Fossil Fuels: Meaning, Characteristics, Advantages and Disadvantages essay

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Fossil Fuels: Meaning, Characteristics, Advantages and Disadvantages

What are Fossil Fuels? – Meaning

A fossil fuel is a fuel derived from the remains of living organisms. Oil, coal and natural gas are the examples of fossil fuels.

Fossil fuels are natural fuels like coal or gas formed in the past periods through decomposition of material remains of living matter.

These fuels can be classified into three forms: natural gas, coal, and oil. The exact time of their formation is said to be before the age of dinosaurs.

The age fossil fuels were formed is referred to as the Carboniferous period, which is roughly about 286~360 million years ago. The places in which they were formed were swampy and full of green vegetation including algae. When these plants died, they sank all the way to the rock bottom and piled up to form spongy materials known as peat.

The spongy material (peat) got covered by clay, sand particles and numerous other minerals and hardened to form a sedimentary rock. As more rocked piled on it, the peat in the rock got squeezed out as a fluid that turned out to be fossil fuel. It’s this fossil fuel that humans use as coal, natural gas and oil. Since everything has a bright and dark side, let’s have a look at the advantages and disadvantages of fossil fuels.

Characteristic Features of Fossil Fuels

1. CombustibleFossil fuels are highly combustible in the presence of heat and oxygen.

2. Natural. Fossil fuels are formed naturally over millions of years by the pressure of rock and sediment on the bodies of plants and animals that died far back in the geological past.

3. AbundanceFossil fuels are abundant throughout the world. Russia is abundant in natural gas, for instance, whilst Saudi Arabia has an abundance of oil.

4. Limited. Its true that the supply of fossil fuels are in abundance. However, the supply of fossil fuels is not unlimited. The supply is limited as they take such a long time to form.

5. Concentrated energy. Fossil fuels are powerful sources of energy.

6. Composition. Fossil fuels are very carbon rich.

Abundance. Fossil fuels are abundant throughout the world. Russia is abundant in natural gas, for instance, whilst Saudi Arabia has an abundance of oil.Fossil fuels release a large quantity of CO2 into the atmosphere when burned.

Advantages of Fossil Fuels

1. A Vital source of energy: Fossil fuels are combustible which makes them valuable energy sources for domestic heating and cooking. They are also used to power vehicles and other gadgets that rely on fossil fuel energy.

2. Powerful sources of energy. Fossil fuels are powerful enough to generate heat, light and electrical energy for whole cities.

3. Their calorie value is high: Alternative energy sources are chosen depending on their calorific value. Fossil fuels are highly preferred as they have a high calorific value.

4. Usability. Fossil fuels are easy to use, as all that is needed is to burn them to generate energy.

5. They are very stable: Fossil fuels have carbon and hydrogen bonding and this makes them stable molecules that can be carried around. They can also be stored for longer periods without forming other compounds.

6. They are cheap sources of energy: Their availability and less costly production methods make fossil fuels cheaper energy alternatives.

7. Can be set up anywhere: Since setting up fossil fuel plants isn’t complicated, it is easier to have them set up in any place around the world.

8. Easy storage and transportation: This is attributed to their stable chemical composition that makes them easier to transport to other locations.

9. They are available in many places: Cheaper methods of production and extraction and the fact that their plants can be set anywhere makes them readily available.

10. They are reliable: In comparison to wind energy and a few others, you’ll find fossil fuels to be reliable.

11. Well-developed extraction and production techniques: The technology used to extract and refine fossil fuel is advanced and can be placed anywhere in the world.

12. Creates formal employment: Fossil fuel plants make use of human labor all the way from the extraction process, refining, transporting and selling.

Disadvantages of Fossil Fuels

1. Pose risks to the environment: Carbon emission is a serious topic in the world today. The Burning fossil fuel produces enough CO2. This leads to an increase in the greenhouse effect. As they are carbon rich and hydrocarbon based, fossil fuels contribute to the greenhouse effect. This is because when burned they release large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.

2. Fossil fuels cannot be renewed: The non-renewable nature of fossil fuels makes them hazardous.

3. Ecological imbalance: Coal mining results in the destruction of the ecosystem, and this disrupts the balance that nature provides.

4. Affects the health of miners: It’s not easy to extract coal; particularly when it’s in plenty as it’s a risky expedition.

5. Fossil fuels cause acid rain: Carbon dioxide emitted from fossil fuel plants combine with hydrogen in the air forming acid rain which corrodes roofs and kills plants.

6. Disrupts Marine Life: Fossil fuel spills contain toxins that interfere with the water composition hence disrupts the life of marine organisms.

7. Their ever fluctuating prices cause conflicts: Countries with huge deposits of fossil fuels control market prices. When they decide to hike the prices, feuds are bound to arise.

8. Aggravates our already polluted land: Pollution is a major topic and many humanitarian organizations have jumped in to try and curb the problem. Fossil fuel spills and carbon emission make the world a polluted habitat.

9. Unpleasant odors: Fossil fuels don’t smell nice and can lead to allergies in some individuals.

10. Fossil fuels are not safe: Wind and solar energy alternatives are safer compared to fossil fuels.


It’s essential to know all that surrounds fossil fuel in order to make better use of them. Learning about their disadvantages can help us know how we can benefit from them while making our environment a safer place to live in. Besides its harmful effect of the environment, we much use it wisely since only a limited supply of fossil fuels is available to us on earth.

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