The Advantages & Disadvantages of Fossil Fuels
Inspire Clean Energy
0 min read
category: Clean Energy 101
Fossil fuels have helped our civilization get to where it is today. We’ve used them to power our homes, factories, and vehicles, but that’s changing. As scientists have become aware of the damage fossil fuels have caused through pollution and climate change, we now know that the sooner we can give up fossil fuels, the better.
That’s why we are driving the change to clean, renewable energy. Our customers are passionate about protecting the environment from further harm. If you want to join us in our fight for a cleaner world, learn about changing energy plans.
What are fossil fuels?
You may have heard people joke about how fossil fuels are essentially dead dinosaurs, and that’s actually not too far from the truth! Fossil fuels are plant and animal matter that died millions of years ago and have then been subjected to heat and pressure over millions of years.
Fossil fuels come in three major groups:
- Coal – mined and fuels one-third of the world’s power (largest consumers are China, India, and the U.S.)
- Crude oil – pumped up through the earth and split through refining to produce different oils we use for fuel (like gasoline, diesel, kerosene, etc.)
- Natural gas – this is mainly methane found near oil deposits and caused the development of the controversial fracking process
What are the advantages of using fossil fuels?
So, if we know fossil fuels are bad for the environment, why are they still in use, and what are the advantages of fossil fuels?
What are the disadvantages of using fossil fuels?
So now we know why they’re still in use, but why are we so keen to replace them?
It's not necessary to bore down into the earth's crust or destroy habitats to access clean energy sources. The footprint of clean energy farms is no different from that of farming, and many forms can be done at sea. Plus, once a renewable energy farm has been set up, it can continue to be maintained in that location forever.
Do the advantages of fossil fuels outweigh the disadvantages?
In today's world, nonrenewable energy sources are unsustainable. They destroy the environment, both what we can see and what we can’t. imagine a world where people who live in cities don’t have to worry about the level of pollution when they walk outside. One where our energy does not come at a cost.
That’s the world we and our customers are committed to living in. We aren’t willing to compromise our health or the health of the planet simply because it’s easier not to think about it.
What alternatives are out there without the disadvantages?
Clean energy technology has come a long way in the last 20 years. It now produces approximately 11% of all energy in the U.S., and infrastructure is growing fast to allow it to take on a far greater percentage.
The top producers of clean energy are:
Frequently asked questions about fossil fuels:
What is coal?
Coal is a solid, carbon-rich rock that is classified into four types based on its carbon content: lignite, bituminous, sub-bituminous, and anthracite. Coal is a combustible sedimentary rock with a high carbon and hydrocarbon content. Coal is made up of the energy stored by plants that thrived in marshy forests hundreds of millions of years ago. Because coal takes so long to create, it is classified as a nonrenewable energy source.
Bituminous and sub-bituminous coal account for almost all the coal burning in the United States. However, regardless of its type, all coal is filthy and the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel we can burn in terms of emissions. Sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury, and particulate matter are all produced by burning coal, and they are all harmful to human and environmental health. Another dangerous coal waste product is coal ash, which is difficult to recycle and can pollute waterways. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the United States generates 130 million tons of coal ash per year.
What is crude oil?
Crude oil, often known as petroleum, is a liquid fossil fuel primarily comprised of hydrocarbons. Oil can be found in subsurface reservoirs, sedimentary rock fissures, crevices, pores, and tar sands on the surface. Crude oil is obtained by drilling or mining into the earth. Oil is then extracted and transported to refineries by tankers, trains, trucks, or pipelines, where it is processed into usable fuels like gasoline, propane, kerosene, jet fuel, and even liquids that are used to create household goods like plastics and paint.
Unfortunately, the extraction process causes a slew of environmental and health issues, namely air and water pollution. Oil combustion is a substantial source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 45 percent of all energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in the United States in 2020. In addition, pipelines, offshore drilling wells, and related equipment frequently leak, polluting oceans, marshes, freshwater sources, and other ecosystems.
What is natural gas?
Natural gas is classified as conventional or unconventional, depending on where it is found underground. Natural gas can be found in porous and permeable rock beds or mixed into oil reservoirs, and it is accessed using ordinary drilling techniques. Unconventional natural gas is any type of gas that is too difficult or expensive to recover through normal drilling, necessitating the use of a unique stimulation technique like fracking.
Since 2009, the United States has been the world's top producer of natural gas and the largest consumer of it, thanks to the invention and advancement of methods like fracking. Natural gas, which is abundant in the United States, provides about 30 percent of the country's energy demands and is the primary source of electricity.
Obtaining natural gas requires drilling, as it's collected from the earth. Fracking requires injecting high-pressure water, chemicals, and sand into a well, which cracks the rock, releasing natural gas. This method can be a drain on resources, as it requires anywhere from 1.5 million to 16 million gallons of water per well. Fracking also has the potential to harm nearby waterways, produce toxic wastewater, and induce earthquakes.
How do fossil fuels pollute the environment?
Because they are generated from the petrified, buried remains of plants and animals that existed millions of years ago, coal, crude oil, and natural gas are all considered fossil fuels. Fossil fuels have a high carbon content due to their origins. Using fossil fuels for energy has taken a huge toll on humans and the environment, as they contribute to air pollution, water pollution, and global warming.
Nitrogen pollution impacts not just the quality of the air we breathe, but the land and water as well. While nitrogen is the most abundant element in the air and is necessary for plant and animal life to survive, human activities that produce nitrogen—such as electric power generation, industrialization, transportation, and agriculture— disrupt the natural equilibrium of nitrogen in the ecosystem.
When fossil fuels are burned, nitrogen oxides are released into the atmosphere, contributing to smog and acid rain. Nitrogen oxides are the most prevalent nitrogen-related chemicals added to the air by human activity. The combustion of fossil fuels connected with the transportation industry accounts for most nitrogen oxides emitted in the U.S. as a result of human activity.
What are the benefits of replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy?
Replacing fossil fuels with environmentally friendly renewable energy offers significant benefits. Renewable energy sources like wind and solar take less of a toll on the environment and provide more usable energy than fossil fuels while also being more affordable. We still have a ways to go to encourage clean energy usage and reduce reliance on nonrenewable energy. But with the government's help and environmentally aware individuals, we can reduce fossil fuel usage and make the switch to renewable energy.
How much energy comes from fossil fuels, and can renewable energy replace it?
Most coal and fossil fuels came from millions of years ago. Petroleum products account for around 37 percent of total energy consumption in the United States, which is the largest consumer of transportation fuels. The United States has been on an upward trend for more than a decade, as a result of improving horizontal drilling techniques and increasing hydraulic fracturing output.
Despite the fact that the market share of natural gas has increased significantly in the last decade, renewable energy has grown at a quicker rate than any other fossil fuel. It's logical to expect that the United States will continue to invest in and expand renewable energy, where the percentage of renewables will take the share away from fossil fuels, and the country will lean more into clean energy for the foreseeable future.
How can businesses reduce pollution from fossil fuels?
Businesses can reduce pollution by implementing emissions management and reduction, boosting energy efficiency, and investing in renewable energy. Environmentally aware companies are creating annual greenhouse gas inventories and setting long-term emissions reduction objectives to better understand and control their greenhouse gas emissions.
Another way for businesses to reduce their emissions is by offering employees more flexible hours. Companies can reduce pollution with fewer cars on the road by allowing applicable employees to work from home. Cars emit a lot of pollution as commuters drive to work, which indirectly adds to a company's carbon footprint. By providing a flexible schedule where work-from-home days are encouraged whenever possible, the amount of pollution produced by employees due to commuting will be reduced.
How can individuals reduce pollution from fossil fuels?
Individuals can do their part to reduce pollution by conserving energy and minimizing vehicle miles. Acid rain, harmful greenhouse gases, and health concerns are all caused by air pollution from fossil fuel usage. Conserving energy is one key measure you can take to reduce airborne nutrient pollution. Turning off lights, computers, televisions, and other electrical equipment when not in use is one way to do this.
You can purchase energy-efficient appliances such as air-conditioners, heaters, refrigerators, and washing machines. Products and buildings that have earned the Energy Star label consume at least 10 percent less energy than normal models.
As previously stated, automobiles emit huge volumes of nitrogen oxide, which harm the environment. Consider minimizing the amount of time you drive, carpool, or take public transit to help reduce air pollution from cars. Think about walking or biking instead of driving whenever possible. And, as always, reduce, reuse, and recycle.
If you’re looking to make a positive impact on the planet, consider switching your home's electricity supply to Inspire. When you become an Inspire member, not only will you have access to 100 percent clean energy and help avoid carbon emissions, you will receive a predictable monthly price for your electricity supply to reduce bill volatility throughout the year. Just one year of accessing clean energy with Inspire can have an impact greater than seven years of recycling. And that’s not all—for every year you are an Inspire member, we'll provide clean energy solutions to one person in critical need through our Brighter World Project with GivePower.
Give up fossil fuels for good
Fossil fuels are a finite resource and need to be replaced as soon as possible to prevent further harm to the environment. Clean energy is the only way forward. Coal, oil, and gas pollute and harm the planet. If we want our children and their children to have a healthy world to live in, we have to invest in the new technologies that are clean, renewable, and safe.
It’s also never been easier to take control of your energy sources, and, unlike investing in an electric vehicle, switching your energy supply to Inspire doesn’t require thousands of dollars or the space to keep one. In just a few minutes, you can make the switch to clean energy with us.
Change energy plans today—the planet will thank you.
We are a renewable energy company passionate about empowering our customers to do the right thing for the environment, themselves, and their families. We want to make it easy and affordable to choose clean energy.
Don't worry about climate change— do something about it.
Our clean energy plans are the easiest way to reduce your home's carbon footprint.Switch to clean energy
Inspire Clean Energy—
We're on a mission to transform the way people access clean energy and accelerate a net-zero carbon future.Learn more about Inspire →