Fossil Fuels' Effects on the Environment

Fossil Fuels' Effects on the Environment

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Our world as it stands today is a truly magnificent place, amazing technological advances have been made over the years that have helped form a truly advanced place. However in order to achieve these technical advancements we need power. Many years ago the only power we needed or used was the power created with our own bodies, but as our society grew both larger and more intelligent we had to turn to other sources- the most obvious of those sources being fossil fuels. These almost “magical” resource including coal, natural gas, and petroleum, from millions of years ago, seemed the perfect solution to all our energy needs. Unfortunately we now realize that these resources have a very strong impact on the environment in the form of conventional pollution, and what could be even more severe greenhouse effect.

There is a severe environmental impact in all stages of fossil fuel use including: recovery, transportation, preparation/ refining, and storage- not only the end use(the actual combustion) that most people think of. When recovering coal from the earth there are three major issues: The destruction of topsoil, acidic water runoff, and land subsidies. Some recovery issues with petroleum include drilling on land and offshore, gushers, and accidents. The transportation of fossil fuels can be a very risky proposition, with risk of oil pollution of the seas and accidents during routine operations. Petroleum transportation was brought to the forefront with the Exxon Valdez accident. The preparation/refining stage can produce sludge from coal cleaning plants and air/water pollution from petroleum refining. The storage of gasoline in underground tanks at your local gas station can be risky because those tanks have been known to leak.

Almost all fossil fuel use is by combustion, the final stage of of fossil fuel. It produces waste products due to impurities in the fuel, especially particulates and various gases such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic compounds. These waste products may affect our environment and people, in harmful ways (“By” ). These oxides created during combustion combine with moisture in the air to form sulfuric acid, carbonic acid, and nitric acid. When it rains or snows, these acids are brought to Earth in what is called acid rain (Britannica ).

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These chemicals both airborne as well as in acid rain form can harm humans, animals, and vegetation. Some places have become uninhabitable from pollution exposing people worldwide to new risks from disease. Many species of plants and animals have become endangered or are now extinct ( “Fossil” ).

The second major issue when it comes to fossil fuels and the environment is Global warming. Many scientists believe the rise in the Earth's average surface temperature—approximately 0.8° C during the 20th century—is caused mainly by increased emissions of several gases into the atmosphere, particularly carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapor ( “Environment” ). Some people fear that the increase in global temperature will cause a global climate shift. The debate over global warming is heated and still going on today.

We as a society have looked at the many impacts of fossil fuels, but now we must look at solutions to these impacts. Emission standards and new technology is already cutting down on the negative consequences of using fossil fuels. We still need to look at global warming and if we are have an impact on it then steps have to be made now. Hopefully things such as the Kyoto protocol will buy us some time while we decide on global warming. Combustion and Flaring of Fossil Fuels by Region (1998)Source: BP Amoco Statistical review of World Energy 1999

Works cited

“FOSSIL FUELS: ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS”
http://www.ems.psu.edu/~radovic/env_fossil.html

“Environment” Britannica Effects”http://search.eb.com/ebi/article?tocId=9272699&query=Environmental%20Effects%20of%20Fossil%20Fuels&ct=

Britanica
http://search.eb.com/ebi/article?tocId=9311438&query=global%20warming%20fossil%20fuels&ct=

“By Design” http://www.bydesign.com/fossilfuels/links/html/fossil_fuel/fossil_fuel_green.htmlwww.nbmg.unr.edu/ slides/oil/1.htm
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