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Advantages and Disadvantages of Fossil Fuels

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Fossil Fuel

Fossil fuels have been an oldest source of energy for mankind. Fossil fuels, as its name suggest, were formed from the organic remains of prehistoric plants and animals which got buried under the earth’s surface millions of years ago. A major portion of world’s electric power is generated using them. Since 1900, the world’s consumption of fossil fuels has nearly doubled every 20 years.

The utilization of fossil fuels has enabled large-scale industrial development and largely supplanted water-driven mills, as well as the combustion of wood or peat for heat. The modern world greatly owes its technological and mechanical progress to fossil fuels. However, the irrational consumption of fossil fuels has led to several problems all over the world.

Though fossil fuels were present in abundance under the earth surface in three forms: Coal , Petroleum and Natural Gas, but over the last few decades, the over using of fossil fuels has led to diminishing their reserve.

Also, the burning of fossil fuels causes environmental pollution. This has been a major concern with the usage of fossil fuels worldwide. Many environmental protagonists think burning of fossil fuels posses’ serious threat to environment.

In this article, we have taken an overview of the various advantages and disadvantages of fossil fuels.

Advantages of Fossil Fuels

Due to their abundance and ease of using fossil fuels are far superior to any other method of generating electricity. The various advantages of using fossil fuels are :

  • High Calorific Value: Fossil Fuels have very high calorific value. Thus, burning 1 gm of fossil fuel releases tremendous amount of energy. Therefore the energy produced by fossil fuels is greater than that produced by an equivalent amount of other energy resource.
  • Ease of availability: The reservoirs of fossil fuels are pretty easy to locate with the help of advanced equipment and technology.
  • Lower Cost: Since fossil fuel like coal are found in abundance. They are used in most power plants as it reduces the production cost to a great extent. Petroleum is the most predominantly used form of fossil fuels for all types of vehicles.
  • Ease of Extraction: Fossil fuels are easier to extract and process, hence are cheaper than the non-conventional forms of energy like solar power.
  • Ease of Transportation: Transportation of fossil fuels that are in liquid or gaseous forms is very easy. They are simply transported through pipes.
  • Construction of power plants that work on fossil fuels is also easy. Power Plants that make use of fossil fuel can be constructed in almost any location. This is possible  as large quantities of fuel can be easily transported to the power plants.

Disadvantages of Fossil Fuels

Although fossil fuels have been preferred source of energy till now, but there over usage and other issues with burning of fossil fuels raises a question about the prolonged use of fossil fuels. Here are some disadvantages of Fossil fuels:

  • Diminishing Reserves: Although, oil, natural gas and coal are found in abundance in nature, the alarming rate at which they are being consumed has resulted in depletion of their reserves. Also, it takes millions of years for the hydrocarbon chains to form from organic remains. So it is impossible to replenish them.
  • Presence of GreenHouse Gases: The burning of fossil fuels release greenhouse gases, such as methane, carbon dioxide etc., which are capable of damaging the ozone layer.
  • Emissions of Harmful Gases: Harmful gases such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxides are produces sue to burning of fossil fuels. These gases are responsible for acid rain, which has spelled disaster for the ecology.
  • Ecological Imbalance: The zealous over-exploitation of fossil fuels has endangered the environmental balance in some areas. The hunt for newer reserves has led to the destruction of the natural habitat of certain flora and fauna. Also mass scale of coal mining has jeopardized the lives of several mine workers.
  • Rising Cost: The depletion of reservoirs has made the extraction of fossil fuels an expensive affair. The fuel prices are likely to rise in the near future.
  • Risks involves in transportation:  Leakage of some fossil fuels, such as natural gas, crude oil can lead to severe hazards. Hence, transportation of these fuels is very risky. The British Petroleum (BP) oil spill of 2010 in the Gulf area caused extensive damage to marine and wildlife habitats and to the Gulf’s fishing and tourism industries.
  • Global Warming: Fossil fuels have contributed in more than one way for global warming; this has led to many environmental activist and thinkers continuously opposing its usage.

Also Read about:

Coal Advantages and Disadvantages

Advantages of Biofuels


Rishi Srivastava

Rishi is a student of MBA in Power Management from Centre of Advance Management in Power Studies ,NPTI. He has over 3 years of experience in IT-consulting domain. His areas of interest include Renewable Energy, CDM, Demand- side management and rural electrification through off-grid/micro-grid.

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