In most parts of the world, fossil fuels are the primary source of energy. But, is the use of fossil fuels safe? Let’s delve into some of the fossil fuels pros and cons.
Since time immemorial, human beings have used fossil fuels as the primary source of energy to run their everyday activities such as cooking, heating, lighting, and more. However, fossil fuels have several adverse effects on the environment. An in-depth look at the fossil fuels pros and cons will help us get a clear picture of this form of energy.
What Are Fossil Fuels?
When these organic materials settled underground, they got mixed up with sand, mud, and rocks and they turned into sedimentary rocks. These rocks converted to natural gas or crude oil after being exposed to pressure and heat in the earth’s crust.
Fossil fuel sustains the most significant energy demands around the world. Since the 1900s, the world demand for fossil fuels nearly doubles after every 20 years. However, it has numerous harmful effects on the climate and living species.
Uses of Fossil Fuels
- Most people wonder, “Why do we use fossil fuels instead of renewable energy?” Fossil fuels have numerous useful products compared to renewable energy. The products and the byproducts that are produced by fossil fuels are essential to our daily lives.
- Fossil fuel is used to power the engines of different vehicles in the land, air, and sea. Gasoline is the refined crude oil and is used to fuel cars. Coal produces heat in thermal power plants to generate electric power used in households, industrial and commercial establishments.
- If you burn fossil fuels, you can turn water into steam which spins the turbines that are used in generator operations.
- In homes, fossil fuel has many uses as well. Propane which is one of its products is found in the cooking gas. In winter and cold seasons, many households use gas, coal or propane heaters.
- After processing fossil fuels like petroleum, some portions are changed into lubricants, including petroleum jelly, hydraulic fluid, and motor oil. Fossil fuels also produce petrochemicals used in the manufacturing of polyester and plastic products.
- Plastics materials in our homes are used as containers, toilet seats, telephones, toys, and kitchen utensils, and more. Polyester, on the other hand, is useful in making clothing.
- Benzene, which is a crucial ingredient of dyes, solvents, and pesticides, is also part of fossil fuels extracts. In the medical and the pharmaceutical industry, fossil fuels have many uses, including making materials like plastics, bandages, computers, and even the life-saving devices such as the MRI scanners. There are over 6,000 items that come from petroleum.
With all these uses, can we say that fossil fuel is a necessary evil? Let’s dive into the vital fossil fuel pros and cons to find out:
Advantages of Fossil Fuels
1. Super-efficient Energy Sources
Fossil fuel is one of the most efficient sources of energy. The fuel generates massive energy even when used in small amounts. For example, a small amount of petroleum can fuel a big machine or vehicle.
While oil produces at least 45 billion energy joules per cubic meter, wind produces only seven energy joules per cubic meter at ten mph. Oil is over 6.4 billion times denser than wind, solar, and water energy. Therefore, a small quantities of oil can produce vast amounts of energy.
2. Useful Byproducts
Some of the useful byproducts of petroleum are plastics. Plastics have numerous uses on earth like in homes, schools and hospitals.
After oil extraction, it is separated into several groups to accomplish different purposes. While most of these groups are used for the production of energy, a few groups such as Naphtha are used to make plastics.
If there were no fossil fuels, then we couldn’t be able to make the numerous useful plastic products we use in our daily. Some of the most common things made from fossil fuels by products include shoes, soaps, toothpaste and clothing, and more.
3. Easier to Transport
Transporting fossil fuels is easy compared to carrying other sources of energy like wind, water, or solar power. With the ever-growing technology like that of underground pipes, transporting fossil fuels is very easy and safe. The tubes are usually laid underground and are used to transport oil or gas with ease.
4. Generates Thousands of Jobs
There are thousands of workers who work in the fossil fuels sector. Every year, this energy source generates hundreds of thousands of jobs around the world.
Fossil fuel is a significant economic force for different countries around the world. If we abandon the use of fossil fuel today, our economy could fall into a great depression because of unemployment
5. Easier to Set Up
Unlike most other renewable sources of energy that are dependent on the availability of the energy source, setting-up a fossil fuel plant anywhere in the world requires low infrastructure. For example, to set up a water energy plant, then you must be close enough to water bodies.
6. Readily Available
For an extended period, we have relied on the use of fossil fuels. Reason being, it has been readily available as several people are gathering oil and coal from different places around the world.
Different nations have invested heavily in this sector to get the coal and gases from the ground or under the sea. They have specially devised unique pieces of equipment to use in extraction, purification as well as transportation of the fuel. Therefore, it’s easier to find and use compared to other energy sources.
Disadvantages of Fossil Fuels
1. Environmental Degradation
Fossil fuels cause pollution of air which occurs after burning them. The release of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) results from the combustion of these fuels leading to environmental degradation.
The greenhouse gases are the primary cause of climate changes which is becoming a big problem affecting our planet today. Many places are the world is already experiencing the effects of climate changes such as the ever-rising sea level and the extreme weather patterns. If this persists, the consequences will be disastrous for all the living species.
Global warming has also been associated with acidic rainfall which is very dangerous to all living things. Therefore, fossil fuels are hazardous to the overall health of living creatures, and ending its use can save the planet.
2. Power Stations Require Lots of Reserves of Coal
Fossil fuels rely on power stations to produce energy. For the power stations to keep working, they require vast amounts of coal. Therefore, we need a lot of coal fuel in the power station.
Huge truckloads are used to transport coal if the power station is not near large deposits of coal. This requires a lot of power which can not only damage the earth but is also very expensive. In turn, fuel prices will keep rising, and the economy will suffer because of fuel shortage.
3. Health Complications
Fossil fuels combustion causes air pollution, which causes health complications. High-levels of air pollution results in premature deaths in children since it triggers asthma attacks and causes lung diseases.
A report by WHO, links at least seven million deaths of children to air pollution. People in high-risk are those living near places with high traffic jams.
Carbon dioxide emissions have also been associated with global warming and the destruction of the ozone layer. That leads to a change of climate and exposes living things to health complications. For example, high levels of radiation cause skin cancer.
4. Depletion Level is High
Unlike water, sun, and wind energy, fossil fuels are a finite source of energy. The levels of fossil fuels underground are depleting with each passing day.
In the next few centuries, we are going to have to depend on an alternative source of energy. The coal, gas, and petroleum reserves will be ultimately used up. It means we will not be able to fuel our cars, to cook or light our homes unless we get alternatives.
When transporting oil, there is a high likelihood of the oil spilling on the land and in the sea. Oil spills are disastrous to the living things both on the ground and in the sea.
In the sea, the fish can choke, and other animals such as seals and penguins can ingest the deadly fuel in one way or the other and cause deaths.
For example, the Horizon oil spill that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico released 4.9 million oil barrels into the Gulf of Mexico. It caused the death of countless animals which left a long-lasting impact in the region.
In the U.S. alone, there have been over 44 major oil spills since the 1970s. That has resulted in severe harm to aquatic life.
The impacts of these oil spills are immeasurable. They are one of the biggest marine disasters and cause millions of birds, fish, and mammals to die every time they occur.
6. High Levels of Water Usage
Water shortage is a common problem in most parts of the world. Fossil fuel power plants are contributing to this problem because they need vast amounts of water for cooling. A research conducted in the U.S. reveals that fossil fuels power plants consume over four times the water that all the water used in the homes in the U.S.
The long-term effect of this is the depletion of water resources, and the result is a lack of water. Lack of water can result in numerous problems, including a lack of proper sanitation that can increase the risk exposure to health problems.
7. Release of Harmful Waste Products
Since we don’t extract the 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 too 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.
8. Rising Costs
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 worlds 40% of fossil fuels, there is an increase in fear of war, lower output, strikes by trade unions that can lead to price fluctuations around the globe.
9. Exposes Risk to The Health of Coal-Mining Workers
Oil drilling and coal mining have costs 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 the 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.
Do you think it is beneficial to do away with fossil fuels? Give us your views in our comments area.