For over a century, fossil fuel burning has generated most of the energy needed to power our cars, power our stores, and keep our homes on. Oil, coal, and gas already cover about 80 percent of our energy demand. And we pay for it.
The use of fossil fuels to generate energy has caused enormous damage to people and the environment, from air and water pollution to global warming. This goes beyond the negative effects of petroleum-based products such as plastics and chemicals.
"Here we will look at what fossil fuels are, how much they cost us (beyond the wallet), and why it's time to move towards the future of clean energy."
What is fossil fuel?
Coal, oil, and natural gas are all considered fossil fuels because they were formed from fossilized deposits of plants and animals that lived millions of years ago. Due to their origin, fossil fuels have a high carbon content.
Example of fossil fuel are Crude oil or petroleum, which is a liquid fossil fuel consisting primarily of hydrocarbons (hydrogen and carbon compounds). Oil can be found in underground reservoirs, cracks, crevices, and pores in sedimentary rocks or tar sands near the surface of the earth. This is achieved by drilling on land or at sea, or in the case of tar sands, oil and oil shale, open pit mining.
After production, it is transported to refineries by super tankers, trains, trucks, and pipelines, where it is converted into usable fuels such as gasoline, propane, kerosene as well as plastics and paints.
Coal is a solid carbonaceous rock that occurs in four major types: lignite, sub-bitumen, bitumen, and anthracite. Almost all coal burned is subbituminous or bituminous coal. These coals are abundant and fall between the carbon content and thermal energy they can produce. However, coal is dirty, regardless of type. In fact, in terms of emissions, it is the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel we can burn.
Coal is extracted in two ways. Underground mining uses heavy machinery to extract coal from deep underground deposits. Open pit mining (also known as open pit mining), on the other hand, removes the entire layer of soil and rock to access the underlying coal deposits. Both forms of mining are harmful to the environment, but open pit mining is particularly destructive because it uproots and pollutes the entire ecosystem.
With cleaner and cheaper alternative energies such as natural gas, renewable energies such as the sun and wind, and energy efficient technologies, coal is far less economically attractive.
Natural gas is composed primarily of methane and is generally considered conventional or non-conventional, depending on where it occurs underground. Traditional natural gas can be found in porous, permeable rock formations or mixed with petroleum deposits and can be developed using standard boreholes. Non-conventional natural gas is basically any form of gas that is difficult or expensive to extract by normal drilling and requires special stimulus techniques such as hydraulic fracturing.
What harm can the Fossil Fuels do?
Land Degradation: The excavation, processing and migration of underground oil, gas and coal deposits puts a heavy burden on our landscapes and ecosystems. The fossil fuel industry leases vast amounts of land for infrastructure such as wells, pipelines, access roads, treatments, waste storage and disposal facilities. In open pit mining, the entire land, including forests and entire mountain peaks, is scraped, and blown away, exposing underground coal and oil. Even if the operation is stopped, the land washed with nutrients will never return.