The energy that we use to power our everyday lives is important, and just as important is the impact that fuel has on the world we live in. Fossil fuels are used to power many vital everyday utilities like cars and generators, and knowing how such fuels come about is pertinent to many people as a result. Whether or not fossil fuels are truly the most efficient or practical source of energy is a source of debate, but it can never hurt to know more about where the fuel that powers your car comes from.
Fossil fuels are a natural resource that originates in material leftover from long-dead and decayed plants and animals. Despite being called “fossil fuels,” these kinds of fuel are not literally made from fossils; most of them are, in fact, algae or other plant matter that accumulated in a swamp long ago.
Over the course of millennia, plant and animal life lived and died leaving their remains to accumulate in such a way as to later be buried and exposed to intense heat and pressure deep within the earth. Eventually, they are reduced to crude oil or a similar substance that can be refined into a fuel that is usable by humans.
Proper chemical definitions often refer to fossil fuels as hydrocarbons, which become increasingly energy-dense the more they are refined. As the name would suggest, hydrocarbons are made up exclusively of hydrogen and carbon atoms, making them a kind of organic chemical as they contain complex carbon chains. The gasoline used in your car is not a simple solution containing a single compound, either; it is a mixture of a couple of different kinds of hydrocarbons like octane, butane, and specific kinds of alkylates. While all of this knowledge is not strictly necessary for understanding the utility of modern gasoline, it certainly highlights the fact that your car’s fuel requires far more effort to produce than simply running crude oil through a filter and putting it in a car.
What all of this means for you, the end-user of fossil fuels, is that the industry that processes and supplies this energy to you in the form of a consumable liquid fuel requires an insane amount of oversight for a number of reasons and this could impact your day-to-day life in the future. Aside from the relatively obvious hazards that come with handling gasoline like flammability and toxicity, the carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels can have negative side effects on the environment that isn’t immediately obvious, like increased airplane turbulence. Combined with the fact that it is the opinion of industry professionals that burning too many fossil fuels would be a bad thing for the environment as a whole, it isn’t difficult to see why there are many people in favor of the development of renewable fuels despite the general reliance on nonrenewable energy. If you wish to stay informed of developments in the fossil fuel industry, there are sources like the Fossil Fuel website to help you stay on top of these sorts of issues.
The fossil fuel industry is nonetheless important to modern society, and there are limits to the usefulness of these fuels. The crude oil, coal, and natural gas that is used for energy is indeed finite and can be used up, and doing so may very well have adverse effects on the world we live in. Either through the better use of fossil fuels or the development of practical renewable energy sources we can avoid this, but making these improvements cannot happen overnight and require a lot of research and development.