Problems associated with fossil fuels review

Environmental problem in the world today […] environmentally friendly power options that are renewable, rather than non-renewable and harmful such as oil and coal. This has always been an interesting topic to me, because it seems that people do not think that these types of fuels will ever go away, and they tend to waste energy without thinking about it. It makes me wonder where the world will be as far as power and fuel are concerned in even just a hundred more years. This is highly relevant to environmental education because the world largely depends on these fossil fuels for just about all its’ energy, and they are being depleted rapidly. In the future, environmentally friendly power options will need to be explored more fully, and learning about them now can give new intelligence and guidance for the future.


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The existing use of fossil fuels like coal, natural gas, and oil is that they are non-renewable. Eventually the worldwide sources will be depleted and disappear. Most of the world depends on fossil fuels for nearly all their energy needs. Cars use gasoline refined from oil, homes and businesses use oil or gas for their heating and cooling, and most electricity is generated at plants that burn coal for fuel. One author notes, “Today, utility companies produce nearly 70% of the country’s electricity from large, central station coal and nuclear power plants” (Cruver). This is using up the existing resources at a very rapid rate.

Another problem is that fossil fuels are dirty. They create acid rain which is harmful to people and the environment. Scientist Hope Cristol notes the possibility of damage gets greater as acid rain increases. She writes, “Not only does acid rain wilt and destroy trees’ leaves and needles, but new research shows it also leaches their life-sustaining metal nutrients from topsoil” (Cristol). Of course, acid rain is just one problem associated with fossil fuels.

Global warming is another serious problem that must be addressed, and global warming is a result of carbon dioxide being released into the air as fossil fuels are burned. Carbon dioxide is widespread everywhere around the world and so; it is quite hard to control. It is released from cars, buildings, factories, and power plants in most modern countries (Eco Bridge). Global warming is getting much more serious, and it could have very dire consequences for life on the planet if the temperature continues to rise as quickly as it has in the last 100 years. The EPA Web site notes, “According to scientists, the Earth’s surface has risen in temperature by about 1 degree Fahrenheit in the past century” (“Environmental Issues”). This does not sound like a lot, but this number is getting larger faster than it ever has before, and it could get much worse even in our own lifetimes.

Global warming and the other problems associated with fossil fuels could have a major impact on quality of life and health. If the planet gets too warm, the ice packs in the north and south can melt (many glaciers are already disappearing), and the water level in the oceans could rise. This could cause flooding and destruction of cities and towns along the coasts of the countries of the world. If the planet warms up enough, life would not be possible for humans, because the planet would simply be too hot. Health is also an issue with increased global warming and carbon dioxide emissions. Many of the world’s cities have very poor air quality and smog, and this causes breathing difficulties and can be very dangerous for people with lung diseases such as asthma and emphysema. If the air quality gets worse, so will health problems. If the problem is not addressed and fixed, then quality of life could deteriorate, and all life could disappear if the problem continues as it has.


There are many solutions that have already been studied, and many are being used around the world to generate clean and environmentally friendly forms of power. Some clean, renewable forms of power include wind, solar, geothermal, wave and tidal energy, hydrogen fuel cells, and modern biomass developments (Ottinger and Williams 331). Many of these types of environmentally friendly power sources are already in use in many parts of the world, but they are not the majority, they are the minority because most of the world still depends on fossil fuels for most of its energy. Some forms of energy, such as wave and tidal energy and hydrogen fuel cells are still being studied. Another writer states, “Techniques to harness the energy found in the oceans are best developed for tidal power, wave power and ocean thermal energy conversion” (Middleton 52). Many other types of alternative energy, such as solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal energies are all being used where they make sense. Other solutions include nuclear energy, but the problem of disposing of the nuclear waste is a big problem, and so, no new nuclear facilities are being built. Authors Ottinger and Williams continue “Nuclear energy is excluded […] because of its high capital and operating costs, complex technical requirements for operation and maintenance, and unresolved problems of proliferation and waste disposal” (Ottinger and Williams 331).

None of these solutions are being used enough to remedy the problem, and there are many reasons why they are not being more heavily used. Many of the long-term projects are very expensive to build and operate, and so utilities are hesitant to invest in them. Around the world, many countries are investing in alternative power, such as wind power. Another writer notes, “India, China, and a dozen European nations have installed thousands of wind turbines that generate electricity at a cost comparable to new coal-fired power plants” (Johnson 15). Here is the U.S. wind power has caught on in some areas, but the vast areas needed to create these “wind farms” is limited, and many people here find them unsightly, so they are not as popular as they are in other parts of the world. They have to be in an area that gets a lot of wind, too, which limits where they can be installed and used.

Solar power is another solution, but it also is not being utilized as much as it could. Some systems are very expensive to implement, and home systems are expensive, too. They also only work best in sunny, warm locations. Another reason these solutions are not working is the power of the big worldwide oil companies. They make large profits on the sale of there fuels, and they fight any kind of alternative power legislation in most modern countries. One expert states, “While the development of alternative energy sources continues to lag, supporters of the oil industry continue to promote the use of fossil fuels” (Rosentreter 8). Thus, the companies that stand to lose the most if alternative power comes into use are fighting it as hard as they can.


In summary, the problem of clean, low-cost alternative and environmentally friendly power sources continues to plague the world. While there are alternatives to dirty and damaging fossil fuels, these alternatives are costly, and they are not developing rapidly enough to help solve the problem of non-renewable sources of energy. Another problem is the power of the big oil companies, who stand to lose a lot of money if alternative power really does catch on. They have clout and they are not afraid to use it. If the big oil companies would invest in alternative power sources then perhaps they could still make a profit while making the planet healthier, too. It seems that everyone on Earth needs to work together to help solve this problem. It will not go away, it will only get worse, and ignoring it will just make things happen sooner. There needs to be more funding to support environmentally friendly power sources, and more people need to research and study the problem. Someday, the oil, gas, and coal will be gone, and then, what will the people of the Earth do? Nothing happens overnight, and if we all want to have a better, cleaner, and brighter future, we should start working on it right now, before it is too late.


Author not Available. “Causes of Global Warming.” 2005. 21 July 2005.

Cristol, Hope. “New Concern About Acid Rain: Trees’ Immune Systems may be Damaged by Pollution.” The Futurist Nov.-Dec. 2002: 8+.

Cruver, Philip C. “Lighting the 21st Century.” The Futurist Jan.-Feb. 1989: 29+.

Johnson, Dan. “Alternative Energy Sources Gain Worldwide.” The Futurist Aug.-Sept. 1998: 15.

Middleton, Nick. “New Wave Energy.” Geographical Jan. 2001: 52.

Ottinger, Richard L., and Rebecca Williams. “Renewable Energy Sources for Development.” Environmental Law 32.2 (2002): 331+.

Rosentreter, Richard. “Oil, Profits and the Question of Alternative Energy.” The Humanist Sept. 2000: 8.

Staff. “Environmental Issues.” 18 Nov. 2003. 21 July 2005.

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