water behind dams. Every time there is a dry spell and limited rain the amount of water falls and thus the pressure also. Because of this hydroelectric power has only been able to be supplemental at best. Geothermal energy is a renewable source although varying in levels of availability it is clean and has been used since the time of the Roman Empire as a source of heat for water and buildings. Today we use geothermal heat by utilizing steam build up and/or hot water under the earth’s crust (U.S Energy Information Administration, 2012). Biomass is simply the use of “plant or plant derived materials for combustion. The most common source of biomass energy is wood, yet there are other materials that can be used also. Some of these materials include methane gas from landfills, oil rich algae, dried plant matter and even the organic components of industrial waste. The major benefits to using biomass are reduction in the creation of new greenhouse gasses, it can be grown in unused farm land, it is the only renewable liquid fuel and has the potential to replace many petroleum based products (U.S Energy Information Administration, 2012).

In summation it would seem that the most renewable resources such as wind and hydroelectric suffer from inconsistency and restricted point of access, yet our fossil fuel use is readily available while being toxic to our environment and depleteable. The only energy sources that seem to be readily available and non-depletable are the sun and/or chemical reaction. Both are available for utilization regardless of the level of technology needed. The only thing stopping us a society from moving to renewable and cheap energy may only be private interest and monetary gain.



Geothermal Basics, Geothermal, U.S Energy Information Administration, 2012. Retrieved on May 15th 2012 from

Combustion of Fossil Fuels, Energy From Fossil Fuels,, 2012. Retrieved on May 16th 2012 from


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