Why are fossil fuels so hard to quit?

We understand today that humanity’s use of fossil fuels is severely damaging our environment. Fossil fuels cause local pollution where they are produced and used, and their ongoing use is causing lasting harm to the climate of our entire planet. Nonetheless, meaningfully changing our ways has been very difficult.

But suddenly, the COVID-19 pandemic brought trade, travel, and consumer spending to a near-standstill. With billions of people recently under stay-at-home orders and economic activity plunging worldwide, the demand for and price of oil have fallen further and faster than ever before. Needless to say, oil markets have been in turmoil and producers around the world are suffering.

Some pundits are now asking if this crisis could be the push the world needs to move away from oil. One asked: “ Could the coronavirus crisis be the beginning of the end for the oil industry? ” Another: “ Will the coronavirus kill the oil industry and help save the climate? ” Meanwhile, 2020 annual greenhouse gas emissions are  forecast to decline  between 4 – 7% as a result of the virus’ effects, and some of the world’s smoggiest cities are currently enjoying clear skies.

The idea that the pandemic could ultimately help save the planet misses crucial points. First and foremost, damaging the world’s economy is not the way to deal with climate change. And in terms of oil, what will take its place? We haven’t found a good substitute for oil, in terms of its availability and fitness for purpose. Although the supply is finite, oil is plentiful and the technology to extract it continues to improve, making it ever-more economic to produce and use. The same is also largely true for natural gas.

Climate change is real and we see its effects clearly now: In 2019 worldwide, 15 extreme weather events , exacerbated by climate change, caused more than $1 billion in damage each. Four of these events each caused more than $10 billion in damage. The large-scale use of fossil fuels tops the list of factors contributing to climate change. But the concentrated energy that they provide has proven hard to replace. Why?

A reporter raised that very question to me after a press Q&A that I did at a conference a few years ago. “We know that oil contributes to climate change and other environmental problems — why do we still use it? Why don’t we just quit already?,” he asked me.

Until that moment, I hadn’t thought enough about how my experience and background give me a clearer view than many on the promise and challenge of moving to a cleaner energy system. I have gained a wide-angle view of the energy industry as I’ve moved through my career, working in government and in consulting — for both oil and gas and clean energy clients — and then moving into the think tank world.

fossil fuel Generated from the decomposition of ancient plant and animal matter over millions of years. Coal, oil, and natural gas are fossil fuels.

To deal with the challenge of climate change, we must start by understanding the fossil fuel system — namely how energy is produced and used. Although fossil fuel companies are politically powerful, in the United States and around the world, their lobbying prowess is not the key reason that their fuels dominate the global energy system. Likewise, the transition to an all-renewable energy system is not a simple task. But the politics of blame are popular, as we’ve seen during the 2020 election campaign and in light of recent lawsuits against fossil fuel companies. There is plenty of blame to go around, from fossil fuel companies that for years denied the problem to policymakers reluctant to enact the policies needed to force real change. It has been easier for everyone to stick with the status quo.

The world needs technology and strong policy to move in a new direction. Throughout history, humanity’s energy use has moved toward more concentrated, convenient, and flexible forms of energy. Understanding the advantages of today’s energy sources and the history of past transitions can help us understand how to move toward low-carbon energy sources. With greater understanding of the climate challenge, we are making huge strides in developing the technology we need to move toward a low-carbon future. Still, understanding how we got here and why the modern world was built on fossil fuels is crucial to understanding where we go from here.

Our energy comes from the sun, one way or another

In the pre-industrial age, solar energy met all of humanity’s energy needs. Plants convert solar energy into biomass through the process of photosynthesis. People burned this biomass for heat and light. Plants provided food for people and animals, which, in turn, used their muscle power to do work. Even as humans learned to smelt metals and make glass, they fueled the process with charcoal made from wood. Apart from photosynthesis, humans made some use of wind and water power, also ultimately fueled by the sun. Temperature differences in the atmosphere brought about by sunlight drive the wind, and the cycle of rainfall and flowing water also gets its energy from sunlight. But the sun is at the center of this system, and people could only use the energy that the sun provided in real time, mostly from plants.

biomass Plant material, including leaves, stalks, and woody mass. Biomass can be burned directly or processed to create biofuels , like ethanol.

This balance between human energy use and sunlight sounds like utopia, but as the human population grew and became more urban, the bio-based energy system brought problems. In England, wood became scarce in the 1500s and 1600s, since it was not only used for fuel, but also for building material. London, for instance, grew from 60,000 people in 1534 to 530,000 in 1696, and the price of firewood and lumber rose faster than any other commodity. The once lush forests of England were denuded.

In 1900, roughly 50,000 horses pulled cabs and buses around the streets of London, not including carts to transport goods. As you can imagine, this created an enormous amount of waste. As Lee Jackson writes in his book “ Dirty Old London ,” by the 1890s London’s immense horse population generated roughly 1,000 tons of dung per day. All this manure also attracted flies, which spread disease. The transportation system was literally making people sick. The pre-fossil era was not the utopia we envision.

Fossil fuels opened new doors for humanity. They formed from the transformation of ancient plants through pressure, temperature, and tens to hundreds of millions of years, essentially storing the sun’s energy over time. The resulting fuels freed humanity from its reliance on photosynthesis and current biomass production as its primary energy source. Instead, fossil fuels allowed the use of more energy than today’s photosynthesis could provide, since they represent a stored form of solar energy.

First coal, then oil and natural gas allowed rapid growth in industrial processes, agriculture, and transportation. The world today is unrecognizable from that of the early 19th century, before fossil fuels came into wide use. Human health and welfare have improved markedly, and the global population has increased from 1 billion in 1800 to almost 8 billion today. The fossil fuel energy system is the lifeblood of the modern economy. Fossil fuels powered the industrial revolution, pulled millions out of poverty, and shaped the modern world.

How energy density and convenience drove fossil fuel growth

The first big energy transition was from wood and charcoal to coal, beginning in the iron industry in the early 1700s. By 1900, coal was the primary industrial fuel, taking over from biomass to make up half the world’s fuel use. Coal has three times the energy density by weight of dry wood and is widely distributed throughout the world. Coal became the preferred fuel for ships and locomotives, allowing them to dedicate less space to fuel storage.

Oil was the next major energy source to emerge. Americans date the beginning of the oil era to the first commercial U.S. oil well in Pennsylvania in 1859, but oil was used and sold in modern-day Azerbaijan and other areas centuries earlier. Oil entered the market as a replacement for whale oil for lighting, with gasoline produced as a by-product of kerosene production. However, oil found its true calling in the transportation sector. The oil era really took off with the introduction of the Ford Model-T in 1908 and the boom in personal transportation after World War II. Oil overtook coal to become the world’s largest energy source in 1964.

Oil resources are not as extensively distributed worldwide as coal, but oil has crucial advantages. Fuels produced from oil are nearly ideal for transportation. They are energy-dense, averaging twice the energy content of coal, by weight. But more importantly, they are liquid rather than solid, allowing the development of the internal combustion engine that drives transportation today.

Different fuels carry different amounts of energy per unit of weight.  Fossil fuels are more energy dense than other sources. 

Oil changed the course of history. For example, the British and American navies switched from coal to oil prior to World War I, allowing their ships to go further than coal-fired German ships before refueling. Oil also allowed greater speed at sea and could be moved to boilers by pipe instead of manpower, both clear advantages. During World War II, the United States produced nearly two-thirds of the world’s oil, and its steady supply was crucial to the Allied victory. The German army’s blitzkrieg strategy became impossible when fuel supplies could not keep up, and a lack of fuel took a toll on the Japanese navy.

Natural gas, a fossil fuel that occurs in gaseous form, can be found in underground deposits on its own, but is often present underground with oil. Gas produced with oil was often wasted in the early days of the oil industry, and an old industry saying was that looking for oil and finding gas instead was a quick way to get fired. In more recent times, natural gas has become valued for its clean, even combustion and its usefulness as a feedstock for industrial processes. Nonetheless, because it is in a gaseous form, it requires specific infrastructure to reach customers, and natural gas is still wasted in areas where that infrastructure doesn’t exist.

A final key development in world energy use was the emergence of electricity in the 20th century. Electricity is not an energy source like coal or oil, but a method for delivering and using energy. Electricity is very efficient, flexible, clean, and quiet at the point of use. Like oil, electricity’s first use was in lighting, but the development of the induction motor allowed electricity to be efficiently converted to mechanical energy, powering everything from industrial processes to household appliances and vehicles.

Over the 20th century, the energy system transformed from one in which fossil energy was used directly into one in which an important portion of fossil fuels are used to generate electricity. The proportion used in electricity generation varies by fuel. Because oil — an energy-dense liquid — is so fit-for-purpose in transport, little of it goes to electricity; in contrast, roughly 63% of coal produced worldwide is used to generate electricity. Methods of generating electricity that don’t rely on fossil fuels, like nuclear and hydroelectric generation, are also important parts of the system in many areas. However, fossil fuels are still the backbone of the electricity system, generating 64% of today’s global supply.

Fossil fuels still dominate global electricity generation.

In sum, the story of energy transitions through history has not just been about moving away from current solar flows and toward fossil fuels. It has also been a constant move toward fuels that are more energy-dense and convenient to use than the fuels they replaced. Greater energy density means that a smaller weight or volume of fuel is needed to do the job. Liquid fuels made from oil combine energy density with the ability to flow or be moved by pumps, an advantage that opened up new technologies, especially in transportation. And electricity is a very flexible way of consuming energy, useful for many applications.

Back to the future – the return of the solar era

Fossil fuels allowed us to move away from relying on today’s solar flows, instead using concentrated solar energy stored over millions of years. Before we could make efficient use of solar flows, this seemed like a great idea.

carbon dioxide Carbon dioxide is gas released when carbon-containing fuels (biomass or fossil fuels) are burned. Carbon dioxide is the most important gas contributing to climate change.

However, the advantages of fossil fuels come with a devastating downside. We now understand that the release of carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) from burning fossil fuels is warming our planet faster than anything we have seen in the geological record. One of the greatest challenges facing humanity today is slowing this warming before it changes our world beyond recognition.

Now that there are almost eight billion of us, we clearly see the impact of rising CO 2 concentrations. Going back to the old days of relying mostly on biomass for our energy needs is clearly not a solution. Nonetheless, we need to find a way to get back to reliance on real-time solar flows (and perhaps nuclear energy) to meet our needs. There are so many more of us now, interacting via a vastly larger and more integrated global economy, and using much more energy. But we also have technologies today that are much more efficient than photosynthesis at transforming solar flows to useful energy.

Since 1900, global population and economic activity have skyrocketed, along with fossil fuel consumption.

Unfortunately, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, the most consequential greenhouse gas, has steadily climbed at the same time, along with global average temperature. .

The earth gets plenty of energy from the sun for all of us, even for our modern energy-intensive lives. The amount of solar energy that reaches habitable land is more than 1,000 times the amount of fossil fuel energy extracted globally per year. The problem is that this energy is diffuse. The sun that warms your face is definitely providing energy, but you need to concentrate that energy to heat your home or move a vehicle.

renewable energy Renewable energy is from a source that is naturally replenished. (Ex: capturing wind using turbines or sunlight using solar cells does not change the amount of wind or sunlight that is available for future use.)

This is where modern technology comes in. Wind turbines and solar photovoltaic (PV) cells convert solar energy flows into electricity, in a process much more efficient than burning biomass, the pre-industrial way of capturing solar energy. Costs for wind and solar PV have been dropping rapidly and they are now mainstream, cost-effective technologies. Some existing forms of generating electricity, mainly nuclear and hydroelectricity, also don’t result in CO 2 emissions. Combining new renewables with these existing sources represents an opportunity to decarbonize — or eliminate CO 2 emissions from — the electricity sector. Electricity generation is an important source of emissions, responsible for 27% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2018.

However, unlike fossil fuels, wind and solar can only generate electricity when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining. This is an engineering challenge, since the power grid operates in real time: Power is generated and consumed simultaneously, with generation varying to keep the system in balance.

greenhouse gas A gas that traps heat in the earth’s atmosphere, including carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, and nitrous oxides.

Engineering challenges beget engineering solutions, and a number of solutions can help. Power grids that cover a larger area are easier to balance, given that if it isn’t windy or sunny in one location, it may be somewhere else. Demand-response strategies can encourage customers with flexibility in their processes to use more power when renewable power is available and to cut back when it isn’t. Power storage technologies can save excess electricity to be used later. Hydroelectric dams can serve this function now, and declining costs will make batteries more economic for power storage on the grid. Storage solutions work well over a timeframe of hours — storing solar power to use in the evening, for example. But longer-term storage poses a greater challenge. Perhaps excess electricity can be used to create hydrogen or other fuels that can be stored and used at a later time. Finally, fossil fuel generation often fills in the gaps in renewable generation today, especially natural gas generation, which can be efficiently ramped up and down to meet demand.

Transforming solar energy flow into electricity is a clear place to start in creating a decarbonized energy system. A simple formula is to decarbonize the electricity sector and electrify all the energy uses we can. Many important processes can be electrified — especially stationary uses, like in buildings and many industrial processes. To deal with climate change, this formula is the low-hanging fruit.

The two parts of this formula must proceed together. A shiny new electric vehicle in the driveway signals your concern about the environment to your neighbors, but achieving its full potential benefit also requires a greener power system. For today’s power system in the United States, and nearly everywhere in the world, electric vehicles provide emissions benefits , but the extent of those benefits varies greatly by location. Achieving the full potential benefit of electric vehicles would require a grid that supplies all renewable or zero-carbon power, something that no area in the United States consistently achieves today.

Wind and solar power aren’t everything – the remaining challenges

“Electrify everything” is a great plan, so far as it goes, but not everything can be easily electrified. Certain qualities of fossil fuels are difficult to replicate, such as their energy density and their ability to provide very high heat. To decarbonize processes that rely on these qualities, you need low-carbon fuels that mimic the qualities of fossil fuels.

The energy density of fossil fuels is particularly important in the transportation sector. A vehicle needs to carry its fuel around as it travels, so the weight and volume of that fuel are key. Electric vehicles are a much-touted solution for replacing oil, but they are not perfect for all uses. Pound for pound, gasoline or diesel fuel contain about 40 times as much energy as a state-of-the-art battery. On the other hand, electric motors are much more efficient than internal combustion engines and electric vehicles are simpler mechanically, with many fewer moving parts. These advantages make up for some of the battery’s weight penalty, but an electric vehicle will still be heavier than a similar vehicle running on fossil fuel. For vehicles that carry light loads and can refuel often, like passenger cars, this penalty isn’t a big deal. But for aviation, maritime shipping, or long-haul trucking, where the vehicle must carry heavy loads for long distances without refueling, the difference in energy density between fossil fuels and batteries is a huge challenge, and electric vehicles just don’t meet the need.


Gasoline carries much more energy per unit of weight than a battery. a gas-powered car with a 12.4-gallon tank carries 77.5 pounds of gasoline., a 77.5-pound battery, in contrast, would only carry an electric car 21 miles., an electric car with a range of 360 miles would need a 1,334 pound battery., weight of vehicle, despite the weight of the battery, other components of electric vehicles are lighter and simpler than their counterparts in a gasoline car. thus, the overall weight penalty for electric vehicles isn’t as severe as the weight penalty for the battery alone. .

Industrial processes that need very high heat — such as the production of steel, cement, and glass — pose another challenge. Steel blast furnaces operate at about 1,100° C, and cement kilns operate at about 1,400° C. These very high temperatures are hard to achieve without burning a fuel and are thus difficult to power with electricity.

Renewable electricity can’t solve the emissions problem for processes that can’t run on electricity. For these processes, the world needs zero-carbon fuels that mimic the properties of fossil fuels — energy-dense fuels that can be burned. A number of options exist, but they each have pros and cons and generally need more work to be commercially and environmentally viable.

Biofuels are a possibility, since the carbon released when the biofuel is burned is the same carbon taken up as the plant grew. However, the processing required to turn plants into usable fuels consumes energy, and this results in CO 2 emissions, meaning that biofuels are not zero-carbon unless the entire process runs on renewable or zero-carbon energy. For example, the corn ethanol blended into gasoline in the United States averages only 39% lower CO 2 emissions than the gasoline it replaces, given the emissions that occur from transporting the corn to processing facilities and converting it to fuel. Biofuels also compete for arable land with food production and conservation uses, such as for recreation or fish and wildlife, which gets more challenging as biofuel production increases. Fuels made from crop waste or municipal waste can be better, in terms of land use and carbon emissions, but supply of these wastes is limited and the technology needs improvement to be cost-effective.

Another pathway is to convert renewable electricity into a combustible fuel. Hydrogen can be produced by using renewable electricity to split water atoms into their hydrogen and oxygen components. The hydrogen could then be burned as a zero-carbon fuel, similar to the way natural gas is used today. Electricity, CO 2 , and hydrogen could be also combined to produce liquid fuels to replace diesel and jet fuel. However, when we split water atoms or create liquid fuels from scratch, the laws of thermodynamics are not in our favor. These processes use electricity to, in effect, run the combustion process backwards, and thus use large amounts of energy. Since these processes would use vast amounts of renewable power, they only make sense in applications where electricity cannot be used directly.

Carbon capture and storage or use is a final possibility for stationary applications like heavy industry. Fossil fuels would still be burned and create CO 2 , but it would be captured instead of released into the atmosphere. Processes under development envision removing CO 2 from ambient air. In either case, the CO 2 would then be injected deep underground or used in an industrial process.

The most common use for captured CO 2 today is in enhanced oil recovery, where pressurized CO 2 is injected into an oil reservoir to squeeze out more oil. The idea of capturing CO 2 and using it to produce more fossil fuel seems backwards — does that really reduce emissions overall? But studies show that the captured CO 2 stays in the oil reservoir permanently when it is injected in this way. And if enough CO 2 is injected during oil production, it might make up for the combustion emissions of the produced oil, or even result in overall negative emissions. This won’t be a panacea for all oil use, but could make oil use feasible in those applications, like aviation, where it is very hard to replace.

Carbon capture is today the cheapest way to deal with emissions from heavy industries that require combustion. It has the advantage that it can also capture CO 2 emissions that come from the process itself, rather than from fuel combustion, as occurs in cement production when limestone is heated to produce a component of cement with CO 2 as a by-product.

When considering how carbon capture might contribute to climate change mitigation, we have to remember that fossil fuels are not the ultimate cause of the problem — CO 2 emissions are. If maintaining some fossil fuel use with carbon capture is the easiest way to deal with certain sources of emissions, that’s still solving the fundamental problem.

Our biggest challenges are political

Science clearly tells us that we need to remake our energy system and eliminate CO 2 emissions. However, in addition to the engineering challenges, the nature of climate change makes it politically challenging to deal with as well. Minimizing the impact of climate change requires re-making a multi-trillion-dollar industry that lies at the center of the economy and people’s lives. Reducing humanity’s reliance on fossil fuels requires investments here and now that provide uncertain, long-term benefits. These decisions are particularly difficult for politicians, who tend to focus on policies with immediate, local benefits that voters can see. Last year The New York Times asked , for instance, “whether any climate policy is both big enough to matter and popular enough to happen.” Durable climate policy requires securing buy-in from a range of actors, including politicians from both parties, business leaders, and civil society. Their perspectives inevitably differ, and the lack of consensus — combined with very real efforts to exert pressure on the policymaking process — is a key reason that climate action is so politically difficult. (To try your hand at navigating the policy dilemmas, play our — admittedly simplified! — game below: “A president’s climate quandary.”)

In the United States and other parts of the wealthy world, current efforts focus on reducing the greenhouse gas emissions from our energy-intensive lives. But the second part of today’s energy challenge is providing modern energy to the billion people in the developing world that don’t currently have it. You don’t hear as much about the second goal in the public discourse about climate change, but it’s crucial that developing countries follow a cleaner path than the developed world did. The need to provide both cleaner energy and more energy for developing countries magnifies the challenge, but a solution that leaves out the developing world is no solution at all.

Plentiful and inexpensive fossil fuels make transitioning away from them more difficult. Around 15 years ago, pundits were focused on “peak oil” — the idea that the world was running out of oil, or at least inexpensive oil, and that a reckoning was coming. Events of the past decade have proven that theory wrong. Instead of declining oil production and rising prices, we’ve seen the opposite, nowhere more than here in the United States. Technology has brought about a boom in oil production; geologists long knew the resources were there, but did not know how to make money producing them. There’s no reason to expect this trend to slow down anytime soon. In other words, running out of oil will not save us. The world will need to transition away from oil and other fossil fuels while they are abundant and inexpensive — not an easy task.

To achieve this technically and politically challenging transition, we need to avoid one-dimensional solutions. My own thoughts about how we need to deal with climate change have certainly evolved over time, as we understand the climate system better and as time passes with emissions still increasing. As an example, I used to be skeptical of the idea of carbon capture, either from industrial processes or directly from the air. The engineer in me just couldn’t see using such an energy-hungry process to capture emissions. I’ve changed my mind, with a greater understanding of processes that will be hard to decarbonize any other way.

The accumulation of CO 2 in the atmosphere is like putting air into a balloon. It’s a cumulative system: We’re continually adding to the total concentration of a substance that may last in the atmosphere for up to 200 years. We don’t know when the effects of warming will become overwhelming, but we do know that the system will become stretched and compromised — experiencing more negative effects — as the balloon fills. The cumulative nature of the climate system means that we need more stringent measures the longer that we wait. In other words: Sooner action is better. We need to take action now where it’s easiest, in the electricity and light vehicle sectors, and in making new buildings extremely energy efficient. Other sectors need more technology, like heavy transport and industry, or will take a long time, like improving our existing stock of buildings.

Those pushing to end fossil fuel production now are missing the point that fossil fuels will still be needed for some time in certain sectors. Eliminating unpopular energy sources or technologies, like nuclear or carbon capture, from the conversation is short-sighted. Renewable electricity generation alone won’t get us there — this is an all-technologies-on-deck problem. I fear that magical thinking and purity tests are taking hold in parts of the left end of the American political spectrum, while parts of the political right are guilty of outright denialism around the climate problem. In the face of such stark polarization, the focus on practical solutions can get lost — and practicality and ingenuity are the renewable resources humanity needs to meet the climate challenge.

Correction: An earlier version of a graphic in this piece mistakenly indicated that renewables comprise 0.6% of global electricity generation. It has been corrected to 9.3%.

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Earth and Human

9 Pros and Cons of Fossil Fuels

Nina Howell

Fossil fuels are the leading energy source today. It is used for various purposes, from electricity generation to heating homes and to power cars and trucks.

Although other alternatives of energy are being developed, such as wind, solar, and nuclear, fossil fuels remain the number one choice for their cost-effectiveness and reliability. Thus, the amount has been increasing each year.

However, fossil fuels are not free of drawbacks. Here, we will discuss fossil fuels along with the pros and cons of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are natural resources such as coal, oil, gasoline, diesel fuel, and natural gas.

These energy resources have powered over half of the planet for centuries. Still, they have left severe environmental impacts, too, including air and water pollution, environmental degradation, and global warming .

These non-renewable fossil fuels supply about 80 percent of the world’s energy. They provide electricity, heat, and transportation while feeding the processes that make a massive range of products, from steel to plastics.

Fossil fuels such as natural gas, oil, and coal are used as primary energy sources in different parts of the world.

Even if we are aware of the fact that they are one of the primary causes of creating pollution and global warming, people are still relying on this source of energy.

Moreover, in developing countries, coal is considered the best fuel for electricity and heat production. It is used on a large scale because it is an affordable energy source that helps get the facilities and increase the economic level.

However, fossil fuels have several adverse effects on the environment. An in-depth look at fossil fuels’ pros and cons will help us get a clear picture of this form of energy.

Table of Contents

Pros of Fossil Fuels

1. affordable.

Fossil fuels are currently one of the most affordable and cheapest forms of energy in comparison with other sources of energy.

Fossil fuels have been widely used over the last 200 years. A lot of resources, money, and time have been spent on research.

The advanced technological system has made extracting and using them easier in the most cost-effective and efficient ways, like systems that harness natural gas given off during oil extraction.

2. Reliable

Fossil fuels are a natural energy source that does not rely on other natural systems like solar, wind, and water.

Countries like Germany and UK have a large amount of solar infrastructure, but only 60 percent of the days are sunny.

It is a fact that when fossil fuels are burned, it produces harmful gases like carbon dioxide that harm the environment and human health.

Fossil fuels are a reliable energy source that can be used around the clock in any condition. It can provide power even in a disaster or emergency situation.

3. Easy to Transport

Fossil fuels are relatively easier than transporting renewable sources of energy, such as wind, sun, and water, which are pretty impossible as well. It is easier to supply fuels through the help of pipelines.

These pipes are easily laid underground and can transport gas or oil with ease. Although it can be quite expensive at first, once the work is completed, the cost decreases drastically. Therefore, fossil fuels are a relatively cheap, effective, and reliable source of energy.

4. Employment Generation

There is no doubt that fossil fuel industries have created hundreds and thousands of job opportunities for many people. Every year it creates new employment opportunities. So, abandoning the use of fossil fuels will affect the world economy and also leads to high levels of unemployment that would affect the family and country’s income source.

Cons of Fossil Fuels

1. non-renewable.

Fossil fuels are a natural gift from the Earth, which take millions of years to form with the help of natural processes such as the anaerobic decomposition of organic matter. So, it is a non-renewable source of energy, which means there is only a finite amount of fuels available.

Unlike renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, it takes a long time to form, and once it is completely used up, then there will be nothing more left to use it again.

2. Environmental Degradation

The main disadvantage of using fossil fuels is that it creates pollution and increases global warming. Fossil fuels are responsible for causing air pollution, land pollution, and water pollution on the planet.

The burning of fossil fuels produces a high amount of carbon dioxide and causes environmental and health problems. It also leads to climate change and affects biodiversity.

3. Public Health Issues

Another related disadvantage of using fossil fuels is that it has a direct impact on the health of the human being. Potentially, fatal diseases or illnesses such as lung cancer, infection, and asthma have been directly linked to the pollution caused by the burning of fuels. It is neither environment-friendly nor safe to use.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 7 million premature deaths annually are linked to air pollution. The high levels of air pollution can adversely affect people’s lungs and trigger asthma. Likewise, every year millions of children die due to pollution-related diseases. People who live in areas with a large amount of traffic are at high risk.

4. Rising Costs

About 40 percent of the world’s oil gets produced from the middle-east countries. And, the rest of the world depends on these countries to fulfill the gap. Therefore, as fossil fuels continue depleting, it loses its natural resources to provide the increasing demand each day. As a result, it increases the costs of the resources to fulfill the required demand.

Eventually, renewable energy sources will become cost-effective, and environment-friendly with time as fossil fuels rise in price. Since only a few countries produce fossil fuels, there is an increase in fear of war, lower output, strikes by trade unions that can lead to price fluctuations around the globe.

5. Risk of Oil Spill

Fossil fuels can damage the environment in the form of oil spills. While carrying oil from one place to another, it also takes a high cost and risk. In history, there are many incidents where the oil spill caused the death of animals, birds, fish, and mammals.

It has also resulted in severe harm to aquatic life and the environment. Therefore, oil spills are dangerous to both living and non-living things either on the ground or in the sea.

Despite being cheaper, reliable, more comfortable to transport, creating employment, and many more, it has many cons as well. The major disadvantage of using fossil fuels is that it destroys the environment and creates pollution in the atmosphere. Therefore, it is essential to consider another alternative source of energy, such as solar, wind, hydropower, and nuclear power.

However, some countries have already begun generating substantial portions of electric power from renewable sources. Now, the whole world should switch their choice from non-renewable energy to eco-friendly and renewable energy and make a better place to live for all.

(Last Updated on October 8, 2022 by Sadrish Dabadi)

pros and cons of fossil fuels essay

Nina Howell is a Rewenable Energy researcher and consultant based out of Houston, Texas Area. She earned her Master's Degree in Energy and Earth Resources from Austin Jackson School of Geosciences in 2010, and a Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Science from State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in 2008. Nina has been working in the energy sector since 2011. She worked as an Energy Supply Analyst from 2011 to 2017 in Bounce Energy and then as a Research and Energy Consultant at GE Renewable Energy from March 2017 to February 2020 . Nina is a mom of 2 beautiful children who are joy to her life. She strongly believes in eco-friendly living and is vocal about renewable energy, environmental issues, water crisis, and sustainable living.

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Fossil Fuels Pros and Cons – Essay Tips

pros and cons of fossil fuels essay

June 22, 2020 //  by  Amit Kumar

Fossil fuels are used throughout the world to power everything from cars to lightning up houses. Moreover, there is a lot of debate over the use of fossil fuels. Is it safe to use fossil fuels for use at homes?

But nowadays we are finding successful alternatives to fossil fuels such as solar, wind, and hydropower. The most common fossil fuels that are being used for millions of years include coal, natural gas, and petroleum.

Table of Contents

Common Fossil Fuels:

Coal : It is a carbon-based black rock burned to get energy.

Petroleum:  This fossil fuel occurs in the form of liquid and can be refined into several types of fuel, such as diesel and aeroplane fuel. It is being used for thousands of years as a continuous source of energy.

Natural gas:  It is a combination of different gases such as methane, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide and used in cooking. 

Once you have used all the existing fossil fuels on this planet, then we find alternative ways of heating and lighting homes as well as travelling all around the globe. There are several pros to using fossil fuels as several different cons.

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Pros of Fossil Fuels:

Let’s dive into the fossil fuels pros to find out is it beneficial:

Easy to Set Up:

Unlike other renewable sources of energy which are infinite but dependent on Sun, wind, and water, fossil fuels are widely available. Thus a fossil fuel plant can be set up easily anywhere in the world as long as it gets massive amounts of fuel to generate power.

So these fossil fuel plants are capable of generating a massive amount of energy at a specific location.

Generate Thousands of Jobs Opportunities:

Fossil fuels create thousands of job opportunities every year. To revoke the use of fossil fuels would lead a lot of people to lose their jobs every year which would impact the economy all over the world.

Efficient in Working:

Fossil fuels are efficient in working. This means that they can generate a huge amount of energy even if we use a small amount of energy such as oil and coal etc.

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We have found that the most efficient fuel for cars is petroleum without a doubt. Therefore, no renewable energies come to generate the same amount of energy than fossil fuels do.

Easy to Transport:

Transporting renewable sources of energy such as Sun, wind, and water is impossible. While on the other hand, transporting fossil fuels is relatively easy. It can be made very safe and easy but the creating of pipes.

However, these pipes are easily laid underground and can easily transport oil or gas. It can be relatively expensive to lie off in the first place. Once completed, they serve as a safe and effective method of transportation for essential fuels.

Present in Plenty:

We have relied on fossil fuels for many years and have everything to gather, collect, and use these essential resources. We already have plenty of coal and natural gas from all the places in the world that are rich in fossil fuels using all the designed equipment made for the extraction of fossil fuels.

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It is one of the main reasons to use fossil fuels as we have already invested a lot of time, money, and effort into procuring them.

Quick to Find:

Fossil fuels are speedy to find out. They occur all over the world, especially in rich veins beneath the earth. Once we have committed to getting oil or natural gas on the ground or out from the sea, now we are sure to get a lot of resources from the area.

The main reason is that they occur all over the world, which means that all countries and nations should have access to at least fossil fuels. 

Cons of Fossil Fuels:

Now have a look at some disadvantages of fossil fuels here:

Increase in Cost:

Few Middle East countries in the world hold an excess supply of fossil fuels and therefore are responsible for about 40 per cent of the world’s total oil production.

The rest of the world depends on these Middle East countries to fill the gap between demand and supply in their own countries. Lowe output and fear of war result in fluctuations in fossil fuel prices all over the globe.

Issues Related to Public Health:

Fossil fuels are not entirely ecofriendly. The burning of fossil fuels results in pollution and also causes serious environmental concerns. The diseases associated with pollution kills millions of people every year.

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Furthermore, high levels of air pollution adversely affected our lungs and gave birth to asthma. So, people who live in areas with a large amount of traffic are at significant risk.

Leads to Global Warming:

One of the biggest causes of fossil fuels is the pollution they cause. Scientists throughout the world well document the problems through which we have to go through. As we know that carbon dioxide is released into the air when we burnt fossil fuels.

This means that the burning of fossil fuels is directly linked to global warming and fossil fuels are dangerous for the health of human beings on the planet.

pros and cons of fossil fuels essay

Finite Source of Energy:

Fossil fuels are limited sources of energy, unlike sunlight, wind, or water energy; it is not possible to renew them. The amount of fossil fuels available on earth crust is all we are going to get shorter. This means that reserves of coal, petroleum, and natural gas all are used, and nothing is left now.

Unfortunately, we will not be able to run our cars efficiently as we do on petroleum.

Oil Spillage:

Fossil fuels can also damage the environment in the form of oil spills. Huge tankers carrying oil from one area to another are at huge risk can sometimes crash or spill the content into the sea.

This is not only harmful to the sea but also for the animals that live in water. Oil spills do not usually occur, but when they kill thousands of animals.


There are many pros and cons of fossil fuels but burning them for producing energy is so damaging to the environment. Thus, first measures need to be taken to find out alternative sources of energy such as wind, water, or sunlight. 

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pros and cons of fossil fuels essay

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What Are the Pros and Cons of Fossil Fuels? A Complete Guide

Today, most Americans want to move away from fossil fuels. So why are they still the largest source of energy in the United States?

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pros and cons of fossil fuels

Fossil fuels are used every day to create thousands of products and power countless processes essential to daily life. According to the National Academies of Sciences, 81% of the total energy used in the United States comes from coal, oil, and natural gas today.

Despite their prevalence, the use of fossil fuels has become a point of contention for many global citizens, because of the many negative consequences of utilizing them. In fact, 69% of U.S. adults say they prioritize developing alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar, over expanding the production of oil, coal, and natural gas.

You may wonder why we continue to rely on fossil fuels when so many Americans want to develop more sustainable energy sources. The truth is, there are some reasons why it’s still advantageous to use fossil fuels today.

In this guide, we’ll fully examine this debate, looking at the pros and cons of fossil fuels, how they impact our planet, and why they are so difficult to transition away from.

What are fossil fuels?

You are certainly familiar with the most common examples of fossil fuels – coal, oil, and natural gas, but how do these fuels come to be?

Fossil fuels are compound mixtures consisting of decomposing plant and animal material from millions of years ago. This material is trapped in the Earth’s crust and contains carbon and hydrogen, which can be burned for energy.

Fossil fuels are created when this decomposed material undergoes extreme heat and pressure in the Earth’s crust – as the matter is compressed over time, the chemicals begin to break down and transform into natural fuels.

Each fossil fuel is a result of different combinations of carbon, hydrogen, and other compounds. Different organic materials form unique fuels: the most common fossil fuels are the result of unique amounts of pressure and materials.

Coal, oil, and natural gas are a result of these unique processes, according to National Geographic : 

  • Coal is usually found in sedimentary rock deposits where rock and dead plant and animal matter are piled up in layers. In fact, more than 50% of a piece of coal’s weight is typically from fossilized plants.
  • Oil is originally found as a solid material between layers of sedimentary rock, like shale. This material is heated in order to produce the thick oil substance we are familiar with today.
  • Natural gas is primarily made of methane and is typically found in pockets above oil deposits. It can also be found in sedimentary rock layers.

Humans extract the stored energy in these materials in a variety of ways. Mining is used to extract solid fossil fuels by digging, scraping, or exposing buried resources. Drilling methods help extract liquid or gaseous fossil fuels that can be pumped up to the surface of the Earth, like oil and natural gas.

Fossil fuels are not renewable, meaning that there is a finite supply of these materials inside the Earth. Over time, as humans have extracted fossil fuels, we have had to drill deeper and deeper into the Earth’s crust to harness these materials.

industrial machine on coal mine

Today, oil and gas wells can range in depth from a few hundred feet to more than 20,000 feet . In some parts of the world, wells go as deep as 30,000 feet.

Why is it important to extract these fossil fuels? 

In short, fossil fuels contain stored energy in the form of carbon and hydrogen, which, when burned, power the mechanical processes we rely on, such as transportation and the electricity we use in our homes every day.

Although there are numerous negative effects of fossil fuel use and extraction, most of the world relies on the energy that fossil fuels produce.

Uses of fossil fuels

Before diving into the specific pros and cons of fossil fuels, it’s important to understand the ways in which fossil fuels are already essential to our daily lives.

While renewable energy sources like solar and wind energy are growing in popularity, the global economy is currently reliant on fossil fuel use. Let’s dive into the numerous ways that fossil fuels are utilized around the world every day.


The U.S. spends 29% of its total energy each year to power industrial, farm, rail, and sea transportation with fossil fuels. The main type of fuel used for transportation in the U.S. is petroleum.

These fuels are made from crude oil and natural gas processing, including gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, and propane, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration ( EIA ). Natural gas and electricity are also widely used for transportation in the U.S.

a person pumping gas into a car

If you drive a car, truck, or motorcycle, you know that your car’s engine burns fuel that comes from crude oil, or gasoline. Distillate fuels are used mainly by large trucks, buses, trains, and ships. Commercial and private airplanes use jet fuel to power their trips across the country.

In 2021, petroleum products accounted for about 90% of the total energy used in U.S. transportation activities. All in all, the transportation of goods, people, and food uses a large amount of fossil fuel.

Household uses

Fossil fuels are used in our homes as well, but their most prominent use may surprise you.

More than half of the energy use in U.S. homes is used for heating in the winter and air conditioning when it’s warm outside. Of course, the amount of energy used varies by season, geographic region, home size, and the fuels used.

Next on the list of household energy uses is water heating, lighting and refrigeration, processes that occur year-round and power pretty much every home in the U.S. Combined, these activities accounted for 27% of total annual home energy use in 2015.

energy consumption shares by type in USA

Many stoves in modern-day homes are powered electrically, but gas-powered stoves utilize propane to cook food. Fossil fuels are present in our households in additional ways – plastic containers, toilet seats, telephones, toys, kitchen utensils, and more. Fossil fuels produce the petrochemicals used in the manufacturing of polyester and plastic products.

Medical and pharmaceutical uses

The transportation and household uses of fossil fuels may not have surprised you, but did you know that fossil fuel extracts also have medical and pharmaceutical uses?

For example, processed plastics made with oil are used in heart valves and other specialized medical equipment. Chemicals derived from crude oil are used in radiological dyes and films, tubing, syringes, and oxygen masks. Even MRI scanners are made from fossil-fuel-derived materials.

Additionally, fossil fuel extracts are used in products many of us use every day. The chemical Benzene , for example, is a natural component of crude oil and gasoline. It’s often used to make some types of lubricants, rubbers, and even drugs.

To better understand why fossil fuels are used in so many products and processes around the world and why detractors want to be rid of these fuels, let’s dive into the pros and cons of fossil fuels.

Advantages of fossil fuels

While there are various cons of utilizing fossil fuels in our households and businesses, there are several reasons why fossil fuel use has become so commonplace over the years.

Let’s examine some of the advantages of fossil fuel use.

1. Efficient energy sources

Fossil fuels are among the most efficient sources of energy, because small amounts of oil or gas, for example, produce a large amount of energy. Different fuels carry different amounts of energy per unit of weight, and fossil fuels are more energy dense than other sources.

The energy density of oil, according to a Drexel University study , is about 35 to 45 gigajoules (10,000 kWh) per cubic meter. Alternatively, solar energy has a density of 1.5 microjoules per cubic meter, over twenty quadrillion times less than oil.

While renewables like solar energy may be more sustainable , it’s difficult to deny that fossil fuels make efficient energy sources.

Bełchatów Power Station

2. Useful byproducts

Fossil fuels also create byproducts that are widely used throughout homes and businesses. In fact, petrochemicals derived from oil and natural gas make the manufacturing of over 6,000 everyday products and high-tech devices possible.

So, how does oil turn into a plastic item like the toothbrush you use every day?

After crude oil is removed from the ground, it’s sent to a refinery where different parts of the crude oil are separated into usable petroleum products. While most of these groups are used for the production of energy, a few chemicals are used to make various items.

Some of the products made from fossil-fuel-derived materials may surprise you:

  • Artificial limbs
  • Umbrellas 
  • Contact lenses 
  • Swimming pools

These everyday items would not be possible without chemicals derived from fossil fuels.

3. Easy to transport

Transporting fossil fuels is easier when compared to transporting the energy gained from other sources like wind, water, or solar power.

Crude oil moves from the extraction source to refineries using barges and tankers, and over land by trucks and railroads, or underground through pipelines. Natural gas is transported by underground pipelines and liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers. These materials are housed in metal tankards and containers.

natural gas pipeline

While it is generally considered easy to transport these fossil fuels, it’s important to note that oil spills and natural gas leaks occur frequently. These incidents are a large source of various pollutants leaking into our atmosphere and water sources.

4. Generates thousands of jobs

There are millions of people currently employed by the fossil fuel energy sector – in 2019, nearly 1.7 million people worked in fossil fuel industries, conducting activities such as mining, electricity generation, and transportation.

Many countries rely on the economic activities resulting from fossil fuel extraction and use. Because of this, the adoption of renewable energy must include transitioning these millions of jobs that individuals and families rely on around the world.

5. Readily available and relatively easy to extract

Fossil fuel plants and extraction sites require a relatively small amount of infrastructure. For example, offshore oil rigs and onshore oil derricks pump most of the petroleum that is extracted throughout the world. This process involves drilling a hole into a potential oil patch and then pumping the oil out through a long tube.

oil derrick pump

Most countries that rely on fossil fuels also already have the infrastructure and knowledge with which to mine and drill for these fuels.

In addition, since fossil fuels have powered our world for over 250 years, there is already infrastructure in place to distribute it and utilize it at a relatively low cost. Most of our infrastructure is, ultimately, already built for fossil fuel use, from cars to gas-powered stoves.

Over the last few centuries, large amounts of fossil fuels have been readily available around the world. Rising population has created more and more demand for these energy sources.

To extract fossil fuel resources at a faster rate, global nations have invested large sums of money into the energy sector. In fact, the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicted that energy sector investment would rise to over 8% in 2022 to reach a total of $2.4 trillion.

Disadvantages of fossil fuels

Now that we understand the various reasons why fossil fuels are considered advantageous around the world let’s dive into the many disadvantages of fossil fuel use.

1. Environmental degradation

Primarily, the burning of fossil fuels causes air pollution , which makes its way into our soil and water sources. The combustion of these fuels releases carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) and other greenhouse gasses, which trap heat in our atmosphere and heat up our planet.

Thus, greenhouse gasses like CO 2 are the primary cause of one of the most existential threats to our planet: climate change. In fact, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has found that emissions from fossil fuels are the dominant cause of global warming. In 2018, 89% of global CO 2 emissions came from fossil fuels and industrial activities.

a graph showing carbon dioxide levels 2005-2022

Many places around the world are already experiencing the effects of climate change, such as the ever-rising sea level and extreme natural disasters, and weather patterns. If this persists, the consequences will be disastrous for all living species.

Evidently, the use of fossil fuels contributes to environmental degradation and is worsening climate change by the day.

2. Power stations require lots of reserves of coal

Today, we rely on power stations to produce energy. For power stations to keep working, they require vast amounts of coal : it takes about 1 pound of coal to generate one kWh of electricity.

In addition, large trucks are used to transport coal if power stations are not located near large deposits of coal. This transportation also requires a lot of power which can not only damage the Earth but is also very expensive. In turn, fuel prices will keep rising as a result of high transportation costs.

3. Health complications (from fuel combustion)

Critically, fossil fuel combustion causes air pollution, which can lead to serious health complications that are passed down through generations.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), burning fossil fuels releases pollutants that lead to early death, heart attacks, respiratory disorders, stroke, and asthma. It has also been linked to autism spectrum disorder and Alzheimer’s disease.

coal fossil fuel smokestacks

Carbon dioxide emissions have also been associated with global warming and the destruction of the ozone layer. The ozone layer protects humans and animals from the powerful rays of the sun, so degrading this layer exposes us to high levels of radiation, which causes skin cancer.

4. High depletion level

Critically, fossil fuels are not renewable energy sources. Unlike water, sun, and wind energy sources, the level of fossil fuels underground is depleting with each passing day.

In the next few centuries, we will run out of fossil fuel reserves. Experts predict we have 139 years left of coal, 54 years left of oil, and 49 years of gas supply. In our lifetime, we must transition to alternative sources of energy to power our everyday lives and critical processes.

5. Oil spills and gas leaks

When transporting oil, there is a high likelihood of the oil spilling onto land and into the sea. In the U.S. alone, there have been over 44 major oil spills since the 1970s, resulting in severe harm to aquatic life.

Ultimately, oil spills are disastrous to all living things and almost impossible to clean up.

Deepwater horizon oil spill site

The Horizon oil spill that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico released 4.9 million oil barrels into the Gulf of Mexico. The petroleum that had leaked from the well before it was sealed formed a slick extending over more than 57,500 square miles, harming and killing millions of plants and animals in the region.

Natural gas pipelines also leak this harmful fuel into the soil and atmosphere. Leaks are incredibly dangerous because they can kill vegetation and trees, cause explosions and fires, and release greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.

6. High levels of water usage

Water shortages are a common problem in most parts of the world, especially in developing nations or areas stricken by drought.

In California alone, oil and gas operators used 3 billion gallons of freshwater from municipal sources between 2018 and 2021, an amount equal to what would be used in more than 120 million showers.

Fossil fuel power plants contribute to this problem because they require vast amounts of water for cooling. A study conducted in the U.S. reveals that fossil fuel power plants consume over four times the water that all the water used in homes in the U.S.

coal power plant located near a body of water

The long-term effect of water consumption by fossil fuels is the depletion of finite water resources, and the result is a lack of water. Contaminated water supplies or a lack of water can result in improper sanitation, exposure to chemicals, health issues, and even death.

7. Rising fuel costs

As fossil fuels continue depleting, it is becoming harder and harder to extract them from the Earth. In turn, the cost of extracting fossil fuels has risen. In the U.S., if fossil fuel prices are driven higher, the country could spend more than $30 trillion on fossil fuels between 2010 and 2030.

Also, since only a few countries in the Middle East produce the world’s fossil fuels, there is an increasing fear of war, lower output of fuels, and strikes by trade unions that can lead to fuel fluctuations around the world.

The clean energy transition

While there are clear pros and cons of fossil fuels, it’s clear that the disadvantages of continuing to use fossil fuels far outweighs the benefits. The clean energy transition seeks to make renewable energy sources more reliable and encourage the widespread adoption of renewables over fossil fuels.

Experts agree that switching from more harmful fossil fuels like coal and oil to less emission-intensive fuels like natural gas can result in significant CO 2 and air quality benefits. While it’s not a long-term answer to climate change, switching to natural gas can make a difference in the short term.

However, our supply of fossil fuels will run out soon. Significant investment, private-public partnership, and widespread adoption of renewable energy sources like solar and wind energy must occur before we can successfully phase out the use of the fossil fuels that are harming our planet.

Organizations like the Clean Energy Transition Institute , the United Nations , and the European Commission have identified pathways to decarbonization in the building, industrial, and manufacturing sectors. Like with the domestic use of fossil fuels, these industries must transition away and find alternatives.

Conclusion on the pros and cons of fossil fuels

When we compare the pros and cons of fossil fuels, it is clear that despite their numerous uses, fossil fuels are causing untold damage to our planet, humans, and plant and animal species.

Since human beings have relied upon fossil fuels for a long time, the transition may seem difficult, but it’s necessary for the survival of our planet and species.

However, some countries have begun to generate substantial portions of electric power from renewable sources. Individuals and large organizations and corporations should all join in the clean energy movement, to make the Earth a better home for us all.

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12 Advantages and Disadvantages of Fossil Fuels

Fossil fuels refer to any fuel that comes from the Earth that is generated by the fossilization process. By definition, this is generally coal, natural gas, and petroleum products. It is the fuel that has helped the world develop into what it is today. Nearly 90% of the energy consumption that we have, even with the rise of renewables and cleaner fuels, comes from fossil fuel.

The combustion of fossil fuels is not without a cost. When fossil fuels burn, they release emissions into our atmosphere. For many in the scientific community, this emission release is at least partially responsible for a global warming effect. It may also contribute to higher pollution levels, which are believed to be responsible for up to 2 million deaths globally each year.

The advantages and disadvantages of fossil fuels show us that the choices we face in the future for fuel consumption are going to be difficult. Here are the key points to consider.

What Are the Advantages of Fossil Fuels?

1. Fossil fuels are a technology that is globally developed. We have numerous technologies available to us because of the presence of fossil fuels. Although this fuel source is often thought of as a way to provide transportation needs, many of the products that we use every day contain items that were manufactured thanks to fossil fuel technologies. That includes the computers and mobile devices that are used to read this content. Even renewable fuels have a foundation built on fossil fuels.

2. Fossil fuels are both cheap and reliable. Because the technologies which surround fossil fuels are well-established, the consumer cost to use them is quite load. The energy that is produced by their refinement and combustion is incredibly consistent. If you pour gasoline into your vehicle, there isn’t a doubt that the fuel will fail to ignite. Fossil fuels give us a strong base load, reliable energy, and it can be created around the clock.

3. Fossil fuels have become safer over time. An example of technology catching up to the emissions problem of fossil fuels comes through clean coal technologies. The emissions can be captured and condensed, reducing the overall amount that escapes into the atmosphere. Some technologies have come close to eliminating the production of greenhouse gases, condensing them into water that can be safely released back into the environment.

4. Fossil fuels still have plenty of availability. New fossil fuel resources are being found annually and often in amounts that are beyond any prediction that could be made. In 2013, up to 233 billion barrels of oil was discovered to be in the Australian Outback. Additional development opportunities exist for tar sands oil, shale oil, and natural gas. It may be a finite resource, but there is still the potential of more than a full century of use available with currently known resources.

5. Fossil fuels contribute to the overall welfare of an economy. We use fossil fuels to transport goods and services to one another. We are productive because of fossil fuels. We can generate renewable energy because of fossil fuels. We drive to the grocery store thanks to fossil fuels. Not only does the purchase of fossil fuels contribute to the national economy, but the use of fossil fuels helps to generate revenues for localized economies. Just about everything we do in life right now is tied, one way or another, to the consumption of a fossil fuel.

What Are the Disadvantages of Fossil Fuels?

1. Fossil fuels are a finite resource. It takes a certain amount of time for the fossilization process to occur on our planet. This means fossil fuels are a finite resource. Once they are harvested, they cannot be replaced in the lifetime of anyone living right now according to our current knowledge. It takes millions of years and specific conditions to replace a fossil fuel. That’s a very different effort compared to the energy released in a daily sunrise.

2. Fossil fuels are often cheap because of subsidies. Many governments tend to subsidize the price of fossil fuels instead of letting the free market govern what they tend to be. Businesses that operate within the fossil fuel industry also receive subsidies so that they can continue providing energy products to consumers at reasonable costs. US Government incentives for fossil fuels are typically $4 billion or more annually. In comparison, renewable energy resources like solar may receive about $1 billion annually.

3. Fossil fuels combust to create an acidic environment. Many of the outcomes which come out of the combustion of fossil fuels without condensing technologies lead to an environment that is more acidic. This acidity can change ocean environments, alter how crops can grow, and may even lead to a higher risk of drought and famine. Many ecosystems on Earth are very sensitive to changing conditions, which means continued fossil fuel use could lead to unpredictable and extremely negative consequences.

4. Fossil fuels can damage the environment through human error. Fossil fuels can also spill during transport, creating environmental damage as the product spills out. This is particularly problematic for petroleum products. From oil pipeline spills to disasters such as the Exxon Valdez spill, human error can cause a lot of unintended environmental damage. Even regular wear and tear, if not properly maintained, can lead to a higher risk of a leak occurring.

5. Fossil fuels aren’t a technology. Although we can make it cheaper to find and access fossil fuels, the fuel itself is not a technology. This means there will always be a baseline price for this product, especially since many of them are traded as commodities. Renewable energy resources, such as wind and solar, are based on technology. The prices for these energy resources has been in a continual decline since the 1970s. In some communities, solar and wind energy is virtually the same price as the energy created through fossil fuel combustion.

6. Fossil fuels may contribute to public health issues. Outside of the risks that pollution causes for premature fatalities, there are ongoing health issues that can be caused by the combustion of fossil fuels. Air pollution that comes from fossil fuel consumption can trigger symptoms that are similar to asthma. It can also create irritation with a person’s air passageways that can trigger chronic coughing, allergy development, lethargy, and other quality of life concerns.

7. Fossil fuels can be dangerous to harvest. Coal miners can develop a condition known as Black Lung Disease, which in severe cases is almost always eventually fatal. Natural gas drillers can be exposed to concentrated chemicals and silica, which can lead to adverse health issues. Oil workers are exposed to toxic chemicals frequently, which can increase their risks of cancer development. This shows that harvesting fossil fuels can be dangerous to personal health.

The advantages and disadvantages of fossil fuels show that life would be very different without them. Life might be very different, however, if we keep using them. That is why these key points deserve careful and frequent attention.

  • What Are the Pros and Cons of Fossil Fuels?

Petroleum is an example of a fossil fuel.

Fossil fuels are a source of energy that power different sectors around the world. Currently, there are debates on whether the use of fossil fuel is safe. Should we come up with other sources of fuel such as renewable energy and nuclear energy and do away with fossil fuels?

The term "fossil fuel" refers to fuel that formed naturally over millions of years from anaerobic decomposition of animal and plant matter. The fuel contains high levels of carbon and other gases. Fossil fuels include naturals gas, petroleum, and coal whose pros and cons are discussed in the article below.

Pro: plentiful

Fossil fuels are available in abundance in all continents across the globe. Currently, the fuels are able to satisfy the world demand meaning that they are bountiful and accessible. Statistics indicate that global reserves stand at 1,139 billion tonnes for coal, 187 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, and about 1,707 billion barrels of untouched crude oil. In as much as there is fear of depletion of some wells, there is hope that new wells of fossil fuel will be discovered. With improved technology and better drilling machines, the exploration sector is sure to strike new better-endowed wells. In 2013 just when there was fear of depletion, over 233 billion barrels were discovered in Australia. Recently, over 1.7 billion barrels were successfully discovered in Kenya by Tullow company. Bahrain and other Middle East countries recently discovered new wells with bigger fossil deposits. Exploration activities are going on across the world and more so in desert countries in Africa in a bid to discover fossil fuel.

Con: polluting

Pollution is inevitable through the process of exploring, refining, and consumption of fossil fuel. During combustion, fossil fuels create an acidic environment which may interfere with the natural ecosystem. The effect is more extreme if the process of combustion occurs in the absence of condensing technology. Environmental degradation due to pollution affects flora, fauna, and the planet at large. The carbon dioxide released when fossil fuels burn is linked to global warming. Human errors such as oil spills have occurred in several instances when the product is in transit. The resulting pollution has an adverse effect on the environment. The occurrence leads to chocking, drying up, and even death of organisms in our ecosystem. Human error can also occur in the handling of natural gas, leading to pollution of the air.

Pro: huge generation potential

Fossil fuel has the ability to produce a very high output of energy per given quantity. The fuel is able to generate more heat during combustion and have very high joules per kilogram. The ability to produce huge levels of energy makes fuel from fossils extremely efficient and reliable. Fossil fuel is therefore rated as having the highest calorific value making it dominant over any alternative sources of energy. The huge generation potential made the fuel the major source of power in the era of industrial and agrarian revolution. Fossil fuel does not depend on the prevailing climatic conditions unlike the Calorific value of solar and wind power which depends on the intensity of heat from the sun or the velocity of the wind respectively. Even a minute piece of coal can produce phenomenal levels of energy at any time in any environment.

Con: Bad for Humans and Animals

Issues of public health have been raised in countries where exploration and drilling are frequent. Diseases such as asthma, lung cancer, allergies, and chronic coughing have been attributed to the inhaling of gases resulting from combustion of fossil fuels. People living near factories or in large cities are prone to fossil fuel related diseases. Numerous deaths have occurred in coal mines and when gas has exploded. People working in coal mines are directly exposed to health-related issues such as ingestion of dust from the coal. In spite of the fact that safety clothing is recommended, solids and liquids from fossil fuels may find their way into the body of people involved in fossil fuel extraction. Drillers of natural gas and coal are at risk due to exposure to concentrated chemicals which might leak and be inhaled. Those working in the petroleum sector are exposed to both known and unknown toxic chemicals. Before the advancement of technology, there were numerous cases of people buried alive inside mines. Catastrophic damage has been recorded on animals living near fossil exploration sites. It is well documented that canary birds were used in coal mines to detect any harmful gas that could be leaking. Such gas could harm both human beings and animals in the vicinity of the mine. Marine life has been greatly affected by oil spills.

Pro: job creator

Fossil fuel has created millions of jobs directly or indirectly across the globe. Waking up one day and illegalizing the use of fossil fuel would lead to joblessness which could seriously harm the economy. People employed directly are the explorers, extractors, refiners, distributors, and marketers . Indirect jobs are found in the service industry, administration, and finance to ensure smooth operation by those directly employed. Plastic as a byproduct of fossil fuel has also created job opportunities for many people. In as much as plastic is not environmentally friendly, it is useful in making cheap medical, computer and other equipment which are also job creators. Fossil fuel is an economic driver. The fuel is tied to all sectors of the economy ranging from transport, manufacturing, commercial and just about every task that we perform daily. There is prosperity in countries where fossil fuel resource has been managed effectively leading to higher per capita and low unemployment levels.

Con: we will eventually run out

Fossil fuel is nonrenewable. This finite source of energy takes millions of years to fossilize, unlike solar and wind which are available on a daily basis. Regardless of the number of years it takes to get finished, there is a risk of depletion of fossil fuel. The translation is that once the petroleum, coal, and natural gas deposit reserves are completely used up, then we will have to wait for millions of years for more fossil fuel to form. Just before depletion, prices will hike because the demand will be higher than the supply. The biggest risk is political, economic, and social instability in countries that are dependant on fossil fuels.

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Fossil fuels, explained

Much of the world's energy comes from material formed hundreds of millions of years ago, and there are environmental consequences for it.

Decomposing plants and other organisms, buried beneath layers of sediment and rock, have taken millennia to become the carbon-rich deposits we now call fossil fuels. These non-renewable fuels , which include coal, oil, and natural gas, supply about 80 percent of the world’s energy. They provide electricity, heat, and transportation, while also feeding the processes that make a huge range of products, from steel to plastics.

When fossil fuels are burned, they release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases , which in turn trap heat in our atmosphere, making them the primary contributors to global warming and climate change .

Major types of fossil fuels

There are several main groups of fossil fuels, including:

Coal: Black or brown chunks of sedimentary rock that range from crumbly to relatively hard, coal began to form during the Carboniferous period about 300 to 360 million years ago, when algae and debris from vegetation in swamp forests settled deeper and deeper under layers of mud. Mined via surface or underground methods, coal supplies a third of all energy worldwide, with the top coal consumers and producers in 2018 being China, India, and the United States. Coal is classified into four categories—anthracite, bituminous, sub-bituminous, and lignite–depending on its carbon content.

a melting iceberg

Carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal account for 44 percent of the world total , and it's the biggest single source of the global temperature increase above pre-industrial levels. The health and environmental consequences of coal use, along with competition from cheap natural gas, have contributed to its decline in the U.S. and elsewhere. But in other places, such as India, demand is expected to rise through 2023.

Oil: Crude oil, a liquid composed mainly of carbon and hydrogen , is often black, but exists in a variety of colors and viscosities depending on its chemical composition. Much of it formed during the Mesozoic period, between 252 and 66 million years ago, as plankton, algae, and other matter sank to the bottom of ancient seas and was eventually buried.

Extracted from onshore and offshore wells, crude oil is refined into a variety of petroleum products , including gasoline, diesel, and heating oil. The top oil-producing countries are the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and Russia, which together account for nearly 40 percent of the world's supply.

Petroleum use accounts for nearly half the carbon emissions in the U.S. and about a third of the global total. In addition to the air pollution released when oil is burned, drilling and transport have led to several major accidents, such as the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, the devastating Lac Megantic oil train derailment in 2013, and thousands of pipeline incidents . Nonetheless, oil demand continues to rise , driven not only by our thirst for mobility, but for the many products— including plastics —made using petrochemicals, which are generally derived from oil and gas.

Natural gas: An odorless gas composed primarily of methane, natural gas often lies in deposits that, like those for coal and oil, formed millions of years ago from decaying plant matter and organisms. Both natural gas and oil production have surged in the U.S. over the past two decades because of advances in the drilling technique most people know as fracking .

By combining fracking—or hydraulic fracturing—with horizontal drilling and other innovations, the fossil-fuel industry has managed to extract resources that were previously too costly to reach. As a result, natural gas has surpassed coal to become the top fuel for U.S. electricity production, and the U.S. leads the world in natural gas production, followed by Russia and Iran.

Natural gas is cleaner than coal and oil in terms of emissions, but nonetheless accounts for a fifth of the world's total, not counting the so-called fugitive emissions that escape from the industry, which can be significant . Not all of the world’s natural gas sources are being actively mined. Undersea methane hydrates, for example, where gas is trapped in frozen water, are being eyed as a potential gas resource .

Reducing emissions from fossil fuels

Governments around the world are now engaged in efforts to ramp down greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels to prevent the worst effects of climate change. At the international level, countries have committed to emissions reduction targets as part of the 2015 Paris Agreement , while other entities—including cities, states, and businesses—have made their own commitments. These efforts generally focus on replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources, increasing energy efficiency, and electrifying sectors such as transportation and buildings.

However, many sources of carbon emissions, such as existing power plants that run on natural gas and coal, are already locked in. Considering the world's continuing dependence on fossil fuels, many argue that in addition to efforts aimed at replacing them, we also need to suck carbon from the air with technologies such as carbon capture, in which emissions are diverted to underground storage or recycled before they reach the atmosphere. A handful of commercial-scale projects around the world already capture carbon dioxide from the smokestacks of fossil fuel-fired plants, and while its high costs have prevented wider adoption , advocates hope advances in the technology will eventually make it more affordable.


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Pros and Cons of Fossil Fuels

  • by Ahsen Soomro

Drilling fossils

Table of Contents Show

What are fossil fuels, 1. advanced technology, 2. cheap and reliable, 3. highly efficient, 4. easier transportation, 5. job opportunities, 6. easy set-up, 1. major contributors of climate change and global warming, 2. major fuel reserves needed, 3. non-renewable source of energy, 4. unsustainable use of fossil fuels, 5. sweet incentives, 6. accidents can prove to be quite fatal, 7. damage to public health, 8. economic issues, 9. health hazards for coal mine workers, 10. deforestation, conclusion regarding fossil fuels.

Since the dawn of industrialization, the world has been changing rapidly and shaped itself into a modern world that we see today. It all began when we harnessed the power of coal to run large machines and produce resources at a faster rate than human hands making it an everyday phenomenon.

At first, it was just coal, but then oil and natural gas also started being used as a recognized energy source. Together these energy sources could power anything from large factories to cars and provided electricity to the farthest corners. With time, as more and more people shifted to these energy resources, the demand for them increased which caused a surge of fossil fuel mining.

Till today fossil fuels are considered an important energy source. Everything that we touch, see or hear uses energy supplied by these fossil fuels. Although we have alternatives to fossil fuels such as solar, hydropower, wind and even nuclear energy which are in development; we still see an increase in the use of fossil fuels every year. A report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) in 2007 claimed that 86.4% of the primary energy used by the world’s population can be traced back to fossil fuel sources.

Fossil fuels and their effects on the environment have been studied extensively. Both pros and cons have been noted and argued on for centuries. Most of the advantages of fossil fuels are used by big refineries and fuel companies as arguments on the world stage, many of which are valid and meticulously researched.

Recently the general public has become aware of the negative effects of fossil fuels on the environment and years of research papers by scientists validate this impact. However, even after a long list of vices we still use fossil fuels because many world systems still rely on it and have provided us with advantages unparalleled by any other resource.

The good and bad effects of fossil fuels still stay as a prominent topic to debate in modern society. Before diving into the debate of whether the fossil fuels are good or bad;let me first tell you what they are and how they are formed.

Fossil fuels can be classified into three major categories which are coal, oil and natural gas.

They are classified based on their natural state, chemical structure, and process of formation. Fossil fuels are formed through years of dead organic materials compressed under immense pressure and temperature in the earth. This matter starts decomposing, releasing the organic matter into the crust and the carbon and hydrogen molecules get converted into fossil fuels.

These molecules form a long chain of hydrocarbons and each type of fossil fuel has a varying length of this chain. This chain takes millions of years to form and is difficult to be created in an artificial setting. Different conditions and resources are required to create each type of fossil fuel. The synthesis of coal requires the decomposition of land-based plant matter and has the longest hydrocarbon chain, which requires more energy to burn but produces the least amount of energy. In comparison to coal, oil has a medium length of the hydrocarbon chain and is made from small plants and ocean animals. The shortest chain is natural gas, which can also be made after burning oil or coal as a byproduct. It releases the highest amount of energy out of the three.

Even though it takes years to synthesize fossil fuels, they are still the most preferred source of energy . To understand their continuing popularity, we need to know the advantages and disadvantages of them and weigh their benefit over risks.

More on Types and Sources of Energy .

pros and cons of fossil fuels essay

Advantages of Fossil Fuels

Fossil fuels have been selected as a major source of energy providing more than 85% of the world’s needs. The following reasons may also answer why we are so dependent on fossil fuels . Let’s see what are the major pros of using fossil fuels in today’s world!

The technology used to obtain fossil fuels has become very well-developed. This is because Fossil fuels have been a sole source of energy for quite a while now and we have been working on the technology to obtain energy from these sources more efficiently.

Fossils fuels are cheap as they are available in huge quantities around the world and as we have spent years and years developing the technologies for it, some believe that it’s better to use fossil fuels so as to reap the efforts. The energy production per gram of fossil fuels is higher than many alternative sources of energy (greater amount of energy released with same amount). They are extremely reliable to be used as primary source of energy, as compared to the other renewable sources of energy which are not reliable.

This means that even small quantities of fossil fuels can generate loads of energy, The best fuels to be used for vehicles is petroleum undoubtedly because no other source of energy comes even close to the rapid generation of energy from petroleum.

Fossil fuels can be transported quite easily. Coals can be transported on trucks and natural gas or petroleum through pipelines. Although initially laying down these pipes costs a fortune, but later on they turn out to be very efficient means of transportation. One can understand that unlike fossil fuels, renewable sources of energy such as Wind and Solar cannot be transported.

Use of Fossil fuels generates thousands of jobs for the workers ranging from mine workers, to truck drivers as well as jobs at petroleum companies.  Abandonment of Fossil fuels could result in a very high spike in unemployment, and with the overpopulation issue nowadays, it could lead to an economic crisis.

As we all know, renewable sources of energy are dependent on the availability of the source such as wind or sunlight to generate energy. Fossil fuel plants can however be installed anywhere and made to produce enormous quantities of energy as long as it has a reliable supply of fuel to generate power.

Disadvantages of Fossil Fuels

After using fossil fuels for years on end, we realized that there were some unprecedented cons of using and very well abusing Fossil Fuels. Let’s see what those disadvantages of fossil fuels are.

Fossils fuels are clearly not a green source of energy, they are rather damaging to the environment due to their high carbon content. The carbon di oxide is released from burning fossil fuels which is a greenhouse gas that causes Air Pollution as well as ozone layer depletion. These effects ultimately lead to global warming. Other than that there is also environmental degradation of the earth due to mining practices.

Power stations need a constant supply of fuel to be able to generate the demand of power. This means large quantity of coal needs to be transported everyday which leads to further increase in our carbon footprint.  Hence, it is essential to build fossil fuel plants near to fossil fuel reserves to decrease transportation costs and damage to the environment.

Many believe that fossil fuels being non-renewable source of energy mean that they are present in finite amounts in the world and cannot be replenished naturally. However, the truth of the matter is that they are replenished naturally through the process of anaerobic decomposition of organic matter but the process takes millions of years to make reserves sufficient for our use.

Given that the reserves of fossil fuels are plenty but the way we are using fossil fuels is simply unsustainable. It will take a million years for the earth to produce more fossil fuel resources. This has led to people thinking different and shifting to green sources of energy.

Fossil fuels have been quite cheap due to the government providing incentives for use of these sources of energy. Coal, Natural gas and petroleum have received subsidies amounting to $4.22 Billion. Compared to these incentives, Solar, which is a green source of energy only received $1.13 Billion.

Accidents may happen anywhere ranging from nuclear plants to solar panels. Although the accidents happening in fossil fuel mechanisms are not as dangerous as nuclear systems, they are obviously more risky than wind power or solar power. The deep water horizon spill which happened in April of 2010 is still fresh in our minds.

Fossil fuels are extremely opposite to being environment friendly. Burning of these fuels results in all kinds of pollution, the most apparent being air pollution. WHO claims 7 Million premature deaths are because of air pollution . Polluted air can cause various lung diseases and also trigger allergic reactions which could trigger asthma in many people. Humans living In overcrowded cities are more exposed to polluted air and hence carry a higher risk of Asthma.

A few Middle-east countries have been rewarded with surplus amounts of oil reserves and fossil fuels. These countries are behind 40% of the oil production in the world. Majority of the world has to depend on these countries to fulfill their oil demands. Lower production, political instability, economic sanctions and wars have a profound effect on the trade and could lead to high fluctuations in the oil prices.

Mine workers are exposed to highly contagious gasses which have proven to be quite fatal to human health. Hundreds of People working in mines as well as oil-drilling sites die each year.

Trees are cleared out of forests to make way for mining practices. Mining requires quite a large land and hence, can’t be done with trees being present. Other than the mine, many trees need to be cut to make way for roads and infrastructure to make for transports to and from the mine. This leads to severe loss of ecosystems and subsequently habitat destruction.

There are numerous pros and cons of fossil fuels and only a few have been listed here. Perhaps the most important thing to note here is how damaging it is to the environment. Fortunately, quite efficient, green and renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind power have been invented and made available to the population. These alternative sources of energy will lead to less and less people relying on conventional fossil fuels. We need to play our small part in producing a better future.

Ahsen Soomro

My love for nature is not newfound. I have lived on the countryside for over a decade of my life where I realized how human activities impacted the environment. Later during my stint in medical school, I realized that many of our health concerns originate from neglecting our environmental responsibilities and this was just not sustainable in the long run. Raising awareness, not locally but globally, was the mission. This led to the foundation of EnvironmentBuddy!

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Pros and Cons of Fossil Fuels

12 Pros And Cons Of Fossil Fuels

Fossil fuels have been a controversial topic for many years. Some people believe that they are the best source of energy, while others believe that they are harmful to the environment. In this article, I will take a look at the pros and cons of fossil fuels to help you decide what you think about them.

Here’s a quick summary about the fossil fuels pros and cons:

Fossil fuels are a reliable and affordable energy source, but they come with environmental costs. Burning fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. Additionally, mining and drilling for fossil fuels can damage local ecosystems.

Now, let’s have a quick look at what fossil fuels are. Then I will dive deeper into the advantages and disadvantages of fossil fuels , so we can make a better-informed decision about their use while we move towards sustainable development !

What are fossil fuels?

Fossil fuels are non-renewable natural resources that include coal, oil, and natural gas. They are called fossil fuels because they are formed from the remains of prehistoric plants and animals.

how are fossil fuels formed?

Fossil fuels are formed from the remains of prehistoric organisms that have undergone a process of natural decomposition under specific conditions.

Over millions of years, these remains are subjected to intense heat and pressure deep within the earth’s crust, resulting in the transformation of their organic matter into hydrocarbons.

The 3 Types of fossil fuels

Crude oil, the most abundant of the fossil fuels, is typically found in underground reservoirs and is extracted through drilling. Once crude oil is extracted, it must be refined into various petroleum products, such as gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel, which can be used to power vehicles and aircraft.

Natural Gas

Natural gas, another fossil fuel, is typically found in underground reservoirs and is extracted through drilling. Once natural gas is extracted, it is often used to heat homes and businesses as well as to produce electricity, especially in Europe.

Coal, the last of the fossil fuels, is a sedimentary rock that is mined from the earth. Once the coal is extracted, it is typically used to generate electricity.

Pros and cons of fossil fuels

Pros of fossil fuels.

Here are the main advantages of fossil fuels and why, unfortunately, they are still the most used source of energy!

Fossil fuels are a relatively inexpensive source of energy. In fact, they are one of the least expensive sources of energy when you compare the cost of energy from different sources.

This is one of the reasons why fossil fuels are so popular and definitely one of their main advantages.

2. Plentiful

Fossil fuels are the most abundant source of energy on our planet and are a major source of energy for humans.

Given their abundance, fossil fuels are the most common energy source on Earth. For example, up to 2019, fossil fuels accounted for about 80% of the energy consumption in the United States.

The world’s supply of fossil fuels is vast, and it is estimated that there are enough reserves to meet global demand for about another 40 years .

3. Reliable

Fossil fuels have been used to generate electricity for over 100 years. They are a reliable source of energy and provide a significant percentage of the world’s electricity.

Most importantly, fossil fuels are not subject to changes of weather or other environmental factors.

4. Versatile

Fossil fuels are a versatile energy source that can be used to generate electricity, power vehicles, and heat homes and businesses.

Moreover, their byproducts can also be used to asphalt roads, create fertilizers, plastics, and more.

5. Easy to store and transport

Fossil fuels are easy to store and transport. You just need a simple fuel tank and anyone can carry them around without the need for any special equipment.

6. High energy density

Fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas have a high energy density. This means that a small amount of these materials can provide a large amount of energy. When these materials are burned, they release a great deal of heat. This heat can be used to generate electricity or to power engines.

Cons of Fossil fuels

Here are the main disadvantages of fossil fuels and why we should aim at replacing them with more environmentally sustainable options.

1. finite non-renewable resources

Fossil fuels are finite and are one of my 10 examples of non renewable resources . This means that at some point they will run out.

This is a major disadvantage because it means that we will have to find another source of energy to power our homes, businesses, and industries.

2. Greenhouse gas emissions

Fossil fuels produce greenhouse gases. These gases trap heat in the atmosphere and cause the Earth’s temperature to rise. This is a major problem because it is contributing to the Earth’s climate change.

3. damages to the environment and ecosystems

Fossil fuels can severely damage the environment and ecosystems in case of accidents.

For example, when coal is mined, especially in an open pit mine , it can pollute the air and water. Oil spills can also damage the environment.

An oil spill occurs when liquid petroleum is released into the environment, often as a result of an accident. Oil spills can have a number of damaging effects on the environment.

One of the most immediate and visible effects of an oil spill is the contamination of land and water. This can kill plants and animals, and make the affected area unsuitable for human use.

Oil spills can also have long-term effects, such as the contamination of groundwater supplies.

4. They are becoming more expensive

Fossil fuels are becoming more expensive. This is because they are a finite resource and as they become scarce, the price of fossil fuels will continue to rise.

More in detail, the problem with any non renewable resource is that we may not be able to extract them anymore even before they run out.

This is because while we consume those resources, they become harder to extract, causing prices to rise until they simply become too expensive. Because it may cost more energy to extract, refine and transport them than the energy we are going to get from their use.

5. Source of geopolitical conflict

Fossil fuels can be a source of geopolitical conflict. This is because countries that have large reserves of fossil fuels can wield a lot of power over other countries. This can lead to military conflicts between countries.

However, most often countries like the United States and other European nations are waging wars, especially in the middle east, to keep under control countries with large oil reserves.

Additionally, oil is a fundamental component of the petrodollar system, which to the current day ensures the financial supremacy of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency.

6 Can be dangerous

Fossil fuels can be dangerous. They are flammable and can cause fires and explosions. They are also poisonous and can contaminate the air, water, and soil.

In conclusion, is that the pros and cons of fossil fuels need to be carefully considered.

If we are to avoid environmental damage and slow down climate change, we need to find alternative energy sources.

However, until those sources, like solar, wind, hydropower , and eventually nuclear power (that are also coming with their pros and cons) are more developed, we will likely continue to rely on fossil fuels.

Unfortunately, until we will be able to harness all the benefits of green technologies , fossil fuels are a necessary evil. They power our homes and our businesses, but they also pollute our air and water.

Fossil fuels’ advantages and disadvantages are worth considering when making decisions about our future energy use.

What is clear is that we should pursue renewable resources as much as we can and get all the benefits of solar energy , wind energy , and more. This while gradually transitioning to more sustainable and environmentally conscious energy sources!

Home Essay Examples Environment Fossil Fuels

Fossil Fuels: Pros And Cons For Humans

  • Category Environment
  • Subcategory Human Impact , Environmental Sustainability
  • Topic Air Pollution , Fossil Fuels

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Starting with the basics of fossil fuels, fossil fuels are formed by fossilized remains of plants or animals from millions of years ago that were in the ground. Fossil fuels include coal, oil, and natural gas. Coal is formed from layers that are in the dirt and rock which were covered by plants a long time ago, because of the pressure and heat, the plants then turned into coal and that is how coal was formed. Coal is also the only solid on the list of fossil fuels. Oil was formed from a mixture of hydrocarbons that were formed from plants and animals that lived millions of years ago. Oil is a fossil fuel that is the only liquid on the list of fossil fuels. Lastly, is natural gas, like the rest of the fossil fuels were created millions of years ago and was created from animals and plants, which then built up in the layers of the Earth’s ocean floors. They sometimes mixed with different materials and these layers started going farther into the ground and the pressure and heat from them being in the ground changed some of the materials into coal, oil, and natural gas. This was how natural gas was formed and it is the only gas out of the 3 of these fossil fuels.

People all over the world use fossil fuels, lots of these energy sources are used all the way from the USA to China. The top 3 users of coal since 2017 is China, and 70% of their energy came from the use of coal. The next top user is India, which produced 692.4 million tons of coal in 2017. Lastly, number 3 in the USA and their production was down 30% in the last decade, but there is production in 25 states. For oil, the top 3 users are 1. USA, 2. China, and 3. Japan. The USA consumed 18.5 million barrels of oil per day in 2013. China consumed 10.3 mbd (million barrels per day). And Japan consumed 4.7 mbd in 2013. Lastly, the top 3 producers of natural gas is 1. USA, 2. Russia, and 3.China. The USA consumed 773,200,000 thousand cubic meters of natural gas in 2015. Russia consumed 453,300,000 thousand cubic meters of natural gas in 2014. Lastly, China consumed 181,100,000 thousand cubic meters of natural gas in 2014. The reason that we use fossil fuels is from using oil to create gas and things like plastic to using coal and natural gas for energy and heat. Another reason that we use fossil fuels is to make money. Things like coal can cost a lot of money to produce and sell.

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These countries use so much of each of these fossil fuels and they are able to do that because of reserves. These reserves are where they find these fossil fuels and dig them out of the ground. The top 3 countries that have the most coal reserves are 1.USA , 2. Russia, and 3.China. As of December 2012 the USA produced 237.295 billion tonnes of coal. Russia at the same time in 2012, and they produced 157.01 billion tonnes of coal. Lastly, China in 2012 produced 114.5 billion tonnes of coal. To buy coal at a coal mine in 2018, it costs 35.99$ per short ton. For oil, the top 3 countries that have the most oil reserves are 1.Venezuela , 2. Saudi Arabia, and 3. Canada. Venezuela had 303.3 billion barrels in 2018 which was 17.5% of the world’s total reserves. Saudi Arabia had 297.7 billion barrels of oil which were 17.2% of the world’s total reserve. Lastly, Canada had 167.8 billion barrels of oil in 2018, which was 9.7% of the world’s total reserves. A barrel of oil can range anywhere from 40-100$. Now for natural gas, in 2012 and 2013 it went 1.Russia, 2.Iran, and 3.Qatar. Russia had an estimated of about 1,688 trillion cubic feet in January of 2013. Iran had a total 1,187 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in 2012. Lastly, Qatar, as of December of 2012 they had a total of 885.3 trillion cubic feet. The thing about production is that I already talked about it in paragraph to so I think that if you have already read that, then you don’t need to read all of that information again.

Fossil fuels can have a good effect on us humans, but a bad effect on the environment. Let’s start with coal, the thing about coal is that it costs a lot more than the alternative of natural gas and things like solar and wind energy. There is a process that is called strip mining and in this process, it removes an entire layer of the ground and gets to the coal and other minerals. This is very bad for the environment because it can uproot and pollute habitats and other homes for animals and plants. Oil isn’t the best thing either, oil also has a process to get to it and it is called fracking. Fracking is when you blast large quantities of a mixture of water and chemicals. The pressure from the mixture allows oil to escape from crevices in the ground. The problem with this is that it can cause air and water pollution and it uses our fresh water for the process which we don’t have a lot of. Lastly, for natural gas, this also has a process called fracking just like oil but this process has a lot of toxic fluids in this and this has been known to contaminate our water. Using these natural gases are also the cause of global warming, and they use large amounts of carbon dioxide and when this is burned it affects our environment badly. To prove that these fossil fuels are affecting our environment, we had an assignment where we plotted the temperature change over the past 120 years from 1900 to 2017. This data showed that from 1900 to 2000 the temperature has risen 0.5 degrees celsius, and from 2000 to 2017 is rose up 0.6 degrees celsius. This shows that in a total of 117 years, the temperature has risen 1.1 degrees celsius. You can also see that the temperature is rising more in the 2000s which is when we are using more and more of these fossil fuels to make our life easier.

Now we will be talking about renewable sources that can help replace these fossil fuels and help our environment. The first renewable source is wood and wood waste, wood and wood waste have been used for heat, cooking, and lighting for thousands of years. It was actually the leading source of energy until the mid-1800s. The concern about using wood and wood waste is that when it burns it creates heat and energy which is good, but it also creates harmful pollutants like carbon monoxide. Also burning garbage can result in air pollution. The next renewable source is ethanol, ethanol is a renewable biofuel because it is made from biomass. Ethanol is very useful because “Fuel ethanol feedstocks include grains and crops with high starch and sugar content such as corn, sorghum, barley, sugar cane, and sugar beets. Ethanol can also be made from grasses, trees, and agricultural and forestry residues such as corn cobs and stocks, rice straw, sawdust, and wood chips.” This shows how helpful ethanol can be for us and how it can replace things like coal or oil. The concern about using ethanol is that even though it is good for the environment in many ways if you mix it with gasoline which burns cleaner, they have high evaporative emissions, which contribute to the formation of harmful, ground-level ozone and smog. Lastly, is hydropower, hydropower relies on the water cycle. Hydropower is used in a lot of places and “hydroelectric power plants are usually located on or near a water source. The volume of the water flow and the change in elevation (or fall) from one point to another determine the amount of available energy in moving water.” This shows that hydropower is mainly based on water and can help us stop using our fresh water. The concern about hydropower is that a lot of dams have hydraulic generators and they can obstruct fish migration and can change natural temperatures in the water. This can affect our water life a lot and can result and fish dying. The last thing that I would like to talk about is how can I help with the environment and make a difference in our world? I think that the way that I can make a difference in our world is that if I have to go somewhere that isn’t far away, instead of using a car I can use a bike. Because the gases emitted from my car affect the environment so I can use some other type of transportation to get to shorter distances. Which will thus help the environment by using fewer fossil fuels.

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  • Environmental Science

The Pros and Cons of Fossil Fuels

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The First Law of Thermodynamics, also referred to as the Law of Conservation of Energy, states that energy can no longer undergo creation, not destruction. With that, it can only undergo transformation or change from one state to another. The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that the entropy of any system that is isolated always undergoes an increase. At that point, the systems that are isolated undergo evolution toward the thermal equilibrium ( Ciocan, Tazerout, Prisecaru & Durastanti, 2015). The above two scientific laws apply to energy use, energy conversions, and the need for energy efficiency. In specific, the definitions of the laws depict given ambiguities that indicate their applications to disciplines of energy. The laws illustrate the activities of lighting efficiency and thermal conduction as the laws state ( Ciocan et al., 2015) . The use of energy in different disciplines has to fit either of the laws. In its conservation, it is easily converted to another form hence not created nor destroyed. The pros of fossil fuels are that they are well-developed and also, they are reliable and cheap. The energy used in the harnessing of the energy from fossil fuels is developed. The fuels are excellent types of fuel for usage for energy based on load. On the other hand, fossil fuels have got some disadvantages. The energy sources have contributed to global warming ( Ciocan et al., 2015) . It is important to consider the source that will not affect the environment due to the cases of global warming. Also, they are non-renewable, unsustainable, incentivized, and in many cases accidents. The energy source produces low pollution, the operating cost is low, they are reliable, have high proficiency than fossil fuels, and interestingly, renewable. On the other hand, the energy source has an impact on the environment, a problem when it comes to the disposal of radioactive waste, high cases of nuclear accidents, the high cost of production, the presence of uranium which is finite, and high militants target ( Ciocan et al., 2015) . Solar energy is naturally available. It is sustainable, low impact on the environment, and has an energy that is readily independent. On the other hand, it comprises some disadvantages. It is intermittency, hence can only be generated through sunshine. Also, it may take a significant amount of land, and their materials are scarce in supply ( Ciocan et al., 2015) . Wind power is a clean energy and has no fuel to drill, mine, frank, burn, or transport. The source is sustainable and renewable, the costs are low and they decrease with time, they have a domestic supply in abundance, free when the infrastructure is paid for, the low life cycle of the footprint for carbon, and is used for most of the places ( Ciocan et al., 2015) . On the other hand, it is unpredictable as the wind is unsteady and inconsistent, it is not cheap when compared with other sources of energy they pollute the environment as they produce noise, cases of wildlife impact, and localized impact on weather and temperatures at night-time. The energy is renewable, it is green, it is highly reliable, it has a high rate of flexibility, and it is much safe when compared with other sources. On the other hand, it has got consequences for the environment, it is quite expensive, its availability depends on the availability of water, and easily affected by limited reservoirs ( Ciocan et al., 2015) . The characteristics of algae make it be most competitive as a fuel source. It is the most environmentally friendly. The algae are small aquatic organisms that help in the conversion of sunlight into a form of energy and the storage is facilitated in a form of oil. The energy source is so convincing hence attracting more attention. Advantageously, the algae-based biofuels drop in replacement for liquid fuels that are based on petroleum. Also, the fuel is inherently renewable and it stands to be a reliable source. It absorbs the carbon dioxide in its growth, and the waste carbon dioxide and wastewater can be utilized as nutrients. After a clear comparison of the algae source energy with other sources, it is evident that the new source is attentive ( Ciocan et al., 2015) . The source has a higher energy per acre than the bio-fuels. The source is reliable as it can be grown in areas where other types of agriculture are not possible. The production process is recently scaling high and the benefits are evident. Conclusively, when selecting a source of energy, there are things to consider. Reliability, renewability, the power delivered, sustainability, and the effects on the environment should be considered. Recently, it is important to consider the source that will not affect the environment due to the cases of global warming. It is important to consider that to protect the future. Technology advances resonate the best energy source for replicative outcomes. The advantages and disadvantages should be tabled as well so that to come up with the best option. 


Ciocan, A., Tazerout, M., Prisecaru, T., & Durastanti, J. F. (2015, November). Thermodynamic evaluation for a small-scale compressed air energy storage system by integrating renewable energy sources. In  Renewable Energy Research and Applications (ICRERA), 2015 International Conference on (pp. 455-460). IEEE. 

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MIT hosts debate on pros and cons of fossil-fuel divestment

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Debate moderator Anthony Cortese (center) directs a question to the pro-divestment team during Thursday's debate on fossil fuel divestment.

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Debate moderator Anthony Cortese (center) directs a question to the pro-divestment team during Thursday's debate on fossil fuel divestment.

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On Thursday, MIT held an event that Maria Zuber, vice president for research, described in welcoming remarks as likely “a first-of-its-kind occurrence: a serious, campus-wide debate on the pros and cons of fossil-fuel divestment, sponsored by the university senior administration that is being petitioned.”  

The debate, held in Kresge Auditorium before hundreds of attendees from MIT and elsewhere, featured two teams of experts, in a classical debate format, who addressed the contentious issue of whether MIT should shed its investments in fossil-fuel companies. It was moderated by Tony Cortese of the Intentional Endowments Network, a group that helps universities align their investments with their values and goals.

“This is not a popularity contest; we’re not counting votes; there’s no applause meter,” Zuber said. “We’re not declaring winners and losers. We are here to learn and to understand both sides of a complex question.”

The two teams — each consisting of an MIT faculty member, a professor from another institution, and an executive from an investment firm — quickly found common ground on several major points. All six participants agreed on the seriousness of climate change, and the need for strong actions to curb greenhouse-gas emissions; they also agreed that one of the most important policy measures to address the issue would be the imposition of a price on the use of fossil fuels, such as a carbon tax. But they differed on whether an MIT divestment from fossil-fuel companies would help address climate change in any meaningful way.

John Sterman, the Jay W. Forrester Professor in Computer Studies at the MIT Sloan School of Management, said in an opening statement for the pro-divestment side that an MIT divestment is “not only right, it is vital to support the policies that are needed to prevent potentially catastrophic climate change. Further, divestment is necessary to preserving the integrity of MIT and our commitment to the scientific method.”

“The stakes are immense,” Sterman said, citing overwhelming evidence that if present trends in the use of fossil fuels continue unabated, “the result would be nothing short of a holocaust.”

MIT “must take a stand,” Sterman said, adding that fossil-fuel companies “continue to fund deniers, undermine the science, confuse the public, and delay action — actions antithetical to the values of MIT. The integrity of the Institute is at stake. … We cannot say that we care about climate change while we invest in an industry that threatens our prosperity, our health, and our lives.”

Responding for the anti-divestment team, Timothy Smith, director of shareholder engagement at the investment firm Walden Asset Management, said that while he agrees with Sterman’s assessment of threat that climate change poses, “I don’t think that automatically leads to only one conclusion — the sale of stock being the approach that you must take.” And Frank Wolak, a professor of economics at Stanford University, added that there’s a reason fossil-fuel companies produce coal and oil: “It’s because we demand them, to heat our homes, to drive our cars, to fly in our airplanes.”

“Divestiture does nothing to address that problem,” Wolak said. “As long as demand is still there for the fossil fuels, the greenhouse-gas emissions will exist, regardless of who owns the assets.”

“We all could agree that divestiture is a symbolic gesture that, sadly, will have no measurable impact on global greenhouse gas emissions, or the behavior of companies that produce fossil fuels,” Wolak added. He pointed out that the global capitalization of the fossil-fuel industry amounts to $60 trillion; MIT’s entire endowment of $12.4 billion represents just 0.02 percent of that, and even the endowments of all U.S. universities combined are less than 1 percent of that figure. The only real effect of divestiture, Wolak said, would be that “different people would be earning the profits.”

Rather than divesting, Wolak argued, MIT “can do much more to actually address the global climate challenge.” Noting the widespread agreement that setting a price on carbon is the most effective approach to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, he said that actually designing and implementing such a mechanism is a challenge worthy of MIT, and one that could be adopted and tested at a campus level to set an example.

Naomi Oreskes, a professor of the history of science at Harvard University, responded for the pro-divestment team that even if divestment is a symbolic action, “Symbols matter, because they signal our intent, and they invite other people to join in our intent.” She said that while all six panelists agree on the importance of carbon pricing, it’s a false dichotomy to suggest that the two actions are in opposition: Divestment, she said, can be part of a political strategy to build public pressure that could lead to a carbon tax.

Citing figures from the International Energy Agency indicating that construction of fossil-fuel infrastructure should cease by 2017 to avert a climate crisis, Orestes said, “We must stop investing in the industries that are driving us toward crisis.”

Brad Hager, the Cecil and Ida Green Professor in Earth and Planetary Sciences and director of MIT’s Earth Resources Laboratory, arguing against divestment, said that not all fossil fuels are alike, and not all companies in that sector are alike. For example, he said, natural gas is less environmentally damaging than coal, and the shale gas revolution has actually reduced the nation’s carbon footprint. “We need to apply some discrimination, and that’s what’s wrong with this divestment movement: It throws everything out rather than making thoughtful choices about what is good, and what we should keep and what we should get rid of,” Hager said.

Smith, the investment-firm executive who argued against divestment, suggested that stockholder involvement — exercising the rights to make shareholder resolutions and demands for changes from companies — could be more effective than divestment in compelling corporate change. This could be especially effective, he said, if MIT were to combine with other institutional investors to form a bloc to bring pressure on fossil-fuel companies, such as by urging them to invest more in renewable energy alternatives.

Don Gould, president and chief investment officer for Gould Asset Management, arguing in favor of divestment, agreed that shareholder engagement can be a useful mechanism. However, he added: “It’s questionable to expect a coal producer to stop producing coal because of shareholder engagement.”

Gould said that divestment is not really aimed at fossil-fuel companies themselves. “It’s aimed at the policymakers who have to formulate a policy that will provide for a habitable planet,” he said.

Gould is also a trustee of Pitzer College in California, which last year committed itself to — and achieved — full divestment from fossil fuels. Divestment, he said, “aligns an institution’s actions with its values. A university actively committed to engineering a sustainable future for humanity should not be betting its endowment dollars on the opposite outcome. It is a conflict of interest, plain and simple.”

Hager said that as a researcher who has worked with fossil-fuel companies, he has found that “their positions on global warming and the environment span a broad spectrum. Some have an irresponsible cowboy mentality, plundering and laying waste. … Others are much more invested in a sustainable future. For example, Shell leadership is actively promoting a price on carbon, preferring the stable environment that a carbon price would provide.”

Yesterday’s debate was the fourth in a series of open-forum spring events as part of the MIT Climate Change Conversation; next up is a six-date listening tour around campus. The Committee on the MIT Climate Change Conversation will incorporate feedback from these events into a final report to the MIT administration at the end of the academic year. The report will provide a short list of possible actions, in unranked order, with associated pros and cons, and will be released to the MIT community for comment. The report, along with all additional input, will collectively provide a sense of the community’s point of view to MIT’s senior leadership, and will inform its decision-making.

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Jennifer Switzer reports for The Tech on MIT’s fossil-fuel divestment debate. “Divestment has been one of the most strongly debated potential actions of academic institutions in recent times,” said Prof. Roman Stocker, head of the MIT Climate Change Committee. “We decided: Why don’t we tackle it head-on?”

MIT hosted a debate between two panels of experts last week to discuss whether the Institute should divest its endowment from fossil-fuel companies, reports Kyle Alspach for BostInno . Each side included “an MIT faculty member, a professor from another institution and an executive from an investment firm.”

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Benjamin Hulac reports for Scientific American on a debate held at MIT on whether the Institute should divest its endowment from fossil-fuel companies. The forum included a panel of experts arguing each side of the issue and responding to questions from the audience.

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Fossil Fuels vs Renewable Energy (Pros and Cons)

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In this article, we are going to consider the pros and cons of fossil fuels and renewable energy.

We will begin with the pros and cons of fossil fuels, go in-depth are the relationship between climate change and fossil fuels. We will then examine the alternatives to fossil fuels and compare renewable energy and fossil fuel costs. Finally, we will look at one type of renewable energy – solar.

Table of Contents

Pros and cons of fossil fuels

Advantages of fossil fuels

  • Fossil fuels have the ability to generate a large amount of electricity at one location such as a coal or gas fired power station.
  • Coal and other fossil fuels are a cost-effective fuel source for electricity generation.
  • Whist fossil fuels are not renewable there is an abundant supply of coal and exploration continues to discover new reserves of fossil fuels.
  • Natural gas is very efficient for use in electricity generation.
  • It is easy to locate and extract fossil fuels.
  • Fossil fuels are also easy to transport with oil and natural gas pipelines.
  • Fossil fuels can be used for electricity generation in any location, independent of weather and climate conditions.
  • They have almost constant availability and so are reliable sources of electricity generation for baseload global demand and also as a instantly available energy source for transportation.

Disadvantages of fossil fuels

  • A key disadvantage of fossil fuels is pollution. Fossil fuels emit greenhouse gasses including carbon dioxide, contributing to global warming.
  • Extraction of fossil fuels such as coal causes environmental destruction and endangers the lives of coal miners.
  • In addition to this intrinsic pollution, human error has also caused environmental damage due to oil spills and other incidents.
  • Drilling for oil and other fossil fuels causes degradation, soil erosion and water supply pollution.
  • Fossil fuels are non-renewable – they are finite as it has taken millions of years under specific conditions to form.
  • Since a large amount of coal is required to generate electricity, coal power plants can only be built near coal reserves.
  • Climate change is not the only disadvantage of fossil fuels, the pollution generate by fossil fuel is toxic and responsible for 2 million deaths each year globally.

Fossil fuels and climate change

In order to combat climate change the percentage of primary energy which comes from renewable sources of energy must increase to 60% by 2050 from 15% in 2020. The amount of energy coming from nuclear power must go to 4% in 2050 from around 2% now. Although natural gas is better regarding climate change emissions than coal, the primary energy percentage of natural gas needs to fall in most climate-change frameworks.

It is worth pointing out that right now only 3 percent of global energy capacity is directly accountable by wind and solar and there are many applicational benefits to fossil fuels over renewables.

In the retail solar industry, investment tax credits and other governmental subsidies cover the cost of 26% of solar installation in the United States, dropping down to 22% in 2021.

These subsidies are small compared to the huge subsidies that governments give to the fossil fuels industry. When all subsidies are removed it turns out that solar may be the cheapest source of energy. One key fact is worth pointing out that solar is technology as opposed to a fuel and it means that innovation will continue and research and development improve.

Alternatives to fossil fuels

Globally, nearly 90% of all energy consumption comes from fossil fuels. Alternatives to fossil fuels include sustainable energy which is define as producing and consuming energy in a matter which meets present needs without compromising future generations’ abilities to meet their own needs. It is important to realise that up to one billion people presently do not have access to electricity and nearly have of global population depend on wood, animal, charcoal and other smoky fuel sources for cooking. In order to maintain the warming of the earth’s climate to 1.5 degrees centigrade requires the widespread rollout of electricity generation using methods that are low-emitting and also requiring increased usage of electricity for cooking and transportation.

One alternative to fossil fuels is the usage of hydrogen for electricity generation and hydrogen fuel cells in automobiles. It is also possible to continue to use fossil fuels by implementing carbon capture and storage in which the carbon emitted from coal power plants is capture and stored unwater or underground. Carbon capture and storage is expensive however the IPCC’s lowest cost path to keeping global warming to 2 degrees increase mass deployment of bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration which is currently infeasible.

Renewable energy includes wind , hydroelectric and solar energy sources.

Solar and wind are intermittent sources of energy. Nuclear is sometimes considered a renewable source of energy and can form the baseload for a nation’s energy supply. Wind power may be dispersed over hundreds of square miles and are often located offshore. Each blade of the wind turbines lasts no more than 20 years. Hydroelectric plants can last for hundreds of years and can compensate for the intermittence of solar and wind power. Hydroelectric power supplies 80% of electricity generation in Brazil but only 16% worldwide.

Biomass can be derived from living and recently living organism to produce heat or generate electricity by burning.

  • Biomass has high versatility and is available in most countries so can help to reduce usage and importation of fossil fuels. Biofuels are manufactured from biomass and are usually liquid and so can be used in transportation.
  • Geothermal energy uses thermal energy generated by radioactive decay of potassium in the Earth’s crust which is obtained by drilling the ground and extracted by heat transfer fluids.
  • Marine energy such as wave and tidal power is in the infancy of development.

Cost of renewable energy vs fossil fuels

The cost of renewable energy is falling quickly. In the last decade the cost of electricity generated by onshore wind turbines fell by a quarter, solar power fell even further by up to three quarters. The price of renewable energy is expected to fall further.

Let’s put some numbers on it.

Onshore wind costs about $0.06 a kilowatt hour with some onshore windfarms able to produce at $0.04 per kilowatt hour.

Solar electricity is being generated at about $0.10 per kilowatt hour. This compares to fossil fuels which cost as low as $0.05 per kilowatt hour to as high as $0.17 per kilowatt hour. By the end of 2020 it is predicted that solar power will cost $0.03 per hour and similarly for onshore wind. This means that solar and wind may actually be cheaper to run than coal-fired power plants.

A lot of this reduction in cost is related to governments adopting competitive procurement tenders for new electricity power generation resulting in the reduction in tariffs and due to technological innovation in the onshore wind and solar industries. Whilst onshore wind and solar are making the greatest reductions in operational costs, other renewable energy sectors are also becoming competitive.

Offshore wind is also expected to reach $0.06 per kilowatt hour by end 2022 and beyond. It is also expected that geothermal, hydroelectric and bioenergy sources of electricity generation will become director competitors to fossil fuels with other $1 trillion being invested in the renewables sector in the last decade alone.

Solar energy vs fossil fuels

Solar heating are systems which utilize solar thermal collectors containing fluid systems to transfer heat from the solar thermal collect to the usage point in addition to a heat storage tank or reservoir. Solar power generates electricity than can power buildings and be collected to the electric grid. The average solar panel is project to last for at least 40 years and can be erected in remote areas.

Solar panels currently convert less than a quarter of light which hits the panel into electricity and has many difficulties to achieving widespread rollout and adoption but efficiency of solar panels is increasing.

Unlike solar, fossil fuels can be used at all times however fossil fuel extraction causes negative effects on the environment. The main factors that influence the amount of electricity that solar powers produce is the amount of sunlight that hits the panels and this is caused by seasonal factors and weather conditions.

Concluding remarks

Fossil fuels generate large amounts of electricity in one location. Fossil fuels, such as coal are cost-effective fuel sources for electricity generation. There is an abundant supply of fossil fuels, particularly coal and new reserves of fossil fuels are constantly being discovered however fossil fuels are not renewable. Natural gas, which is a fossil fuel is particularly efficient as use for electricity generation. Fossil fuels are easy to locate, extract and then transport. Electricity generation utilising fossil fuels can take place independently of weather and climate conditions are constantly available and so therefore are reliable sources of energy.

Fossil fuels emit greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide which contribute to global warming. The extraction of coal and other fossil fuels causes environmental destruction such as degradation, soil erosion and water supply pollution. Coal mining also endangers the lives of miners.In addition to this direct environmental destruction, human error causes environmental damage due to oil spills. Toxic air from fossil fuels kills up to 2 million people a year. In order to combat climate change, the percentage of primary energy from renewable sources needs to increase from 15% in 2020 to 60% in 2050. Although natural gas is better regarding climate change emissions than coal, the percentage of primary energy coming from natural case may need to fall.

Right now, only 3 percent of global energy capacity accounts to wind and solar. Tax credits and governmental subsidies reduce the cost for installation of solar panels but the amount of governmental subsidies to the fossil fuel industry is far larger. After accounting for subsidies, solar power is the cheapest method for electricity generation. Solar technology is a technology as opposed to a fuel – innovation will increase, costs will fall.

Right now, nearly 90% of all energy consumption comes from fossil fuels. Up to one billion people presently do not have access to electricity. Three billion people use smoky fuel sources for household cooking.

To reach climate targets of 1.5-degree global warming, the widespread adopting of renewable sources for electricity is needed. One alternative for internal combustion engines is the use of hydrogen fuel. It is also possible to continue using fossil fuels with widespread carbon capture and storage.

Renewable energy includes wind, solar and hydroelectric sources. It is worth pointing out that solar and wind are intermittent sources of energy.

Nuclear is labelled by some organisations as renewable and not-renewable by others. Nuclear can form the baseload for a nation’s energy supply.

Wind power is not concentrated and may be dispersed over hundreds of square miles. Each wind blade turbine lasts no more than 20 years. Hydroelectric plants last hundreds of years and compensate for solar and wind intermittency. Hydroelectric power supplies 16% of global electricity generation.

Biomass is derived from living/recently living organisms to produce heat which is burned to generate electricity. Biomass has high versatility and is globally available. Biofuels are liquid, generated from biomass and used in transportation.

Geothermal is extracted thermal energy, wave and tidal power are in their infancies. It is expected that geothermal, hydroelectric and bioenergy sources will be direct competitors to fossil fuels in the near term.

The cost of renewable energy is falling quickly. By the end of 2020 it is predicted that solar power will cost $0.03 per kilowatt hour. Therefore, solar and wind may be cheaper to run than coal-fired power plants. Other renewable energy sectors are also become competitive. Solar heating systems use solar thermal collectors to generate heat. Solar power is generated by solar panels. Solar panels last for at least 40 years and can be erected in remote areas. Solar panels only convert around a quarter of light hitting the panel. There are many difficulties in achieving the widespread rollout of solar panels.

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M. Eduard was born and raised in San Francisco, CA. Eduard spent his MBA summer internship at Sungevity, a residential solar energy retail company in Oakland, CA. He started this website to share his knowledge about renewable energy.

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Essay on Fossil Fuels and Renewable Energy | The Pros And Cons Of Fossil Fuels

Essay on Fossil Fuels and Renewable Energy edumantra.net

Essay on Fossil Fuels and Renewable Energy – Fossil fuels are a complex and globalized industry that affects the economy, environment , and social well-being of many people. Let’s dive deeper to understand further about that-

Long Essay on Fossil Fuels and Renewable Energy 1000 Words

What are Fossil Fuels edumantra.net

It’s no secret that our world is reliant on fossil fuels. For years, we’ve relied on these non-renewable resources to power our homes, our businesses, and our vehicles. But as we become more aware of the environmental impact of fossil fuels, we’re turning to renewable energy sources to provide the power we need. Let’s dive deeper to understand the impacts and future fossil Fuel- In this essay, we’ll explore the pros and cons of both fossil fuels and renewable energy. We’ll take a look at the history of each, their current use, and the potential for each in the future. By the end, you should have a better understanding of where our energy comes from and where it might be headed.

What are Fossil Fuels?

Fossil fuels are natural resources that have been formed over millions of years from the remains of dead plants and animals. Fossil fuels are non-renewable source of energy that are used to generate electricity and power our homes, businesses, and transportation.

There are three main types of fossil fuels: coal, oil, and natural gas.

1. Coal is the most abundant and least expensive fossil fuel, but it is also the dirtiest. 2. Oil is a liquid fossil fuel that is used to power our vehicles and create many of the products we use every day. 3. Natural gas is a clean-burning fossil fuel that is used to heat our homes and generate electricity.

Fossil fuels are a vital part of our economy and our way of life, but they come with some serious environmental concerns. Burning fossil fuels releases harmful emissions into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change and air pollution. Mining and drilling for fossil fuels can also have negative impacts on the environment. Despite these concerns, fossil fuels remain an important part of our world. For now, they are the best option we have for powering our homes, businesses, and transportation.

What are Renewable Energy Sources?

What are Renewable Energy Sources edumantra.net

Renewable energy sources are sources of energy that can be replenished or replaced naturally. Means they are renewable and can be reused in one or the other ways.  This includes solar, wind, water, biomass, and geothermal energies. Renewables make up a large portion of the world’s energy supply and are crucial to meeting our future energy needs in a sustainable way. Solar energy is by far the most abundant renewable resource on Earth. Every day, the sun emits more energy than we could ever hope to use.

Solar Panels convert sunlight into electricity, which can then be used to power our homes and businesses. Solar energy is also used to heat water and create space heating and cooling systems. Wind Energy is another renewable resource that has seen tremendous growth in recent years. Wind turbines convert the kinetic energy of moving air into electricity. Wind power is one of the fastest-growing sources of renewable electricity in the world. Waterpower is another form of renewable energy that has been used for centuries. Water wheels were once used to grind grain and provide other forms of mechanical power. Biomass is any organic matter that can be used as a fuel source. This includes wood, crops, and even waste products like manure and sewage sludge. Biomass can be burned to produce heat or converted into biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel. Today, hydroelectric dams generate electricity by harnessing the power of moving water. Small-scale hydropower systems can also be used to generate electricity for homes and businesses.

The Pros and Cons of Fossil Fuels

Fossil fuels such as coal and oil have been used to generate electricity for over a century. They are reliable, affordable, and abundant.

Here are some of the key advantages of fossil fuels: –

1. Fossil fuels are a very reliable source of energy. 2. They are much cheaper. 3. They are a very abundant resource. 4. There are huge reserves of coal and oil all over the world. 5. Fossil fuels produce large amounts of energy. Therefore they are used to generate electricity. 6. They can be easily transported and stored.

Fossil fuels have several disadvantages-

1. They are a finite resource, which means that they will eventually run out. 2. They are also non-renewable, meaning that they cannot be replaced once they are used up. 3. Fossil fuels are also responsible for a large percentage of greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change. 4. Burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, where they trap heat and cause the Earth to warm. 5. Fossil fuels are also dirty and polluting. Burning them releases harmful chemicals into the air, water, and soil. These pollutants can cause health problems in people and animals and damage the environment.

The Pros and Cons of Renewable Energy Sources

Here, we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of renewable energy sources so you can make an informed decision about which type of energy is right for you.

There are many advantages of renewable energy.

1. First, renewable energy is a clean source of energy. It does not produce emissions that pollute the air or water. 2. Second, renewable energy is a renewable resource. It can be replenished naturally, unlike fossil fuels which are finite resources that will eventually run out. 3. Third, renewable energy is often cheaper than traditional sources of energy. Once the initial investment has been made, the costs of operating a renewable energy system are often lower than the cost of running a fossil fuel-based system. 4.Fourth, renewable energy can help reduce our dependence on foreign oil. By using more domestic sources of energy, we can reduce our reliance on imported oil and gas. 5. Finally, renewable energy is a growing industry with good job prospects. Jobs in the renewable energy sector are often high-paying and stable, making it a good career choice for many people.

There are a few disadvantages of renewable energy to consider as well.

1. First, initial investment costs can be high. 2. Second, renewable energy sources are intermittent, meaning they can’t provide a consistent, 24/7 supply of power. This means that traditional backup power sources, like natural gas or diesel generators, are still needed. 3. Third, the technologies used to generate renewable energy can have negative environmental impacts. For example, large-scale solar farms can take up a lot of land, and wind turbines can kill birds and bats.

Which is Better for the Environment?

There are a lot of factors to consider when trying to determine which is better for the environment. cost, production, and disposal. Here are a few examples:

1. Recycling costs more money and energy than making new products from scratch. 2. Manufacturing products from recycled materials often requires more energy and produces more pollution than making products from virgin materials. 3. Disposing of recycling properly can be difficult and expensive. 4. Some products, like electronics, cannot be recycled at all and must be disposed of in special ways. In general, it is best to avoid disposing of anything in landfills if possible. Recycling should be seen as a last resort when it comes to the environment.

Which is Better for the Economy?

In the context of climate change, the question of which energy source is better for the economy is an important one. On the one hand, fossil fuels are the traditional energy sources and have been used for centuries. They are also relatively cheap and easy to extract. On the other hand, renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power are becoming increasingly popular as they offer a cleaner and more sustainable option. So, which is better for the economy? In general, renewable energy is thought to be better for the economy in the long run. This is because it can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change. Additionally, renewable energy sources tend to create more jobs than fossil fuel extraction does. This is because renewable energy often relies on technologies that require more manpower to install and maintain.

The world is clearly at a crossroads when it comes to energy. On the one hand, we have traditional fossil fuels like coal and oil, which are dirty, polluting, and slowly running out. On the other hand, we have renewable energy sources like solar and wind power, which are clean, sustainable, and endlessly renewable. The future of energy is clearly moving towards renewables, but the transition will not be easy. We need to invest in renewable energy now if we want to secure a clean and prosperous future for ourselves and our planet.

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Are Electric Vehicles Actually Good for the Climate?

There's a strong consensus that EVs are better for the environment than fossil fuel-driven cars. How do you convince the doubters?

An electric vehicle charger with a white electric vehicle sitting in the background.

Research shows electric vehicles are better for the climate and the environment than fossil-fuel driven cars.

When it comes to discussions about energy and emerging technology, it's not always easy to find a consensus. But from the United States Environmental Protection Agency and MIT researchers to BloombergNEF and Columbia Law School's Sabin Center for Climate Change Law , one opinion is consistent: Electric vehicles are better for the environment than their fossil-fueled counterparts. 

Why, then, do questions over that conclusion persist? 

For those working in the industry or advocating for clean energy, these recurring questions are nothing new. 

"I think that's just a natural part of that sort of adoption curve," said Ben Prochazka , executive director of nonpartisan, nonprofit organization The Electrification Coalition. 

Are EVs an improvement over cars powered by fossil fuels?

The calculation behind the claim that EVs are better for the environment is a complicated one, and must take into account everything from the vehicles themselves to the fuel they use and the processes required for both. 

But there is a general consensus. 

As a 2019 study led by David Keith, a senior lecturer in system dynamics at the MIT Sloan School of Management, found: "The rapid decarbonisation of transportation is critical if global efforts to mitigate the worst possible impacts of anthropogenic climate change are to be successful." 

Albert Gore is the executive director of the Zero Emission Transportation Association, an industry-backed coalition of manufacturing companies and others in the transportation and energy world -- from LG and Siemens to Uber and the Tennessee Valley Authority -- working toward the adoption of electric vehicles for both personal and commercial use. 

In his experience, people often forget that the conversation around EVs and vehicles in general isn't just about the emissions they individually create, but the broader environment around how they're built, fueled and more. And often, people don't realize how much cleaner the electric grid is when compared with fossil fuels, especially as an increasing amount of our grid is powered by renewable sources . 

"I think it may be surprising to some folks that the carbon intensity of electricity on average is much, much lower than for gasoline as a transportation fuel," Gore said. "And gasoline is not really getting much cleaner. Electricity is getting cleaner very, very quickly."

pros and cons of fossil fuels essay

What environmental challenges do EVs present?

Just because EVs are, in general, a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels doesn't mean they don't come with their own set of challenges and environmental hazards. And for those opposed to electric vehicles -- for one reason or another -- those challenges take front stage. 

For example, in March, a New York Post article claimed a 2022 study that had "attracted a wave of attention this week after being cited in a Wall Street Journal op-ed " had claimed "electric vehicles release more toxic particles into the atmosphere and are worse for the environment than their gas-powered counterparts." 

In fact, that study by UK-based Emissions Analytics -- who describes their focus as "real-world tailpipe emissions testing" -- was largely centered on the fact that tire particulate wear emissions were 1,000 times worse than exhaust emissions, and that heavier EVs can lead to more tire particulate wear emissions than their lighter gas-powered counterparts. 

But focusing on that one element doesn't paint a full picture, and it doesn't reckon with the production and refining of the fuel itself. And often, that conversation is too nuanced and complicated for quick armchair assessments. 

While the production of EVs -- involving different materials and production processes than traditional vehicles -- requires different things, those resources aren't necessarily worse or more harmful for the environment. And even if the negative outcomes of their production can rival traditional cars, that impact is offset through usage over a small period of time. And as more EVs are built and purchased, those processes are being refined. 

"We're transitioning from a fossil fuel economy to potentially a mineral-based economy, and anything we do ultimately has an impact," Prochazka said. "So it's, 'How do we have the least amount of impact?' It's important, as we do this transition, that we're moving towards transportation education. At this point, it's only a question of 'when' not 'if.' But as we transition, we've got to think through how we make sure we have access to critical minerals in a way that is the highest environmental standards and the highest labor standards and that we're sourcing them from countries that share our democratic values. All those things become important." 

pros and cons of fossil fuels essay

How can the EV industry convince its doubters? 

Advocates for EVs know that improving both adoption and trust in the technology won't happen overnight. But that inevitably slow crawl doesn't make the effort to educate and inform any less urgent. 

And for those who hope to see them dominate the roads one day, it's about doubling down on the benefits expected to come from wider adoption of EVs.  

"EVs are the only vehicle on the road that can get cleaner over time," Prochazka said. "You plug into a grid and the grid keeps getting cleaner. We're reducing our oil dependency, we're reducing our oil demand. It's good for economic and national security. But then, as the grid cleans up, we're also reducing the emissions profile of an EV and that's pretty amazing."

But the frequent questions and arguments over EVs' merits do frustrate supporters and those who have studied the issue, especially when they come in the form of misleading or inaccurate information. 

"I think people can see something that feels more disruptive to their daily lives and things that they care about than maybe it is, and it can lend itself to some reactionary misunderstandings," Gore said. "I think that we have really been trying to consistently put credible, third-party, validated, academic, objective and truthful data out to folks who are grappling with these questions. … But it's hard to continue to try to be patient and just say, 'Things will shake out over time' when there is a really concerted and well-funded effort to ensure that doesn't happen."

But Prochazka has faith in a tried and true method: the word of mouth. 

"There's the cul-de-sac effect," he said. "Once your neighbor gets one, you're much more likely to buy one. Once you've ridden in one, and then once you've driven and charged one, all of a sudden those things become demystified." 

pros and cons of fossil fuels essay

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pros and cons of fossil fuels essay

Solar Energy Pros and Cons

  • April 17, 2024
  • Homeowner , Why go Solar

If you are considering installing a solar system, it is important to weigh up the solar energy pros and cons before making an investment. The pros of solar energy include the fact that it is a sustainable way of generating electricity, reducing carbon footprints and assisting countries in reaching their net zero targets. Other solar energy pros include its affordability and low maintenance, its ability to increase a property’s value, and the energy independence it provides.

There are not many cons of solar energy, but one criticism is that solar does not produce energy during times of darkness, and is less efficient in countries with not much sunshine. Solar can be paired with flexible home battery storage systems, enabling solar system owners to store excess energy generated when the sun is shining, to be consumed at night. Another disadvantage of solar energy is that it can require a significant amount of land. However, community solar projects are increasingly popular – allowing end-users to benefit from solar energy in locations where space is constrained.

Advantages of Solar Energy

The advantages of solar energy have been obvious for some time. As more solar energy is installed globally, the world becomes less reliant on polluting fossil fuels, and individual nations, businesses and homeowners benefit from lower carbon footprints and greater energy independence. Solar energy’s advantages are numerous: let’s look at the advantages of solar energy and how more solar benefits everyone.

Renewable Energy

Solar electricity is a leading driver of renewable energy. Solar technology has been finessed and improved over many decades, and in the past few years solar energy has become the most popular form of renewable energy, attracting more global investment than any other form of electricity generation. Solar energy is universal – the whole world can harness the power of the sun, and the process of manufacturing solar panels is becoming much more sustainable each day, making solar energy the cleanest form of renewable energy.

More Affordable Than Ever

Solar energy is more affordable than ever. Since 2015, the cost of a solar system has fallen by approximately 22% [1] , costs for solar energy continue to fall. Indeed, the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) for solar is the most competitive in the world in many regions, meaning it is the cheapest source of power generation. Some states also provide solar investment tax credits and rebates to homeowners who install solar panels, and there are numerous attractive financial packages available to help make solar more affordable – from no-money-down leasing options to solar loans.

Reduce Electricity Bill

A solar panel investment can help you to reduce your electricity bill. Solar electricity generated by your solar panels will likely cover most, if not all, of your energy needs, dependent upon the size of your solar system and your typical energy consumption. For businesses and homes that have a large roof space to cover, a larger solar energy system can be sized to meet a good chunk of your electricity bill, which is a huge benefit for businesses that have high energy consumption.

In addition to a reduced electricity bill, any surplus solar electricity generated but not consumed can be fed into the grid, for which you can – dependent upon local policy and incentives – receive payments or energy credits from the utility provider. Surplus solar electricity may also be stored in battery storage systems to be used during non production hours.

Long-Term Savings

While the size and component costs of a solar energy system can vary on an individual basis, the overall long-term savings offered by solar is unarguable. Typically, investors in a solar system break even within six-to-ten years, and with solar panels performing well beyond 25 years, homeowners reap the cost benefits of long-term savings for many years. In a climate of volatile electricity prices, solar energy also offers stability and peace of mind – the power from the sun does not fluctuate or react to global shocks, making solar energy a good insurance against rising electricity prices.

While not strictly a long-term saving, a solar system on the home can also increase a property’s value, making it a more attractive proposition for homebuyers.

Generate Electricity in any Climate

It does not have to be sunny weather for a solar system to work – just daylight. This means that solar panels can generate electricity in any climate. Yes, they will be more efficient in locations with higher solar irradiation, but solar electricity will still be generated even in cooler and cloudier locations. Modern solar panels, such as those developed by Qcells, are also designed to perform better in low-light conditions, meaning that even locations in very northern or southern latitudes can reap the benefits of solar.

Environmentally Friendly

One of solar energy’s main attractions for end-users is that it is environmentally friendly. Solar power is a leading renewable energy source. It produces no pollutants or emissions, and is a technology, not a fuel – therefore, its source is infinite and its performance is low maintenance. All that solar panels produce is clean energy.

The manufacture of solar panels is also increasingly environmentally friendly. Many suppliers, including Qcells, offer low-carbon solar modules, which are made using raw materials manufactured in more eco-conscious ways. And because solar panels typically last for more than 25 years, the long-term carbon footprint of solar is way lower than any other form of electricity.

Remote Monitoring Access

Modern solar systems can be monitored by remote access. This means that homeowners who install solar can use an app installed on their smart device that offers user-friendly monitoring of the solar system’s performance. These Energy Monitoring Systems (including Qcells’ own EMS, Q.OMMAND) can be used for analytical and even control purposes when paired with a smart battery, enabling homeowners to better manage their consumption and storage patterns.

Low Maintenance

Solar energy is the source of renewable energy with the lowest maintenance required. Once installed, solar panels require very little maintenance. If solar panels are kept clean and free of debris, they will perform with optimal efficiency for many years. Environmental factors can of course impact a solar panel’s performance, but cleaning solar panels is a simple process that should be conducted periodically.

Energy Independence

Solar panels offer home and business owners the perfect opportunity for energy independence. When paired with a storage system, a solar-powered building has the potential to function entirely off-grid, shielding end-users from grid-related issues, including power outages and electricity price fluctuations. A solar system offers insurance against price shocks and other interruptions associated with the grid, and with remote access monitoring offered by a mobile app, end users of solar systems – be they homeowners, businesses, or even community solar participants – can enjoy greater energy independence.

Job Creation

Globally, solar power is a real driver in job creation, accounting for 4.3 million jobs in 2021 – more than one-third of all renewable energy jobs. In the USA, solar is a dynamic employer, with jobs in solar growing by 3.5% in 2022, surpassing 250,000 people employed. From solar panel manufacturing through to solar installation, maintenance and R&D, job creation is one of solar power’s major advantages.

Disadvantages of Solar Energy

Despite being the most transformative, cleanest and increasingly popular energy source in the world, there are disadvantages of solar energy that need to be taken into account if you are considering installing solar.

Solar Panels Don’t Work at Night

It is true that solar panels don’t work at night. Solar energy is sunlight dependent, meaning that it does not have to be sunny for solar to work, but daytime at least. And while private homes tend to use less electricity at night, many industries do, meaning solar cannot alone account for the world’s entire energy needs. However, solar is a perfect partner for energy storage, meaning that batteries can be charged with solar energy during the day, and then the battery can power a home or commercial premises during times of darkness. Solar is also a flexible addition to the electricity grid, and can be consumed in real-time during the day, leaving other sources to take over during other times.

Solar Panels Need Daylight

Solar panels need daylight, but they still perform in the shade, albeit at a lower efficiency. If a solar system is installed on a rooftop that is partly shaded for some parts of the day, it can benefit from the addition of microinverters and solar power optimizers, which can help maximize a solar panel’s output even if shaded.

Land Use and Space Concerns

Large-scale solar projects require big tracts of land, which can lead to opposition from people who live nearby or environmentalists concerned about the use of that land. Modern installation techniques are improving to ensure that biodiversity concerns are taken into account when installing utility-scale solar, helping to mitigate land use concerns and reduce the impact on local wildlife and populations. The negative impact of solar parks can also be reduced by installing on low-quality land such as brownfield sites, and near to existing transportation and transmission corridors. Community solar projects also help encourage local residents to look favorably on solar when they can benefit from the clean energy produced.

There are space constraints to consider, too. Solar power density is lower than fossil fuels, meaning that a solar panel’s watts per square meter is higher. Despite modern solar panels improving their power density, solar energy still requires a lot of unobstructed space – either on a rooftop or the ground – in order to perform optimally.

High Initial Cost

Although solar panel costs are decreasing every year, a solar system does represent a high initial cost, which can deter potential end-users. Costs will vary, but typically a homeowner needs a few thousand dollars upfront if they wish to install solar. For businesses in need of a larger system, these costs are even higher. Typically, solar breaks even after about six-to-ten years, and there are an increasing number of financial options available to make solar more attractive. The range of financing options is growing, due to their popularity among solar-hungry customers.

Relocation Difficulty

Taking solar panels with you when you move home is difficult. Uninstalling a solar system is a tricky and often expensive process, because solar panels are semi-permanent structures on the home. People who want to install solar should therefore consider it as an investment in their property – something that adds value to a home and will be an attractive asset to would-be homebuyers.

Environmental Impact of Manufacturing

Solar panels typically last for over 25 years. The manufacturing process of the raw materials inside a solar panel – such as polysilicon – is energy-intensive, and in some locations that process is still carbon-heavy. However, many solar panel manufacturers, including Qcells, are committed to cleaning this supply chain with the use of lower-carbon polysilicon and their commitments to the RE100 – which tasks companies with significantly lowering their emissions. In many parts of the world, Qcells works with specialists and agencies to ensure that end-of-life solar panels are recycled accordingly.

Is Solar Energy Worth the Investment?

The pros of solar energy vastly outweigh the cons. As with any transformative technology, early steps have to be taken to get it up and running. Solar energy is now in the stage where its affordability, its reliability, its sustainability and its performance are all highly attractive and advantageous, with any cons or disadvantages merely a minor consideration!

If you are interested in installing Qcells solar panels on your home or have questions about solar energy, our team is here to help. We are dedicated to developing high-quality solar panels, providing outstanding solar solutions, and delivering exceptional customer service because we understand the importance of switching to clean energy and how it can positively impact the environment.

Feel free to browse our complete solar energy solutions, including  solar panels ,  home energy storage , and  energy management , or contact us to discuss designing and installing a customized home solar panel system. You can also contact Qcells for any solar questions you may have.

[1] SEIA/Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables U.S. Solar Market Insight Q2 2023 https://www.seia.org/solar-industry-research-data

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For sale: Homes in Arlington and Somerville

It’s earth day every day in these communities that are leading the way on climate-informed policy..

A light colored Dutch Colonial with a screened porch at the front of the house and stairs up to the front door. There's a sidewalk in front of the house.



LOT SIZE 0.1 acre

BEDROOMS 3 BATHS 1 full, 1 half

LAST SOLD FOR $630,000 in 2016

PROS Arlington is among the communities piloting a ban on fossil fuels in new construction, and has already complied with the MBTA Communities law. Enter this 1930 Dutch Colonial through an enclosed porch and step into a living room with a woodstove and hardwood floors. The dining room has twin built-in china cabinets, chair rail, and interior shutters; it’s open to an updated kitchen with granite counters, stainless appliances, and custom spice cabinet. There’s a half bath by the back door, which leads out to a deck, patio, and fenced yard. Upstairs, three bedrooms share an updated bath, while there’s laundry and a one-car garage in the basement. CONS Summer Street is a busy road.


A rectangular shaped living room with wood flooring, windows along the righthand wall, and a brick fireplace along the lefthand wall. A TV hangs above the fireplace. The room holds a large sectional couch, a couple of chairs, an end table and a console table.

Kate Hendy, Aikenhead Real Estate, 781-859-6382, katehendyre.com


An updated kitchen with an island with three stools. White upper cabinetry and lighter wood lower cabinetry. Appliances are stainless.


CONDO FEE $556 a month


LAST SOLD FOR First time on the market

The facade of a multi-story building. It has a brick entryway and glass door with windows on either side.

PROS Somerville, which banned foam containers and plastic bags years ago, has applied to join the state’s Fossil-Fuel Free Buildings pilot program. This all-electric unit is on the second floor of Loën, a new passive house development in the heart of Union Square with triple-paned windows, rooftop solar, and energy recovery ventilation (ERV). Enter through a mudroom area into the kitchen, with Krion solid surface counters, Spanish tile backsplash, and white oak floors. Across the center island, find a spacious living and dining area. Two adjacent bedrooms share a modern bath (with a full-length mirror that spins to reveal shelves) near the laundry closet. A shared roof deck offers views of the Boston skyline. CONS This unit doesn’t include parking.

Sarah Herbert, Charlesgate New Developments, 857-254-1469, liveatloen.com

Jon Gorey is a regular contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to [email protected] .


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  5. 12 Advantages and Disadvantages of Fossil Fuels

    Even renewable fuels have a foundation built on fossil fuels. 2. Fossil fuels are both cheap and reliable. Because the technologies which surround fossil fuels are well-established, the consumer cost to use them is quite load. The energy that is produced by their refinement and combustion is incredibly consistent.

  6. Pros And Cons Of Fossil Fuels

    First, the reason why Fossil fuel dependence is such a horrible thing is because of global warming. Global Warming is anthropogenic, or caused by humans, because of fossil fuels. Within the last four decades we have seen drastic increase in energy usage with fossil fuels. This exponential use of fuels. 1606 Words.

  7. What Are the Pros and Cons of Fossil Fuels?

    The term "fossil fuel" refers to fuel that formed naturally over millions of years from anaerobic decomposition of animal and plant matter. The fuel contains high levels of carbon and other gases. Fossil fuels include naturals gas, petroleum, and coal whose pros and cons are discussed in the article below. Pro: plentiful. Fossil fuels are ...

  8. Fossil fuels—facts and information

    Decomposing plants and other organisms, buried beneath layers of sediment and rock, have taken millennia to become the carbon-rich deposits we now call fossil fuels. These non-renewable fuels ...

  9. 16 Pros and Cons of Fossil Fuels

    1. Advanced Technology. The technology used to obtain fossil fuels has become very well-developed. This is because Fossil fuels have been a sole source of energy for quite a while now and we have been working on the technology to obtain energy from these sources more efficiently. 2.

  10. 12 Pros And Cons Of Fossil Fuels

    1. Cheap. Fossil fuels are a relatively inexpensive source of energy. In fact, they are one of the least expensive sources of energy when you compare the cost of energy from different sources. This is one of the reasons why fossil fuels are so popular and definitely one of their main advantages. 2.

  11. The Pros And Cons Of Fossil Fuels

    Fossil fuels are the predominant energy source in the modern world, mainly consisting of coal, natural gas and oil. Its extensive use can be attributed to the affordability and reliability of fossil fuels, with these factors preventing renewable energy sources like wind and solar power from surpassing its usage, and in the example of Australia, "around 86% of … electricity is generated ...

  12. Fossil Fuels: Pros And Cons For Humans

    Lastly, China consumed 181,100,000 thousand cubic meters of natural gas in 2014. The reason that we use fossil fuels is from using oil to create gas and things like plastic to using coal and natural gas for energy and heat. Another reason that we use fossil fuels is to make money. Things like coal can cost a lot of money to produce and sell.

  13. Pros And Cons Of Fossil Fuels

    Pros And Cons Of Fossil Fuels. Decent Essays. 683 Words; 3 Pages; Open Document. The argument of alternative energy sources vs fossil fuels is a long-lasting argument. Though there are many pros and cons to both sides, alternative energy sources is the better choice than fossil fuels for many reasons. One reason is that fossil fuels isn't a ...

  14. The Pros And Cons Of Fossil Fuels

    Pros And Cons Of Ethanol And Fossil Fuels 907 Words | 4 Pages. This bill has influenced modern environmental bills as well. See also Renewable Fuel Standard policy explained on previous page In 2006, Americans spent over 921 billion dollars on fossil fuels. In 2007, America spent over 360 billion dollars importing fossil fuels.

  15. Fossil Fuels Pros And Cons

    Fossil fuels such as petroleum, coal and natural gas accounted for 81.5 percent of global primary energy consumption in 2015. The burning of fossil fuels have greatly contributed to global warming, however if we were to ultimately eliminate fossil fuels from energy sources, the production of energy will undoubtedly fall behind the demand.

  16. The Pros and Cons of Fossil Fuels Free Essay Example

    The pros of fossil fuels are that they are well-developed and also, they are reliable and cheap. The energy used in the harnessing of the energy from fossil fuels is developed. The fuels are excellent types of fuel for usage for energy based on load. On the other hand, fossil fuels have got some disadvantages.

  17. MIT hosts debate on pros and cons of fossil-fuel divestment

    "As long as demand is still there for the fossil fuels, the greenhouse-gas emissions will exist, regardless of who owns the assets." "We all could agree that divestiture is a symbolic gesture that, sadly, will have no measurable impact on global greenhouse gas emissions, or the behavior of companies that produce fossil fuels," Wolak added.

  18. Fossil Fuels vs Renewable Energy (Pros and Cons)

    This compares to fossil fuels which cost as low as $0.05 per kilowatt hour to as high as $0.17 per kilowatt hour. By the end of 2020 it is predicted that solar power will cost $0.03 per hour and similarly for onshore wind. This means that solar and wind may actually be cheaper to run than coal-fired power plants.

  19. Essay on Fossil Fuels and Renewable Energy

    The Pros and Cons of Fossil Fuels. Fossil fuels such as coal and oil have been used to generate electricity for over a century. They are reliable, affordable, and abundant. Here are some of the key advantages of fossil fuels: - 1.Fossil fuels are a very reliable source of energy. 2.They are much cheaper. 3.They are a very abundant resource. 4.

  20. What Are The Pros And Cons Of Fossil Fuels

    But today you'll be reading about the pros and cons of fossil fuels, wind energy, and thermal energy, more precisely geothermal energy. As well as some fun facts listed in the below paragraphs. Enjoy. Fossil fuels have provided us with power for many years in the past and possible future.

  21. Pros And Cons Of Fossil Fuels

    Fossil fuels are a critical component in the functioning of our society. These resources are staples in maintaining the energized life styles that people have become used to. Fossil fuels are sources of energy derived from animal and plant remains from more than 300 million years ago (U.S. Department of Energy 2013).

  22. Essay On Pros And Cons Of Renewable Energy

    Pros of renewable energy is, it is available all over the world because there is sun and wind. There is no chance of renewable energy becoming depleted in the future. Renewable energy can boost economic growth and increase job opportunities ("Renewable Green Energy"). There are many pros of renewable energy but there are always cons too.

  23. Are Electric Vehicles Actually Good for the Climate?

    Just because EVs are, in general, a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels doesn't mean they don't come with their own set of challenges and environmental hazards. And for those opposed to electric ...

  24. Pros And Cons Of Fossil Fuels

    Cons Of Fracking Essay 329 Words | 2 Pages. The main way that oil and natural gas reserves are acquired are through the means of Fracking. Also known as hydrofracking, this method utilizes a drill that drills down thousands of feet underground, which is then flushed with millions of gallons of water along with additive chemicals at high pressures to break the rocks sheltering the reserves.

  25. Solar Energy Pros and Cons

    The pros of solar energy include the fact that it is a sustainable way of generating electricity, reducing carbon footprints and assisting countries in reaching their net zero targets. Other solar energy pros include its affordability and low maintenance, its ability to increase a property's value, and the energy independence it provides.

  26. How to invest in copper: A comprehensive guide

    Pros. Price appreciation: The long-term demand side of the equation for copper is a key benefit to investing in the "red metal.". Supply shortages are expected to develop that will likely push ...

  27. Real estate for sale in towns with climate-informed policy

    LOT SIZE 0.1 acre. BEDROOMS 3 BATHS 1 full, 1 half. LAST SOLD FOR $630,000 in 2016. PROS Arlington is among the communities piloting a ban on fossil fuels in new construction, and has already ...