What are Fossil Fuels?

For a considerable period of time, the world has been running on fossil fuels with mankind utilizing these old non-renewable resources to power transportation, machinery, and many other industries. Since these energy resources are starting to grow scarce, we have been trying to create new, more renewable sources of energy.

In addition, because fossil fuels took a huge number of years to be created by a long procedure – changing from plants into peat, which thus transformed into the powers we utilize today, there is no way to renew them. It isn’t feasible to try to create more fossil fuels and research attempting to create petroleum or coal in a lab through experimentation of plant matter hasn’t shown any feasible gains either. In light of this, humanity is in a bit of a crisis. We are trying to create new options to replace fossil fuels. But what exactly are fossil fuels? Here is a rundown of the three types:


This is one of the most commonly discussed types of fuel. We use oil to fuel our transportation, and create things such as asphalt and kerosene. In a process that takes hundreds to thousands of years, organic matter is broken down into kerogen which breaks into carbon and hydrogen atoms and surfaces as crude oil. There are several oil rich areas in the world, for instance the Middle East, and many wars have been fought over this non-renewable resource. The main problem is that because it takes so long for these fuels to form, there is no way to rely on them for our energy needs forever and we need to figure out a long term approach.

Natural Gas

Natural gas is mainly methane and other hydrocarbons, and this was formed millions of years ago in the same way as oil except that over millions of years they got converted into gas instead of oil. The gas is underground and can be extracted via different means and is processed in different plants. Examples of natural gas are propane and butane. Natural gas can be used for domestic and industrial heating, and has been used to fuel vehicles as well. Natural gas generally has fewer emissions than the other fossil fuels but nonetheless it still is a non-renewable resource and does have dangerous emissions.


Coal is mined from the earth and it looks like a black rock and it can be burned for energy. Essentially this is produced in the same way as the other fossil fuels – organic matter from plants and other living materials have fossilized and through a long process turned into the black, chunky rocks we know today. This is also a process which takes hundreds of thousands of years and is thus non-renewable. Coal is generally used in electrical power plants and powers many of our homes and businesses.

The Significance of Fossil Fuels

While it is important to understand what fossil fuels are because they currently power and will continue to provide energy to our world for quite some time, we also need to understand that these are a finite resource which will run out and that is why so much time and money is being invested into researching alternative sources of energy as well as into lowering our current energy usage. Alternate sources of energy such as solar power and wind power are generally much cleaner and more renewable. Also the world economy is very largely dependent on the management of fossil fuels and if there are problems with these resources, the economic backlash is felt all over the world and slowly decreases the quality of life for everyone on the planet. It is imperative that we can figure out a way to find other renewable ways of creating energy instead of relying on fossil fuels.