Fossil Fuels

Category: Ecology


Fossil fuels include oil, oil shale, coal, peat, natural gas, its hydrates, and other combustible minerals and substances that are extracted underground or by open way. Fossil fuels are originated from the fossilized recrements of dead plants in the process of decomposition in anaerobic conditions under heat and pressure in the earth's crust for millions of years. Coal and peat are fuels that are formed in the process of accumulation and decomposition of the remains of animals and plants. Fossil fuels are non-renewable natural resource, as they have been accumulating for millions of years. A number of alternative energy sources are widely used now. Hydro and nuclear power plants generate a significant portion of energy in the world. Solar panels, wind plants, and bio stations provide only a small part of the energy requirements, but everything can be changed in the future.

History and Use of Fossil Fuels

Judkins, Fulkerson and Sanghvi (1993) stated that fossil fuels were the main energy sources despite the fact that their use could change the environment on the Earth locally, regionally or even globally (14). More than 80% of oil and gas, which are currently being used, were formed in stratifications during the Mesozoic and Tertiary period between 180 and 30 million years ago from marine organisms that have been accumulated in the form of sediment on the sea floor. Coal was the first fossil fuel that was used by humans. It allowed making the industrial revolution that in turn encouraged the development of the coal industry, providing it with more modern technology. The age of coal deposits, which have been accumulated over millions of years, amounts to tens and hundreds of millions of years. Active coal utilization began less than 270 years ago. At the current rate of coal mining, coal reserves will last about 500 years. Grant (2004) argued that biomass energy did not have enough room for growth because of growing population.

Today, most of the fossil fuels are burned to produce electricity, hot water, and domestic heating. Long since, a man has used fossil coal, peat, and oil shale in economic activity. Natural gas was considered a by-product of oil production, but now it is becoming a valuable fossil natural resource. Furthermore, in the modern world, fossil fuels are used as motor fuel, lubricants, and raw materials for organic synthesis.

The Problem of Fossil Fuels

The problem of fossil fuel consists in the fact that it is not renewed. Its reserves are limited and will eventually be depleted. At the modern level of consumption, fossil fuels cannot be formed quickly to ensure people’s future energy needs. The problem deals not only with the use of fossil fuels in producing energy, but with the flip side of this process, which is the cause of all problems. The derivative of burning fossil fuels is carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas number one, which contributes to global warming (Judkins & Fulkerson & Sanghvi, 1993: 15). There is also a big threat to the existence of natural ecosystems due to the use and production of fossil fuels, especially coal and oil. Spilled oil actively ruins ecosystems and coal mining impoverishes their habitats (Blundel, n.d.). Caused social and political problems will affect opportunities for sustainable development. An environmental degradation may become irreversible. Thus, there is a real threat to civilization itself. It is needed to get rid of dependence on fossil fuels as an energy source. There is no choice but to start a new era of alternative, renewable energy.

Alternatives to Fossil Fuels

Supply and demand principle propounds that with the decrease of the reserves (and production decline) of hydrocarbon feedstock, fossil fuel prices will rise. Therefore, the inevitable rise in fuel prices will lead to the growth of alternative, renewable energy sources and supplies of previously uneconomic sources of fuel. Currently, artificial gasoline and other renewable energy sources require obtaining raw materials and expensive technologies of production and processing, as compared with the cost of conventional oil production. However, they can become economically viable in the energy development in the near future.

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Thus, various alternative energy sources include nuclear (fission and fusion), hydroelectric, solar, wind and geothermal power. Unlike fossil fuels, the energy of light, wind, water, plant and geothermal sources does not emit carbon dioxide, and thus does not lead to global warming. Total wind power capacity of the Earth is much greater than annual electricity consumption worldwide. During the operation of wind farms, there is no contamination of environment (Alternative energy, 2014). The few negative impacts are a low-frequency noise (buzz) of working windmills and the death of birds that fall into the engine blades. The World Ocean also contains a huge energy potential. It includes solar energy and the energy of gravitation of the moon and the sun that causes tides and low tides. Power is generated from water accounts about 20% of global energy production (Douglass, 2005). The Sun is considered to be the most powerful source of clean energy. Another solution of the issue of fossil fuels is burning of organic waste in special plants that provide a household warm. Grant (2004) considered nuclear fission as an established source of power. The only problem with it consists in the fact that fission can produce only electricity, not chemical feedstocks and mobile energy. Orloff states that alternative energy gives significant promise in future helping to decrease the level of toxins and preserve natural resources.

Use of Fossil Fuels and Their Alternatives in India

The United States, China, and India are the leaders in the development of alternative energy. India faces an acute energy deficit, which prevents its industrial growth and economic progress. Creating a new power is dependent on imports of fossil fuels. India is highly dependent on oil imports. Goswami (2013) emphasized that India had a high electricity consumption because of economic development and population growth. “India's present generation capacity is about 200,000 MW” (Goswami, 2013). Thus, it is important to address the energy crisis through rational use of sets of renewable energy such as biomass, solar, wind and geothermal energy. In addition to enhancing energy, renewable energy will help India in mitigating the effects of climate change. India is the only country that has “an exclusive ministry for renewable energy development, the ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources” (Meisen, 2006). India occupies an important place in the market of wind energy: both in terms of installed capacity (4th place in the world) and growth capacity. Solar power takes a little place in the country due to the high cost of technology, but India produces photovoltaic cells. India also develops the production of bioethanol. Biodiesel industry is still in its infanthood. The authorities encourage farmers to plant crops to produce it. India also has significant potential for geothermal energy. Alternative sources currently account for only 5% of its generating capacity. “India has a flourishing and largely indigenous nuclear power program and expects to have 14,600 MWe nuclear capacity on line by 2020. It aims to supply 25% of electricity from nuclear power by 2050” (“Nuclear power in India”, 2014). Current lack of energy is planned to complete by hydropower potential, solar energy, wind energy, nuclear power and biomass recycling.


The modern world faces the problem of using fossil fuels, since there is a threat of their disappearing. Therefore, it is crucial to find alternative sources that will be able to replace fossil fuels. Many countries have provided various forms of alternative energy. As India has faced energy deficit, it became a good example of successful attempts of providing alternative sources of energy.

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