Are there advantages to fossil fuels?
Fossil fuels have helped our civilization get to where it is today, we’ve used it 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 how to switch to clean energy here.
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 1/3 of the world’s power (largest consumers are China, India, and the US)
- 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?
A cheap source of energy
Fossil fuels are relatively cheap. It’s relatively easy to find and produce these fuels, and there was a huge supply. Plus, since fossil fuels have fueled our world for 250 years, there’s infrastructure in place to distribute it cheaply.
That is now changing. As the supplies dwindle, so the cost of finding new deposits goes up, and the expense involved in production skyrockets. Deeper wells and mines in more hostile environments equals more expensive energy – not to mention an even higher cost to the environment.
Fossil fuels are dependable – at the moment. There are plenty of coalfields and large – if declining – deposits of oil and gas and, as fracking demonstrates, research into extraction is becoming ever more advanced.
Previously regarded as almost infinite, we now understand that there is not a never-ending supply, and certainly not enough to fuel our growing population. However, the date scientists believe we will run out is far enough away that many in power don’t bother to worry about it.
Plastics have revolutionized the way we live. Look around you – how many plastic objects surround you now? You’re likely touching some form of plastic right now. Of course, plastics have their problems, especially when used as a single-use item and thrown out after use. Without fossil fuels, we would not have plastic, and it is still used today to make the majority of plastic products.
What are the disadvantages of using fossil fuels?
So now we know why they’re still in use, why are we so keen to replace them?
Fossil fuels are nonrenewable
Once you burn a gallon of oil, it’s gone for good – and fossil fuels will run out. It’s estimated we have just 100 years of coal production left, 50 years of crude oil, and 50 years of natural gas. That means this is a major problem for us, our children, and our grandchildren.
That’s why we help our customers switch to the benefits of clean energy – all Inspire employees and customers are striving to replace harmful energy sources with clean, renewable energy sources long before that happens. If you want to join our fight, click here.
Dangerous to produce
Mining is a potentially dangerous industry where tragic disasters can happen. Despite developments in machinery, there’s still a human element that can come at a huge cost.
Mining disasters aren’t a thing of the past, the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster in West Virginia in 2010 killed 29 men, the Sago Mine disaster in the same state just four years before cost 12 lives, the Kohistan mine collapse in Afghanistan just last year (2019) cost at least 30 lives. Miners won’t stop being buried in mine collapses or worse in mine fires until we make the switch to clean energy.
Refinery and oil rig explosions
Both oil and gas are volatile and flammable, and the instances of refineries and oil rigs exploding or occasions where fire breaks out are numerous. It is not just the damage caused or the risk to the lives of employees and firefighters, but also the danger of the noxious gases that are liable to be released.
It is estimated that the June 2019 fire at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery resulted in over 5000 pounds of the deadly gas hydrofluoric acid to be released into the air. There is no chance of this when we switch to clean energy.
Water pollution and oil spills
We often only hear about huge oil spill disasters, like the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska back in 1989, but small oil spills happen often. Crude oil kills almost everything it touches and can be devastating to local wildlife. The International Tankers Owners Pollution Federation estimates that between 1970 and 2016, spillages of oil totaled 5.73 million tons.
Water table poisoning from fracking
Fracking is a method of extraction that is incredibly harmful to the environment, but one serious worry is the pollution of our water table. It shouldn’t happen but can if proper precautions are not taken or if mistakes are made, and can poison our water supply.
Air pollution and smog
Smog is caused when sunlight reacts with nitrogen oxide and another volatile organic compound in the atmosphere. Nitrogen oxide is a key emission from vehicles, factories, and coal power plants. Volatile organic compounds are released from gasoline, paints and solvents.
The resulting photochemical smog is a health hazard all over the planet but particularly so in newly industrialized countries, believed to cause respiratory diseases like asthma and lung cancer. Making the switch to clean energy even on a personal level will help give the world’s cities cleaner air.
Acid rain is formed by a chemical reaction between sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides mixing with water, oxygen and other chemicals high in the atmosphere. The pollutants are mostly produced by fossil-fuel-burning power plants. Acid rain is a serious problem and damages trees, lakes, rivers, architecture, statues, crops, and wildlife.
Mercury is highly toxic and extremely damaging to the environment. A major contributor to mercury pollution is the combustion of coal. It is reckoned that coal-burning results in approximately 475,000kg of mercury being released into the atmosphere.
Global warming, or climate change, is still denied by some, but science almost unequivocally supports it. The major cause is the release of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. The burning of fossil fuels produces vast quantities of carbon dioxide and is a massive contributor to the growing problem that the world faces.
The burning of coal is thought to contribute 44% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Around the world, petrol (gasoline) alone is said to be responsible for a third of the carbon emissions. Though cleaner than both coal and crude oil, natural gas is responsible for around 20% of our carbon emissions.
Making the switch to clean energy sources will help you do a huge part in halting and reversing the effects of global warming.
Land use and the impact on wildlife
The process of finding, extracting, producing, and transporting fossil fuels has no thought for the local wildlife. In many parts of the world, if there are fossil fuels, everything else must move out of the way so it can be extracted.
Habitats are regularly destroyed, and massive scars are left upon the landscape produced by surface mines and other extraction methods.
Clean energy sources don’t bore down into the earth’s crust, or destroy habitats. The footprint of clean energy farms is no different to that of farming, and many forms can be done out 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?
Nonrenewable energy sources are unsustainable in our power-hungry modern world. They destroy the environment, both that we can see and that we can’t – imagine a world in which 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 on our health or the health of the planet simply because it’s easier not to think about it. Our customers spent 5 minutes making the switch to clean energy – come join us!
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 US, and infrastructure is growing fast to allow it to take on a far greater percentage.
The top producers of clean energy are:
Using the light and heat of the sun to produce electricity is a major player in the clean energy game and is ready to step up to help replace fossil fuels. Solar energy capacity increased by 94 GW in 2018, up 24% on the previous year, and is growing fast.
Using the internal heat of the planet as a power source is an exciting recent development, and small and large scale installations will make a real impact in the coming years.
The wind turbine has revolutionized electricity production throughout the world. The wind is free, and the operational costs are almost zero. From 2000 to 2015, capacity increased by a factor of 25 to 430,000 MW. By 2018 it stood at 546,388 MW, and with only 1 MW powering several hundred homes, more and more people are now able to use renewable energy.
Wind energy is currently a source of clean energy we purchase on behalf of our customers.
Hydroelectric is another fast-growing source of energy. Wave power is a more recent development, but an exhilarating one and may prove to play a major part in the move to renewable energy.
Frequently asked questions about fossil fuels
What are the disadvantages of using fossil fuels as an energy source?
Fossil fuels require the environment to be disfigured to be sourced and then cause climate change with the harmful gases that are emitted when they’re used. As if that’s not bad enough, they will run out within the next century or so.
Where does carbon dioxide come from?
Carbon dioxide is a by-product of many processes, from burning fossil fuels to the air we breathe out.
Why are fossil fuels bad?
Fossil fuels require disrupting the earth to source and produce harmful by-products.
What is the alternative to fossil fuels?
Clean, renewable energy. Types of alternative energy sources like wind and solar aren’t any more disruptive than farming or building and don’t produce harmful by-products.
Is renewable energy better than fossil fuels?
Yes! It doesn’t harm the environment, and we can continue producing it forever.
Why can’t we stop using fossil fuels?
We can, it’s just going to take time. There’s a lot of money in fossil fuels, and so consumers have to vote with their wallet and show energy companies they want clean energy. As clean energy infrastructure improves, it will start to take over the energy demand from fossil fuels, so we can phase it out of use.
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 disfigure 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. With us, in just 5 minutes, you can make the switch to clean energy.
Not sure if renewable energy is right for you? Read the latest Inspire Energy reviews to see how we've helped customers make the switch.