Fossil fuels are naturally occurring substances found on the surface of the earth. They are produced as a result of the decomposition of the remains of different organic matter, buried for several millions of years under anaerobic conditions. The principal component of fossils is carbon. In some fossiLs, carbon is present in its pure form and in others, it is in the form of hydrocarbon compounds.
We can say that there are three types of fossil fuels which are most widely used for different purposes. They are: coal, oil or petroleum and natural gas. Coal is one such source of energy which has been in use for centuries and is abundantly found on the earth. Presently, coal is used in industries for the production of iron, steel, cement, paper, etc. It is also used in power plants for generating electricity. Oil comes second in terms of popularity. Crude oil undergoes some processing before its usable form can be obtained. It is then used as fuel in vehicles, aircraft, ships and several machines. Though natural gas is more eco-friendly and has a much higher efficiency than any other form of fossils, it cannot be used for all purposes, as it gives out a foul smell.
Arguments in Favor of Fossil Fuels
The main reason behind theIR immense popularity as energy source, is that each of them have a high calorific value. In other words, their consumption generates a large amount of usable energy and are considered as high-efficiency fuels. In spite of being such a highly combustible material, these are quite stable in nature as compared to many other forms of fuels.
Another advantage is their availability. The fuels can be found quite easily on the surface of the earth. Moreover, the extraction and refining processes are not very time-consuming and hence, the crude form of these fuels can be easily converted for practical purposes. Almost fifty-percent of the power generation plants of the United States utilize coal as the source of fuel. This is because, it is cheap and is a highly reliable source of energy.
As coal can be transported from one place to another without any hassles, it is not necessary to build the power stations close to the location of the coal mines. Whereas, oil and natural gas have one big advantage that they can be carried very easily by the means of pipelines.
Last but not the least, it helps to create job opportunities for people. This is an important aspect of fossil fuels that we cannot afford to ignore. It generates employment for millions of people all across the globe who are involved with processing of the fossil fuels in one way or the other.
Arguments Against Fossil Fuels
When fossil fuels are burned, a large amount of carbon dioxide is released. Carbon dioxide is considered as one of the greenhouse gases. In the atmosphere, it absorbs heat and contributes towards the green house effect. As the percentage of carbon in the atmosphere becomes high, it leads to elevation in the average temperature on the earth. This is known as global warming and it has several adverse effects on our environment.
Another toxic gas released by fossil fuels is sulfur dioxide, which reacts with the moisture present in air to produce sulfuric acid. This leads to acid rain which causes extensive damage to the living as well as nonliving matter on the earth.
The coal mines are full of various harmful gases and they pose a threat to the lives of thousands of miners working in them. Some of the by products obtained during processing of the fossil fuels are highly toxic too. Oil is often transported from one place to another by the means of sea route. During this time, oil spills occur on the ocean surface and that causes severe harm to the marine life.
Due to mining of the coalfields, landscapes spread over large areas is being destroyed and the land surface cannot be used for any other purpose. Search for newer location for oil reserves is a highly expensive process with a very low success rate. As a result, huge amount of money gets wasted in the process. Fossil fuels are non-renewable source of energy and are being used up very fast. As a result, there will be more demand and less supply of fossil fuels in future.
Depletion of these non-renewable sources of energy is taking place at a rapid pace because of the increasing demands of energy, with the modernization of our society. However, the time required for production of fossil fuels is millions of years. So, there is not enough scope to renew the sources. Therefore, it is high time that we start looking out for some renewable sources of energy that can be used as an alternative to fossil fuels.