Written by Adweita Panigrahi, a grade 2 student.
Petroleum, coal, and gas have made our lives incredibly easy; cars, planes, electricity, cooking gas, plastics… we owe it all to fossil fuels.
What are fossil fuels?
The word fossil means something that’s the remains of a very old (like prehistoric) plant or animal, which is embedded in rock and preserved there.
So, the words fossil fuels actually refer to fuels that were formed by plants and other organisms buried under layers of rock for millions of years. Decomposition and the pressure of rocks turned them into fossil fuels.
Fossil fuels, therefore, are hydrocarbons and are the most important and the biggest source of energy for the world today. They are basically carbon-rich deposits that are found inside the earth.
They are non-renewable, that is, there is only so much fossil fuel available on earth. Fossil fuels are limited.
Types of Fossil Fuels
Coal, crude oil, and natural gas are types of fossil fuels.
COAL: It is a solid form of fossil fuel. Coal is a type of rock that was formed millions of years ago when swampy forests got buried underground. Coal provides around 37% of all energy used around the world. It is also the largest source of electricity production. China, India, and the US are the biggest consumers of coal.
CRUDE OIL: This is the liquid form of fossil fuel. Crude oil was formed when algae, plankton, and other organisms got buried undersea around 600 million years ago. It is a thick dark liquid from which different types of fuel are extracted: Diesel, petrol, and heating oil. Crude oil is mostly extracted from the seabed by drilling. USA, Saudi Arabia, and Russia are the top producers of crude oil. In India, crude oil is found in Assam, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Bombay High in the Arabian Sea.
NATURAL GAS: This is the gaseous form of fossil fuel. It is odourless and formed from decaying plants and other organisms millions of years ago. It is often found trapped between rocks. A new method called fracking has made it easier to extract natural gas from the earth. Fracking or hydraulic fracturing injects a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals at very high pressure into rocks to release the trapped natural gas.
If we look around, we can see that Coal, Crude oil, and Natural Gas make our lives comfortable and convenient but,
Do Fossil Fuels cause pollution?
Oh yes, fossil fuels are the biggest source of pollution.
- LAND– Fossil fuel extraction destroys forests, and farms making them unfit for use by animals and people. Mountains are blasted which makes them unstable. Fracking damages rock structures.
- WATER: Coal mining work washes acid into rivers and streams. oil extraction and oil spills pollute freshwater, groundwater, and seas. Oil spills in seas and oceans destroy marine life. Factories and industries pollute rivers, streams, and groundwater by dumping waste into them.
- AIR: The burning of fossil fuels is the biggest source of air pollution. Coal causes 44% of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere, while oil can be blamed for 30% of carbon emissions. Even natural gas accounts for 1/5th of emissions. Smoke from factories, vehicles, and greenhouse gases that increase the temperature of the atmosphere is responsible for climate change.
Right now, fossil fuels are abundant and are used extensively everywhere. But they are causing a lot of harm to our planet. Overuse of fossil fuels may make our planet inhospitable. We need better and cleaner sources of energy. Scientists and governments are exploring clean and renewable sources of energy like solar, wind, and biofuels to move away from fossil fuels.