and most used energy source across the entire world. They are used for everything from electricity generation to powering cars and trucks to heating our homes. Although alternatives to fossil fuels – such as solar, wind, or nuclear fission power – are beginning to be developed, we are still seeing an increase in the amount being used every single year¹. The effects of fossil fuels are well known, as is their effect on the environment. However, there are also a lot of good things related to their use and these are what big oil and coal companies use when they argue for the use of fossil fuels.
The pros of fossil fuels and fossil fuel use
They are efficient – Fossil fuels are super efficient compared to every other known energy source. Petroleum produces the most energy per mass of fuel (not including nuclear power, which obviously couldn’t be used to power your car!), and is therefore extremely useful. Unfortunately, no known renewable energies are even close to the efficiency of fossil fuels².
They are very common – Fossil fuels are everywhere. There are rich veins of coal, gas, and crude oil spread throughout the world. Once a vein has been tapped, huge amounts of fuel can be extracted from it, meaning that a lot of resources can be drawn from a relatively small area².
They are both cheap and reliable – Since fossil fuels are so efficient, and can be extracted from the earth in such large quantities, they are extremely cheap to use. This is one of the main reasons that renewable energy technologies aren’t more widely used throughout the world. When compared to energy sources such as wind or solar power, fossil fuels are extremely reliable. They aren’t affected by external environmental factors, and therefore are a much safer option for large power generation companies³.
They are easy – Electricity generation plants which are powered by fossil fuels are extremely easy to set up and maintain. They can produce huge amounts of energy in a single place, especially if the fuel source is nearby. Fossil fuels also create huge numbers of jobs due to the labour intensive extraction, transportation, and utilisation processes⁴.
The cons of fossil fuels and fossil fuel use
They hate the environment – This is the major point against fossil fuels, and has been the material of environmentalists throughout the world for decades. When they are burnt, fossil fuels release carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gases. These contribute to global warming and climate change, which in turn looks likely to change the world as we know it².
They aren’t renewable – There will come a point in time where the earth’s fossil fuel deposits will have been completely used up. When this happens, we will need to be able to transfer to some other form of energy generation, such as nuclear or renewables. We shouldn’t be investing time and money into extracting more fossil fuels and improving our extraction techniques. Rather, we need to focus on developing alternative – preferably renewable – forms of energy³.
Oil spills – Not only are fossil fuels harmful when burnt, but they can also cause huge environmental damage if spilled. Oil spills are one of the leading causes of marine disasters, and can cause the deaths of millions of birds, mammals, and fish every time they happen⁴.
They are becoming more and more expensive – As fossil fuels are becoming scarcer and harder to extract from the earth, more resources are needed to find them. This makes them more expensive, which may eventually lead to renewable energies becoming the cheapest⁴.