There is an ongoing debate on the different kinds of fuel. Today, we want to talk about the fossil fuels oil and gas. We will do so by exploring their pros and cons as we define the true advantage of oil and gas.
When it comes to energy sources, fossil fuels are still indubitably the most widely used energy sources globally. There are many different fossil fuels but the most largely used ones are natural gas, coal, and petroleum.
When most people turn their lights on at home or at work, or when they ride cars or motorbikes, they would be using fossil fuels.
In recent years there have been great advances in the exploration of new alternatives to fossil fuels. Unlike fossil fuels, which take millions of years to form, renewable sources of energy, like wind, solar, and hydropower are immediately available. But, we are still a very long way from replacing the usage of fossil fuel by renewable energy sources.
What Are Fossil Fuels?
There are essentially three fossil fuels: coal, petroleum (or oil), and natural gas. It is worth looking at each one of them separately because, although they are often lumped together they are, in fact, quite different.
Coal is the result of millions of years of vegetation being accumulated and altered. In order words, present-day coal is nothing but what remains of prehistoric vegetation. Coal is a great source of energy because of the solar energy that has been preserved in them. Solar energy is preserved by all living plans thanks to photosynthesis. When plants die any solar energy that they have stored is released. However, the vegetation that forms coal over millions of years after dying to keep much of that solar energy.
Petroleum is a mixture of different hydrocarbons, usually found under the surface of the earth. Petroleum is one of the most precious fossil fuels that are currently used. Petroleum includes de following different fractions:
- Natural gas.
- Fuel Oils.
- Lubricating oils.
- Paraffin wax.
The one thing in common between the different fossil fuels is that they are all the result of millions of years’ worth of decomposition of plants and animals. This means, among other things, is that these energy sources are finite. They all come with a “sell-by date” as it were. At some point, human beings will inevitably run out of fossil fuels. And this is one of the main reasons that the proponents of alternative energy sources deem essential that we find alternatives to fossil fuels as soon as possible.
But, the best to look at this issue is, to begin with by defining the pros and cons of using fossil fuels.
What Are The Pros of Fossil Fuels?
There are, in fact, many pros of using fossil fuels.
Fossil Fuel Pros:
- Systems are setup to process and utilize oil and gas
- Widely available around the globe
- low cost per unit energy
- Refineries, transportation, and plastics all rely heavily on oil and gas
- High energy output
- Employs millions of people globally
- The primary source of all plastics
Despite the undeniable fact that fossil fuels are finite, it is also true that there are massively available still. Thanks to advances in technology among other reasons, we are able to access fossil fuels more than ever before. There are many places around the world that are rich in fossil fuels.
Also fossil fuels such as oil and gas and relatively easy to find, particularly compared to some alternative energy sources. Most fossil fuels are close to the surface of the earth.
Their efficiency and ease of transport are also important pros that we should take into account. In terms of efficiency, fossil fuels generate huge amounts of energy. Even the smallest piece of coal can generate phenomenal amounts of energy. But apart from this, they are also relatively easy to transport.
No matter the place of origin, fossil fuels can be transported to any part of the planet with ease. You can see a contrast to alternative sources of energy such as wind or solar energy that can’t really be deployed except in nearby areas to where they originate.
Finally, an important pro is that fuel fossil power plants are easy to set up. So, anywhere fossil fuels are found, we are able to set up a plant to exploit it quickly enough.
What Are The Cons of Fossil Fuels?
But of course, there are also quite a few cons that should also be discussed.
Fossil Fuel Cons:
- Finite resource
- Large greenhouse gas emitter including CO2
- Progressively harder to find oil and gas deposits
- Global movement toward limiting oil and gas and using renewable energy sources
- Environmentally damaging, with potential catastrophic damage from large oil spills
- Produces smog which harms human health
The main con is probably the environmental consequences of using fossil fuels. The polluting effects of fossil fuels are widely known. Most scientists around the world argue that global warming is caused to a large extent by the burning of fossil fuels. These fuels are potentially very dangerous to our environment.
A related con is a direct impact this pollution has on human beings generally and, particularly, in children. Potentially mortal diseases such as asthma or lung cancer have been directly linked by scientists to the pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels. This problem particularly affects people living in large cities and other areas exposed to a lot of traffic.
When it comes to global warming, coal is the gorilla in the room. – Jeff Goodell
Another health-related issue is the danger that people who work in coal mines have to deal with on a daily basis. The ingestion of coal dust has been proved to have seriously negative effects on people’s health. Unfortunately, people who work in coal mines are bound to ingest this as they go about their work.
Another environmental problem is the potential or oil spills happening. When this happens, oceans get polluted and birds and sea life suffer and often die. Although protections are always in place and oil spills are not all that common, they still happen from time to time. And every time, there is an oil spill, the environmental impact can result in the death of hundreds of animals, at the very least.
As we pointed out earlier, even though there are plenty of reserves still available, fossil fuels are a finite source of energy. We will not be able to rely on these energy sources forever. At some point in the future, we will run out of them completely.
The final con is that as we rely more and more on these fuels and reserves become more scares, costs will go out. There are other factors that impact their costs and these are fairly unpredictable: war and other conflicts can also have an impact on prices and costs.
So, there are quite a few pros and cons to consider when discussing energy sources. And this is no exception when it comes to oil and gas.