Positives & Negatives of Fossil Fuels

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Coal was among the first fossil fuels adopted for energy production by people.
Coal was among the first fossil fuels adopted for energy production by people. (Image: Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Fossil fuels are non-renewable sources of energy that are extracted from the ground. The term refers to any fuel produced beneath the earth’s surface from prehistoric plant and animal remains. Fossil fuels are compromised of three main types: oil, coal and gas. There are both positive and negative points to the use of these fuels.

Positive: Convenience

Fossil fuels have the capacity to generate large amounts of energy and this is the main reason why they are so popular. They are highly combustible, yet stable in comparison to a lot of other fuels. Fossil fuels are easy to locate and transport. Also, since they have been in use for a considerably long amount of time, industries are already familiar with the processes required to extract and refine these fuels, so the production time to make these energy sources available for use is significantly lower than alternative sources of energy that may require more time and effort spent.

Positive: Cost and Availability

The relatively cheap cost of fossil fuels is a major positive aspect. They are in abundant supply, which makes them inexpensive to drill or mine for. In particular, coal is one of the most widely available fossil fuels. Since technology already exists to efficiently extract and use these fuels, they are available for immediate use.

Negative: Global Warming

The major downside to the use of fossil fuels is, of course, the pollution that they cause. The burning of these fuels releases carbon dioxide, a harmful gas that when released into the atmosphere causes a greenhouse effect. Carbon dioxide plays a very significant part in the process of global warming. In addition, the burning of coal releases another gas called sulfur dioxide that creates harmful acid rain.

Negative: Hazardous

The mining of coal is a difficult and dangerous task, and thus, coal miners face serious threats of their lives being endangered. Another hazard posed by the use of the fossil fuel crude oil is the risk of oil spills caused by leaks in oil tankers. Crude oil contains toxic chemicals that pollute the air when combusted and are harmful to health. Coal burning power plants also pollute the air through the release of smoke and chemicals, which in turn can lead to health issues for those subjected to inhaling this air.

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