Fossil fuels are the main source of energy that we have throughout the world in the form of natural gas, coal, and oil.
They are a set of remnants of organisms that have been present on Earth and, after being subjected to the heat and pressure of the earth's crust for hundreds of millions of years, have been formed and have contained a lot of energy.
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Their formation is due to a natural process of aerobic decomposition of dead and buried organisms. Over the years, this decomposition has become a hydrocarbon capable of containing energy.
In this article, we will focus on explaining the characteristics, applications, origin, and side effects of fossil fuels. Here is everything you need to know about fossil fuels!
Fossil fuels as an energy source
Our world is continuously changing. The economic development that unleashed the industrial revolution is making our society evolve. Today, we live in a fully industrialized society where economic development is linked to energy sources.
The energy that the human being consumes daily to develop all kinds of activities is obtained from different sources. Some of them are renewable sources, while others are not.
For now, our world moves mostly with non-renewable energies that pollute the planet.
Fossil energy is obtained through the combustion of some substances that come from plant remains and other living organisms that have been decomposing over the years. Millions of years ago, these remains were buried by the effects of natural phenomena and the action of microorganisms.
Once they were buried in the earth's crust, they were committed to conditions of pressure and high temperature that have given them the current characteristics.
Types of fossil fuels
Currently, different types of fossil fuels are used to obtain energy. Each one has different characteristics and origin.
However, they all contain a large amount of energy that is used for different uses. Here are the main types of fossil fuels!
Carbon Minerals: It is the coal that was used for locomotives in the olden times. It is mainly carbon that is found in large deposits in the soil. To extract it, the mines where the resource is exploited are built.
Petroleum: It is a mixture of a variety of hydrocarbons in the liquid phase. It is composed of other large impurities and is used to obtain various fuels and by-products.
Natural Gas: It is composed mainly of methane gas. This gas corresponds to the lighter part of the hydrocarbons. Therefore, it is said that natural gas is less polluting and purer than the rest. It is extracted from oil deposits in the form of gas.
Tar Sands and Bituminous Shales: They are materials formed by clay-sized sands that contain small traces of organic matter. This organic matter is composed of decomposed materials with a structure that is very similar to that of petroleum.
Nuclear energy is also considered as a type of fossil fuel. It is released as a result of a nuclear reaction called nuclear fission. It is the division of nuclei of heavy atoms such as uranium or plutonium.
Oil is a fossil fuel that originates from the detritus raw material of aquatic living organisms, animals, and plants. These living beings lived in the seas, lagoons, and estuaries near the sea.
Oil is found in this media of sedimentary origin. This means that the material that was formed was organic and was deposited by being covered by sediments.
Deeper and deeper, by the action of the pressure on the earth's crust, it was transformed into a hydrocarbon.
This process involves millions of years in time. Therefore, although oil is continuously being generated, it does so at a tiny rate for the human scale.
In addition to that, the pace of oil consumption is such that the dates of its exhaustion are already scheduled. In the formation reaction of the oil, there are aerobic bacteria first and anaerobes later, in greater depth.
These reactions give off oxygen, nitrogen, and sulfur. These three elements are part of the volatile compounds of hydrocarbons.
As the effect of pressure compacts the sediments, the bedrock is formed. Subsequently, due to the effects of migration, the oil passes to impregnate the most porous and permeable rocks.
There, the oil is concentrated. In this way, oil extraction processes are carried out to be exploited as fuel.
Advantages and disadvantages
Fossil fuels have several advantages and disadvantages when it comes to using them as an energy source. Let's analyze them!
Although there is the talk of the upcoming depletion, fossil fuel reserves still have plenty to supply us. That said, with the growth of renewable energies, its use is decreasing every day.
Accessibility to reserves is not very complicated yet. This means that since extraction is easy, the economic exploitation costs are reduced.
It provides a large amount of energy at a relatively low price. It must be said that although they do not serve in the long term, they are strong and cheap energies.
In addition to that, its transport and storage are cheap and easy. Unlike renewable energy, the transport and storage of fossil fuels are easy.
The renewable energies have a number of drawbacks in their storage systems.
The disadvantages of fossil fuels are more common.
The population is affected by pollution and suffer from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. The most sensitive sectors of the population are pregnant women, the elderly, and children.
Children are particularly the most affected since by running more while playing, they breathe in more air and drink more water. Also, their metabolism is not developed enough to eliminate harmful substances.
In addition to that, burning fossil fuels leads to the emission of toxic gases as well as global warming emissions. These emissions can be hazardous to both the environment and public health. In the same vein, oil spills are also common.
Due to human activity, they lead to pollution in the marine ecosystem.
The lesser known effects of fossil fuels
It is also pertinent to mention here that fossil fuels certainly possess a large amount of energy. Yet, they are rarely ever found in an unadulterated and pure state.
Typically, they are purified and refined into a usable form. This leaves behind excess waste material, which requires adequate disposal.
The disposal and handling of all this waste lead to expensive community health and environmental challenges.
Burning oil, natural gas, and coal have long-standing and serious adverse effects on local communities, public health, the global climate as well as ecosystems. Yet, the maximum effects of fossil fuels have nothing to do with the electricity or fuels we buy and use on a daily basis.
These lesser known effects of fossil fuels are usually hidden within private and public health expenditures, emergency relief funds, military budgets, as well as the degradation of ecosystems.
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We usually do not have to pay for the loss of sensitive wetlands or the cost of cancer when we clear our electricity bills. Yet, these costs are as real as the physical bills you pay for these services.
Renewable energies such as solar power and wind energy carry far fewer adverse effects, and their prices are increasingly competitive. Therefore, there is a need to identify the hidden costs of the effects of fossil fuels so that the damage can be mitigated sooner rather than later.
Therefore, it can be said that the cons of fossil fuels far outweigh the pros, and it is high time we switch to more renewable sources of energies for our consumption.