"Oil and gas" redirects here. For other uses, see Oil and gas (disambiguation).
A fossil fuel is a fuel formed by natural processes, such as anaerobic decomposition of buried dead organisms, containing energy originating in ancient photosynthesis. The age of the organisms and their resulting fossil fuels is typically millions of years, and sometimes exceeds 650 million years. Fossil fuels contain high percentages of carbon and include petroleum, coal, and natural gas. Other commonly used derivatives include kerosene and propane. Fossil fuels range from volatile materials with low carbon to hydrogen ratios like methane, to liquids like petroleum, to nonvolatile materials composed of almost pure carbon, like anthracite coal. Methane can be found in hydrocarbon fields either alone, associated with oil, or in the form of methane clathrates.
The theory that fossil fuels formed from the fossilized remains of dead plants by exposure to heat and pressure in the Earth's crust over millions of years was first introduced by Georgius Agricola in 1556 and later by Mikhail Lomonosov in the 18th century.
The United States Energy Information Administration estimates that in 2007 the primary sources of energy consisted of petroleum 36.0%, coal 27.4%, natural gas 23.0%, amounting to an 86.4% share for fossil fuels in primary energy consumption in the world. Non-fossil sources in 2006 included nuclear 8.5%, hydroelectric 6.3%, and others (geothermal, solar, tidal, wind, wood, waste) amounting to 0.9%. World energy consumption was growing about 2.3% per year.
Although fossil fuels are continually being formed via natural processes, they are generally considered to be non-renewable resources because they take millions of years to form and the known viable reserves are being depleted much faster than new ones are being made.
The use of fossil fuels raises serious environmental concerns. The burning of fossil fuels produces around 21.3 billion tonnes (21.3 gigatonnes) of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year. It is estimated that natural processes can only absorb about half of that amount, so there is a net increase of 10.65 billion tonnes of atmospheric carbon dioxide per year. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that increases radiative forcing and contributes to global warming. A global movement towards the generation of renewable energy is underway to help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
Aquatic phytoplankton and zooplankton that died and sedimented in large quantities under anoxic conditions millions of years ago began forming petroleum and natural gas as a result of anaerobic decomposition. Over geological time this organicmatter, mixed with mud, became buried under further heavy layers of inorganic sediment. The resulting high levels of heat and pressure caused the organic matter to chemically alter, first into a waxy material known as kerogen which is found in oil shales, and then with more heat into liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons in a process known as catagenesis. Despite these heat driven transformations (which may increase the energy density compared to typical organic matter), the embedded energy is still photosynthetic in origin.
Terrestrial plants, on the other hand, tended to form coal and methane. Many of the coal fields date to the Carboniferous period of Earth's history. Terrestrial plants also form type III kerogen, a source of natural gas.
There is a wide range of organic, or hydrocarbon, compounds in any given fuel mixture. The specific mixture of hydrocarbons gives a fuel its characteristic properties, such as boiling point, melting point, density, viscosity, etc. Some fuels like natural gas, for instance, contain only very low boiling, gaseous components. Others such as gasoline or diesel contain much higher boiling components.
See also: Fossil fuel power plant
Fossil fuels are of great importance because they can be burned (oxidized to carbon dioxide and water), producing significant amounts of energy per unit mass. The use of coal as a fuel predates recorded history. Coal was used to run furnaces for the melting of metal ore. Semi-solid hydrocarbons from seeps were also burned in ancient times, but these materials were mostly used for waterproofing and embalming.
Commercial exploitation of petroleum began in the 19th century, largely to replace oils from animal sources (notably whale oil) for use in oil lamps.
Natural gas, once flared-off as an unneeded byproduct of petroleum production, is now considered a very valuable resource. Natural gas deposits are also the main source of the element helium.
Heavy crude oil, which is much more viscous than conventional crude oil, and tar sands, where bitumen is found mixed with sand and clay, began to become more important as sources of fossil fuel as of the early 2000s.Oil shale and similar materials are sedimentary rocks containing kerogen, a complex mixture of high-molecular weight organic compounds, which yield synthetic crude oil when heated (pyrolyzed). These materials had yet to be fully exploited commercially. With additional processing, they can be employed in lieu of other already established fossil fuel deposits. More recently, there has been disinvestment from exploitation of such resources due to their high carbon cost, relative to more easily processed reserves.
Prior to the latter half of the 18th century, windmills and watermills provided the energy needed for industry such as milling flour, sawing wood or pumping water, and burning wood or peat provided domestic heat. The widescale use of fossil fuels, coal at first and petroleum later, to fire steam engines enabled the Industrial Revolution. At the same time, gas lights using natural gas or coal gas were coming into wide use. The invention of the internal combustion engine and its use in automobiles and trucks greatly increased the demand for gasoline and diesel oil, both made from fossil fuels. Other forms of transportation, railways and aircraft, also required fossil fuels. The other major use for fossil fuels is in generating electricity and as feedstock for the petrochemical industry. Tar, a leftover of petroleum extraction, is used in construction of roads.
See also: Oil reserves
Levels of primary energy sources are the reserves in the ground. Flows are production of fossil fuels from these reserves. The most important part of primary energy sources are the carbon based fossil energy sources. Coal, oil, and natural gas provided 79.6% of primary energy production during 2002 (in million tonnes of oil equivalent (mtoe)) (34.9+23.5+21.2).
Levels (proved reserves) during 2005–2006
- Coal: 997,748 million short tonnes (905 billion metric tonnes), 4,416 billion barrels (702.1 km3) of oil equivalent
- Oil: 1,119 billion barrels (177.9 km3) to 1,317 billion barrels (209.4 km3)
- Natural gas: 6,183–6,381 trillion cubic feet (175–181 trillion cubic metres), 1,161 billion barrels (184.6×109 m3) of oil equivalent
Flows (daily production) during 2006
- Coal: 18,476,127 short tonnes (16,761,260 metric tonnes), 52,000,000 barrels (8,300,000 m3) of oil equivalent per day
- Oil: 84,000,000 barrels per day (13,400,000 m3/d)
- Natural gas: 104,435 billion cubic feet (2,963 billion cubic metres), 19,000,000 barrels (3,000,000 m3) of oil equivalent per day
Limits and alternatives
Main articles: Peak oil, Hubbert peak theory, Renewable energy, and Energy development
P. E. Hodgson, a Senior Research Fellow Emeritus in Physics at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, expects the world energy use is doubling every fourteen years and the need is increasing faster still and he insisted in 2008 that the world oil production, a main resource of fossil fuel, is expected to peak in ten years and thereafter fall.
The principle of supply and demand holds that as hydrocarbon supplies diminish, prices will rise. Therefore, higher prices will lead to increased alternative, renewable energy supplies as previously uneconomic sources become sufficiently economical to exploit. Artificial gasolines and other renewable energy sources currently require more expensive production and processing technologies than conventional petroleum reserves, but may become economically viable in the near future. Different alternative sources of energy include nuclear, hydroelectric, solar, wind, and geothermal.
One of the more promising energy alternatives is the use of inedible feed stocks and biomass for carbon dioxide capture as well as biofuel. While these processes are not without problems, they are currently in practice around the world. Biodiesels are being produced by several companies and source of great research at several universities. Some of the most common and promising processes of conversion of renewable lipids into usable fuels is through hydrotreating and decarboxylation.
Main article: Environmental impact of the energy industry
The United States holds less than 5% of the world's population, but due to large houses and private cars, uses more than 25% of the world's supply of fossil fuels. As the largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, CO2 from fossil fuel combustion, accounted for 80 percent of [its] weighted emissions in 1998. Combustion of fossil fuels also produces other air pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds and heavy metals.
According to Environment Canada:
"The electricity sector is unique among industrial sectors in its very large contribution to emissions associated with nearly all air issues. Electricity generation produces a large share of Canadian nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide emissions, which contribute to smog and acid rain and the formation of fine particulate matter. It is the largest uncontrolled industrial source of mercury emissions in Canada. Fossil fuel-fired electric power plants also emit carbon dioxide, which may contribute to climate change. In addition, the sector has significant impacts on water and habitat and species. In particular, hydropowerdams and transmission lines have significant effects on water and biodiversity."
According to U.S. Scientist Jerry Mahlman and USA Today: Mahlman, who crafted the IPCC language used to define levels of scientific certainty, says the new report will lay the blame at the feet of fossil fuels with "virtual certainty," meaning 99% sure. That's a significant jump from "likely," or 66% sure, in the group's last report in 2001, Mahlman says. His role in this year's effort involved spending two months reviewing the more than 1,600 pages of research that went into the new assessment.
Combustion of fossil fuels generates sulfuric, carbonic, and nitric acids, which fall to Earth as acid rain, impacting both natural areas and the built environment. Monuments and sculptures made from marble and limestone are particularly vulnerable, as the acids dissolve calcium carbonate.
Fossil fuels also contain radioactive materials, mainly uranium and thorium, which are released into the atmosphere. In 2000, about 12,000 tonnes of thorium and 5,000 tonnes of uranium were released worldwide from burning coal. It is estimated that during 1982, US coal burning released 155 times as much radioactivity into the atmosphere as the Three Mile Island accident.
Burning coal also generates large amounts of bottom ash and fly ash. These materials are used in a wide variety of applications, utilizing, for example, about 40% of the US production.
Harvesting, processing, and distributing fossil fuels can also create environmental concerns. Coal mining methods, particularly mountaintop removal and strip mining, have negative environmental impacts, and offshore oil drilling poses a hazard to aquatic organisms. Oil refineries also have negative environmental impacts, including air and water pollution. Transportation of coal requires the use of diesel-powered locomotives, while crude oil is typically transported by tanker ships, each of which requires the combustion of additional fossil fuels.
Environmental regulation uses a variety of approaches to limit these emissions, such as command-and-control (which mandates the amount of pollution or the technology used), economic incentives, or voluntary programs.
An example of such regulation in the USA is the "EPA is implementing policies to reduce airborne mercury emissions. Under regulations issued in 2005, coal-fired power plants will need to reduce their emissions by 70 percent by 2018.".
In economic terms, pollution from fossil fuels is regarded as a negative externality. Taxation is considered one way to make societal costs explicit, in order to 'internalize' the cost of pollution. This aims to make fossil fuels more expensive, thereby reducing their use and the amount of pollution associated with them, along with raising the funds necessary to counteract these factors.
According to Rodman D. Griffin, "The burning of coal and oil have saved inestimable amounts of time and labor while substantially raising living standards around the world". Although the use of fossil fuels may seem beneficial to our lives, this act is playing a role on global warming and it is said to be dangerous for the future.
Moreover, these environmental pollutions impacts on the human beings because its particles of the fossil fuel on the air cause negative health effects when inhaled by people. These health effects include premature death, acute respiratory illness, aggravated asthma, chronic bronchitis and decreased lung function. So, the poor, undernourished, very young and very old, and people with preexisting respiratory disease and other ill health, are more at risk.
Main articles: coal industry and petroleum industry
Further information: Fossil fuel exporters and Fossil fuels lobby
Europe spent €406 billion on importing fossil fuels in 2011 and €545 billion in 2012. This is around three times more than the cost of the Greek bailout up to 2013. In 2012 wind energy in Europe avoided €9.6 billion of fossil fuel costs. A 2014 report by the International Energy Agency said that the fossil fuels industry collects $550 billion a year in global government fossil fuel subsidies. This amount was $490 billion in 2014, but would have been $610 billion without agreements made in 2009.
A 2015 report studied 20 fossil fuel companies and found that, while highly profitable, the hidden economic cost to society was also large. The report spans the period 2008–2012 and notes that: "For all companies and all years, the economic cost to society of their CO2 emissions was greater than their after‐tax profit, with the single exception of ExxonMobil in 2008.":4 Pure coal companies fare even worse: "the economic cost to society exceeds total revenue in all years, with this cost varying between nearly $2 and nearly $9 per $1 of revenue.":5 In this case, total revenue includes "employment, taxes, supply purchases, and indirect employment.":4
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Pollution contributes to the harmful environment that results in adverse effect on living beings. It is one of the major concern areas for the whole world. It is a global issue involving the United Nations, governments, voluntary institutions and the media.
Students need to be made fully aware of the adverse effects of rising pollution. Also, being the future generation, they can play a vital role in controlling pollution if they are familiar with this threat to the survival of mankind.
Here we are providing you some useful articles on pollution under various categories according to varying words limits. You can choose any of them according to your need:
Article on Pollution 1 (300 words)
Anything added into the environment that results in producing harmful or poisonous effect on living things is called pollution. Pollution is the process that makes nature’s resources such as land, water, air or other parts of the environment unsafe or unsuitable to use. Pollution can be of many types: soil, air, water, thermal, radioactive, noise, and light. The toxins released are inhaled by each one of us while we breathe.
Pollution and its Causes
Inhaling poisonous air is as hazardous as smoking. It is not only the humans who are affected from this polluted environment but also the animals. Air is filled with highly toxic gases. These dangerous gases in environment are released by the power industries that burn fossil fuels, industries that dispose wastes in the water, farmers using pesticides, high usage of artificial lights and loud sounds, etc. Each of these leads to generation of the life threatening cause – pollution.
Any use of natural resources at a rate higher than the nature’s capacity to restore itself can result in pollution of air, water, and land. Other than human activities, there are a few periodic natural cycles that also result in release of dangerous stuff. Natural activities other than the human activities like volcanic eruption, dust wildfires, etc also result in creation of pollution.
Globalizationis another major cause of pollution. Globalization has become an effective facilitator of environmental degradation.
Every individual owns certain responsibility of maintaining few points such as not throwing garbage all around, growing trees, using public transport instead of their own, etc. We must shun excessive consumption and avoid careless and deliberate disposal of post-consumption waste resources which could otherwise be recycled and would led to pollution control.
Pollution cannot be reduced or controlled if a sense of responsibility towards our Mother Earth is not felt by all concerned.
Article on Pollution 2 (500 words)
Pollution is a process of making the environment dirty, unhealthy and unsuitable for humans and animals to live. It is caused due to the release of both tangible and intangible contaminants. These can be released naturally or by humans themselves accidentally or deliberately.
More than 200 million people are affected due to toxic pollutants. Due to pollution, there are few countries that have faced defected child birth and increase in mortality rate. Humans are regularly exposed to pollution when they inhale toxic air inside them.
Pollution can be controlled, if not eliminated. Efforts such as promoting green environment, proper disposal of waste, etc are simple steps that lead to great emphasis on maintaining the order of environment.
- Plant trees/cultivate garden to curb polluted air and release more oxygen.
- Switch off electricity-based equipments when not in use: lights, fans, machines, etc.
- Make high use of natural energy than electric energy: dry the clothes naturally.
- Use recyclable products, wherever possible.
- Avoid plastic bags and use paper bags.
- Avoid wastage of paper and use both the sides.
- Restrict usage of hazardous chemicals.
- Don’t overuse heaters and air conditioners.
- Use public transport to reduce noise, air and light pollution.
- Protect Mother Earth by not spilling oil, garbage, sewage water, etc at undesirable places.
- Stop burning of crackers during marriages, Diwali, etc.
- Don’t dispose off eatables, packaging in oceans, rivers, etc.
Pollution disturbs our ecosystem and the balance in the environment. By following the above simple points, we all can restrict pollution at our own level.
Each year millions of people die due to various diseases caused by pollution. The key to live a healthy life is to protect the environment from pollution.
The increase in the pollution level over the years by human and natural causes has caused severe damage to the earth’s ecosystem. Lifestyle, habitat, etc everything is being adversely affected. Though natural causes cannot be stopped, but human beings’ accidental and deliberate actions can easily be stopped which surely will result in the control of pollution generation.
Types of Pollution:
Major pollutions and their causes:
- Land Pollution – Wastes collated at Earth’s surface, garbage on roads, industrial debris, pesticides, insecticides, etc. Unwanted wastes lying and being decomposed release harmful gases and lead to pollution.
- Water Pollution – Wastes disposed of in rivers, oceans act as pollutant in water bodies. Raw sewage, oil spills, chemical refuse, etc create poisonous water and hence lead to water pollution.
- Air pollution – Burning of fossil fuels, release of gases from vehicles release mono-oxide, carbon-di-oxide, industrial pollution, nuclear radiations etc lead to air pollution.
- Noise Pollution – Vehicle horns, loud music, construction machinery sounds, and other human activities create noise. This affects humans and animals, their natural vegetation and create Noise Pollution.
- Thermal Pollution – Manufacturing activities lead to rise in the temperature of water and land. This affects marine and plant life. Such activities lead to thermal pollution.
Article on Pollution 3 (600 words)
Pollution today poses a major threat to the survival of the world we live in. Smoke or dust released in the air is the major type of pollution as it is extremely bad for the humans as it directly affects the lungs. Sewage, harmful content in drinking water is another major type of pollution that makes people unhealthy and ill because it contains disease-causing germs and viruses.
The environmental consequences of sudden rapid industrialization have resulted in various incidents of land, air and water resources sites being contaminated with toxic materials and other pollutants, threatening humans and ecosystems with serious health risks.
During manufacturing and construction activities every bit of natural resources is exploited to covert these into goods that fulfil the needs of the countries. A major cause for all the causes listed above is the manufacturing that leads to major types of pollution.
People living next to a building site where there is too much noise and construction activities rigorously going on tend to fall sick.
Pollution can be considered as direct or indirect change in any component of the biosphere that is harmful to the living components and in particular undesirable for humans, affecting adversely the industrial progress, cultural and natural assets or general environment of living society.
The biggest irony of all this is that even if we know that the earth is getting polluted, ultimately it is the human beings themselves who dig their own grave by doing deliberate activities because of which pollution is caused. It does not only spoil human beings’ health but also worsen their quality of life.
Role of the Government:
The Government has launched various pollution prevention policies and Acts that focus on preventing and controlling pollution by random means such as the following:
Adoption of clean and low waste technology, reusing and recycling, environment audit and pollution monitoring activities, reducing hazardous materials at source wherever feasible, promoting recycling of waste, etc.
There has also been a concept called “Pollution prevention approach” that seeks to increase the efficiency of a process reducing the amount of pollution generated at its source.
To give effect to the government policies, various steps have been initiated which include statutory stringent regulations, development of environmental standards, control of pollution generated through vehicles, spatial environmental planning including industrial estates and preparation of zoning atlas.
The policy statement for reduction of pollution lays emphasis on preventive aspects of pollution decline and promotion of technologies that help to reduce pollution.
Pollution control is a recent environmental concern. The Government in order to evade pollution has encouraged industries to regard ‘pollution’ as an economic problem and take reasonable actions to control the release of polluted/toxic/harmful gases at their end.
Few major pollution control measures undertaken by the government are:
- Implementation of waste minimization techniques and adoption of appropriate pollution control measures.
- Spreading awareness messages through programs on usage of cleaner technologies and pollution control.
- Assistance for sustainable development.
- Ban on usage of plastic bags, creation of paper bags.
- Creation of no-honking zones.
- Policy of creating industrial sites away from the city.
- Creation of garbage stacks so as to avoid littering on land.
In order to fight this life threatening effects of pollution, vigorous efforts should be made. Anti-pollution laws should be strictly implemented. In order to check water pollution, sewage and the factory wastes should be properly disposed off and vehicles should be made eco-friendly.
Environmental pollution is a global problem today. Public awareness is a must to prevent pollution. Population control will also help to save the world from environmental pollution. Scientific exploitation of natural resources is yet another step to prevent environmental pollution.
Article on Pollution 4 (800 words)
Pollution is an act of contaminating the environment by introducing certain hazardous contaminants that lead to disturbance of ecosystem and directly or indirectly affect the human beings, animals, plants of the ecosystem. Pollution causes the disturbance of the natural system and balance of environment.
Pollution is an undesirable change in the physical, chemical or biological characteristics of air, water and soil that may harmfully affect life or create potential health hazard of any living organism. Technological advancements done by humans are also one of the main reasons of pollution on the Earth.
Various types of pollution are caused, but mainly the following lead to life threatening and adverse effects on the humans:
- Air Pollution
The most dangerous and common type of pollution, caused by release of harmful gases in the air. It is majorly caused due to the direct release of chemicals into the environment by industries. The polluted air we breathe goes into our whole body and affects all the body systems mainly the respiratory functions.
Causes of Air Pollution: Burning of fuels, smoke from vehicles, fireworks, burning of woods, and release of hazardous chemicals or chemical gases from industries or factories.
Effects of Air Pollution: Air pollution causes life threatening diseases like asthma, cancer, bronchitis, lung disorder, and many more. Depletion of ozone layer is also a cause of air pollution.
Solutions to prevent Air Pollution: Conserve energy, stop fireworks, reduce-reuse-recycle, usage of energy efficient equipments, usage of public transport, etc.
- Soil Pollution
Release of harmful substances in soil is the major cause of contamination of soil. Soil pollution causes an indirect damage to humans and other animals. The nutrients taken by the plants are then transferred to the consumers that depend on these plants. Hence a soil consisting of contaminants will not only affect the plants growing on the soil but it will also indirectly harm the entire food chain.
Causes of Soil Pollution: Release of industrial wastes from large factories or industries, release of chemical wastes, agricultural chemicals, deforestation, use of pesticides, mining activities, burning of trees or plants, etc.
Effects of Soil Pollution: Soil pollution causes direct effect on plants growth, soil fertility, change in soil structure, toxic dusts, and chronic health problems to humans.
Solutions to prevent Soil Pollution: Reduce the use of plastics, reduce wastes, crop organic foods without using fertilizers and pesticides, use of biodegradable products, place liquid chemicals in the spill-proof containers, solid waste treatment, reuse and recycle things, etc.
- Water Pollution
Major part of the Earth’s surface is covered with water and more than half of the total population of the species reside in water. Water is one of the most important natural resources for humans and natural vegetation to survive. Water used from a polluted lake directly contaminates its user.
Causes of Water Pollution: Direct incorporation of hazardous pollutants, Disposal of wastes in water from factories and industries, garbage disposal by humans in rivers, etc.
Effect of Water Pollution: Water creatures are on the verge of extinction, drinking contaminated water causes serious health disorders, etc.
Solutions to prevent Water Pollution: Don’t throw waste or rubbish in the rivers, oceans, use water wisely, don’t throw oil, medicines, harmful liquids in the water, buy environmentally safe liquids for cleaning purpose, etc.
- Noise Pollution
Increase in noise level leads to Noise Pollution. It is not caused due to release of chemicals or toxins or hazardous gases but is just the loud noise generated in the environment. Noise is defined as the unpleasant sound that has an adverse effect on the human ear. Though the causes of this pollution are unlike others, but the effect of this pollution is as hazardous as other types of pollutions. It directly penetrates into human minds and leads to mental disorders as a major result.
Causes of Noise Pollution: Major cause is the honking of moving vehicles, loud music, running of machines at sites, radio, TV, etc.
Effect of Noise Pollution: Psychological illness, bad behaviour, irritation, hypertension, depression, forgetfulness, annoyance, stress, aggression and many more. It not only affects humans but also animals and many times lead to their cause of death due to unbearable level.
Solutions to prevent Noise Pollution: Obey the rule of no-honking until and unless necessary, construction of soundproof rooms for the heavy machines, no misuse of loudspeakers, growing trees along with roads are some of the ways to absorb sound.
With the rising rate of pollution over the years, there is a worrisome increase in the rate of human diseases, and death rate of humans, various animals and plants on earth. Though pollution is released both by natural and human activities, but majorly it is created due to human activities, which can easily be minimized to reduce the pollution rate.