Since the beginning of time, humans have used fossil fuels as their main source of energy to power a variety of daily activities, including lighting, heating, and cooking. Fossil fuels, however, have a number of negative effects on the environment. We can better understand this source of energy if we take a close look at the advantages and disadvantages of fossil fuels.
The majority of the world’s energy needs are met by fossil fuels. Every 20 years since the 1900s, the demand for fossil fuels in the world has approximately doubled. On climate and living creatures, it has a number of negative effects.
If you’re wondering if fossil fuels can be replaced by alternative energy, read on. Let’s examine the advantages and disadvantages of fossil fuels to determine whether they provide the greatest energy for industrial processes or if we should look for alternate energy sources like wind, solar, or water energy.
Let’s define fossil fuels first before examining the advantages and disadvantages of using them.
How Do Fossil Fuels Work?
Coal, oil, and natural gas are examples of fossil fuels. They are made of biological things that have been dead and buried for millions of years, such as plants and animals.
These organic elements became sedimentary rocks when they were buried underground and combined with sand, mud, and other rocks. After being subjected to pressure and heat in the earth’s crust, these rocks changed into natural gas or crude oil.
Fossil fuel applications
Why we use fossil fuels instead of renewable energy is a common question. Compared to renewable energy, fossil fuels have a lot of useful products. Our everyday existence depends on the goods and waste materials created by fossil fuels.
The engines of many lands, air, and sea vehicles are powered by fossil fuel. Cars are fueled by gasoline, which is refined crude oil. To create the electricity utilized in homes, businesses, and industries, thermal power plants use coal to create heat. Burning fossil fuels may transform water into steam, which powers the turbines needed to run generators.
There are numerous uses for fossil fuels in homes as well. The cooking gas contains propane, one of its products. Many homes use gas, coal, or propane heaters during the winter and other chilly months.
Some components of fossil fuels like petroleum are transformed into lubricants like petroleum jelly, hydraulic fluid, and motor oil after being processed. Petrochemicals produced by fossil fuels are also utilized to make polyester and plastic goods.
In our homes, plastics are used for a variety of things, including containers, toilet seats, phones, toys, and culinary utensils. Conversely, polyester can be used to make garments.
The extracts from fossil fuels contain benzene, which is a vital component of colors, solvents, and insecticides. Fossil fuels are used in the medical and pharmaceutical industries to create a variety of products, including polymers, bandages, computers, and even life-saving machinery like MRI scanners. Over 6,000 products are derived from petroleum.
Can we say that fossil fuel is a necessary evil given all these uses? Let’s examine the crucial benefits and drawbacks of fossil fuels to learn more:
Fossil fuel advantages
Highly effective Energy Sources
One of the most effective energy sources is a fossil fuel. Even when utilized in little volumes, the fuel produces a significant quantity of energy. A small amount of petroleum, for instance, can power large equipment or vehicle.
Wind only produces seven energy joules per cubic meter at 10 mph, compared to oil’s minimum of 45 billion energy joules per cubic meter. Compared to wind, sun, and water energy, oil is almost 6.4 billion times denser. As a result, even small amounts of oil can provide enormous amounts of energy.
Plastics are one of the beneficial byproducts of petroleum. In places like houses, hospitals, and schools, plastic is used in a wide variety of applications. After oil extraction, it is divided into a number of groups for a variety of goals. While the majority of these groups are utilized to create energy, other groups, like naphtha, are used to create polymers.
We wouldn’t be able to produce the many useful plastic items we use on a daily basis if there were no fossil fuels. Shoes, soaps, toothpaste, apparel, and other products are some of the most popular items produced using fossil fuels.
Transport Is Simpler
Compared to other energy sources like wind, water, or solar power, transporting fossil fuels is simple. Transporting fossil fuels is incredibly simple and secure because of ever-evolving technology like subterranean pipes. The tubes, which can easily transfer gas or oil, are typically placed underground.
Thousands of jobs are created
The industry for fossil fuels employs thousands of people. This energy source creates hundreds of thousands of employees worldwide each year. For many nations around the world, fossil fuels are an important economic force. Our economy might experience a big depression due to unemployment if we stop using fossil fuels right now.
Simpler to Install
Setting up a fossil fuel plant anywhere in the world takes little infrastructure, unlike most other renewable energy sources, which depend on the energy source’s availability. For instance, you need to be close enough to water bodies to put up a water energy plant.
We have relied on the use of fossil fuels for a very long time. The reason is that it has been easily accessible since many individuals collect coal and oil from many locations throughout the world.
In order to extract coal and gases from the earth or the ocean, various countries have made significant investments in this area. To use in the extraction, purification, and transportation of the fuel, they have specially designed unique pieces of equipment. Consequently, compared to other energy sources, it is simpler to locate and utilize.
Fossil Fuel Disadvantages
Degradation of the environment
After being burned, fossil fuels result in air pollution. The combustion of these fuels results in the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHGs), which worsens the environment.
The main factor causing the current, major issue influencing our planet’s climate—climate change—is greenhouse gases. The repercussions of climate change, such as the rising sea level and extreme weather patterns, are already being felt in many parts of the world. All living species will suffer terrible consequences if this continues.
Acidic rainfall, which is extremely harmful to all living things, has also been linked to global warming. Fossil fuels are therefore harmful to the health of all living things, and stopping their use can rescue the earth.
Power Plants Need a Lot of Coal Reserves
Power plants are necessary to create electricity from fossil sources. Large quantities of coal are necessary for the power plants to continue operating. As a result, the power plant requires a lot of coal fuel.
If the power plant is not close to sizable coal reserves, enormous truckloads are utilized to carry the coal. This uses a lot of energy, which is not only costly but also dangerous to the environment. As a result, fuel costs will continue to rise, which will hurt the economy.
Complications in health
The burning of fossil fuels results in air pollution, which has detrimental effects on health. Since it causes lung ailments and asthma attacks, high levels of air pollution cause early death in children. According to a WHO report, air pollution is to blame for at least seven million child fatalities. Those who live close to congested areas are considered to be at greater risk.
Additionally linked to both ozone layer depletion and global warming are carbon dioxide emissions. This causes a change in the climate and puts living creatures at risk for health issues. Skin cancer, for instance, is brought on by excessive radiation levels.
High Level of Depletion
Fossil fuels are a limited resource of energy, unlike energy from water, the sun, and the wind. With each day that goes on, the subsurface reserves of fossil fuels decrease.
We will need to rely on a different energy source for the surviving millennia. The reserves of coal, gas, and oil will eventually be depleted. If we don’t find alternatives, we won’t be able to cook, fuel our cars, or light our homes.
Damage to the Environment Caused by an Oil Spill
Oil spills on land and in the sea are very likely to occur when transporting oil. Living things on land and in the sea suffer greatly from oil spills. Fish in the sea can suffocate, and other creatures like seals and penguins can consume the lethal fuel one way or another and die.
For instance, the Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in the release of 4.9 million oil barrels. Numerous animals died as a result, leaving a lasting effect on the area. Since the 1970s, there have been over 44 significant oil spills in the United States alone. Aquatic life has suffered catastrophic damage as a result.
These oil spills have far-reaching effects. Every time they occur, millions of birds, fish, and animals perish, making them one of the worst marine disasters.
High Water Use Levels
In most of the world, there is a widespread issue with water scarcity. Due to their extensive water cooling requirements, fossil fuel power plants exacerbate this issue. According to a U.S. study, fossil fuel power plants use more than four times as much water as all of the residences in the country combined.
The long-term effect of this is the depletion of water resources, and the result is a lack of water. Lack of water can cause a variety of issues, including improper sanitation which raises the chance of developing health issues.
Release of Negative Waste Materials
Since we don’t extract fossil fuels in a pure form, there is a need to refine them to get rid of the elements that we don’t need. Also, the process we use to refine oil and coal produces some environmentally harmful products that we should take care of.
These wastes include high concentrations of sulfur among other unwanted compounds. Disposing of these waste products is very costly, and if done wrongly, they can leak into the natural ecosystem. Therefore, they result in catastrophic consequences, including increasing the rates of cancer and more.
As fossil fuels continue depleting, it is becoming harder and harder to extract them from the earth. This, in turn, increases the costs of the resources required to find them. Eventually, renewable energy sources will become cheaper with time as fossil fuels rise in price.
Also, since only a few countries in the Middle East produce the world 40% of fossil fuels, there is an increase in fear of war, lower output, and strikes by trade unions that can lead to price fluctuations around the globe.
Exposes Risk to The Health of Coal-Mining Workers
Oil drilling and coal mining have cost hundreds of thousands of lives every year. Foraging for coal in the mining sites is very dangerous. If we mistakenly inhale or ingest this oil or the dust from coal, it can result in serious health complications, like lung illnesses and asthma attacks.
Conclusion On The Fossil Fuels Pros And Cons
When we compare fossil fuels’ pros and cons, it is clear that despite its numerous uses, it harms our planet. Therefore, there is a need to consider other alternative sources of energy and find out we can harness these sustainable resources.
Since human beings have relied upon fossil fuels for a long time, that may seem like a long process. However, some countries have begun to generate substantial portions of electric power from renewable sources. We should all join in this movement to make the world a better place for us and our future generations.
If you want to learn more about such topics, here’s an article explaining how to save energy and nature.