Fossil fuels.
Extraction of oil

Definition of Fossil Fuel Energy: What Is Fossil Energy?

We can define fossil energy as the energy that comes from the combustion of fossil fuels.

Definition of fossil fuel energy: What is fossil energy?

Fossil fuel industries take advantage of the burning of fossil fuels to get electricity and mechanical energy.  Currently, this type of energy is the main source of energy for electricity generation. Currently, it is also the main source of energy for mechanical traction vehicles.

It is a non-renewable energy source because it is not an inexhaustible energy source and does not regenerate at the same speed at which it is consumed. In addition, burning fossil fuels generates gas emissions. Therefore, it is not a clean energy source.

Fossil fuels are formed from organic substances accumulated in the earth's subsoil. These substances can be the remains of plants, animals and other living things. Over millions of years, they undergo certain physical and chemical transformations until they reach the point where they become components that are easy to convert into energy: fossil energy.

Types of Fossil Energy

The different fossil energy sources are determined by the type of fossil fuel in question. The three main types of fossil energy are coal, oil, and natural gas.


Coal was the first major fossil fuel to be used in industry. Coal was the primary energy that allowed the industrial revolution.

Definition of fossil fuel energy: What is fossil energy?The decomposition of plant organic matter forms coal. The pressure and temperature to which the organic particles in the underground layers are subjected cause them to transform into carbon.

Coal is a fossil fuel that is formed from the remains of plants that have been buried underground for millions of years. Coal is a black or brownish-black rock that is mined from the earth. Coal is used to generate electricity and to produce steel.

Coal is a sedimentary rock that is formed from the remains of plants that have been buried underground for millions of years. Over time, the plant matter transforms into coal through coalification. The different types of coal are determined by the time since the plant matter was buried.

The four main types of coal are anthracite, bituminous, subbituminous, and lignite. Anthracite coal is the hardest and contains the most carbon. Bituminous coal is harder than lignite but softer than anthracite. Subbituminous coal is intermediate in hardness between bituminous and lignite coal. Lignite coal is the softest and has the least amount of carbon.

Coal is used to generate electricity and to produce steel. Electricity generation accounts for more than 40% of all coal consumption in the United States. Coal-fired power plants use steam to spin turbines that generate electricity. Steel production accounts for more than 20% of all coal consumption in the United States. Coal is used as a fuel and as a raw material in the production of iron and steel.


Petroleum has an oily liquid texture. It is generated by marine debris that remains deposited at the bottom of the sea. Due to the pressure and temperature to which the vegetable matter is subjected, they are transformed into oil over the years.

Refineries are facilities that transform the oil into a large number of chemical derivatives such as gasoline, diesel, and even gases such as propane and butane.

Oil is a liquid that is found in the earth's crust. It is a fossil fuel formed from the remains of plants and animals buried underground for millions of years. Over time, the plant and animal matter transforms into oil through diagenesis.

Oil is refined to produce gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, heating oil, and other petroleum products. Gasoline and diesel fuel power cars, trucks, buses, and other vehicles. Jet fuel is used to power airplanes. Heating oil is used to heat homes and businesses. Petroleum products are also used to produce plastics, pesticides, and other chemicals.

The reserves are typically measured in barrels (42 gallons per barrel). The world's proven oil reserves totaled 1.688 trillion barrels at the end of 2016. Most of these reserves (64%) are in the Middle East.

Its production is typically measured in barrels per day (BPD). The world's oil production totaled 96.3 million BPD in 2016. The United States was the leading oil producer in 2016, followed by Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq.

Natural Gas

Natural gas is found in coal seams (coal bed methane) and some oil wells (associated gas). These gases are trapped due to pressure exerted on them by the surrounding rock layers. In addition, there are areas where the rock layer is fractured by tectonic activity. This results in areas of reduced pressure where natural gas escapes from pores or fractures in the rock. These areas are called "conventional" reservoirs. The United Kingdom's North Sea is an example of a large natural gas reserve that conventional methods have exploited since the 1970s.

The most common use for natural gas is heating homes and businesses. Natural gas has become increasingly popular because it burns cleanly compared to other fossil fuels such as propane or coal. Still, it is also less expensive than oil heat or electric heating systems. This has resulted in widespread adoption of natural gas home appliances around the world including cook stoves and furnaces.

Natural gas is also used to generate electricity in power plants. The most common type of power plant that uses natural gas is the combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plant. In a CCGT plant, natural gas is burned in a gas turbine to spin a generator to make electricity. The hot exhaust gases from the gas turbine are then used to heat water in a boiler to create steam. This steam is used to spin another turbine connected to an electrical generator.

This second stage of generation results in more electricity being produced per unit of fuel than if only gas turbines were used, hence the name "combined cycle." CCGT plants are very efficient and can operate at up to 60% efficiency when compared with older coal-fired power plants, which operate at around 30% efficiency.

Natural gas can also be used as a transportation fuel in the form of compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG). CNG is typically used in light-duty vehicles, such as cars and vans, while LNG is used in heavy-duty vehicles, such as buses and trucks. Natural gas vehicles have several advantages over gasoline or diesel vehicles, including lower carbon dioxide emissions, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter.

Why Is the Use of Fossil Fuels So Widespread?

The popularity of fossil energy dates back precisely to the beginning of the industrial revolution. At that time, the main thing was to improve productivity and lower costs. The use of fossil fuels allowed both things. The price of coal was not very high and allowed the construction of machines that improved production and saved costs in wages.

From an environmental point of view, at the time the first machines were developed, we had no ecological awareness now. The environmental problems were not the same either since it was not known that the gases derived from fossil energy would affect the ozone layer or the greenhouse effect.

Why Is It Necessary to Replace Energy Sources with Fossil Fuels?

Fossil energy generates carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, a greenhouse gas that has been stored in the atmosphere for centuries and contributes most to global warming and climate change.

Climate studies warn of the linear relationship between the magnitude of global warming and the amount of carbon dioxide accumulated in the atmosphere. To limit global warming, it is necessary to establish a limit for the total future emissions of CO2, representing the final global resource.

How Is Fossil Energy Used?

Fossil energy is used in a variety of ways. The most common use of fossil energy is to generate electricity. Fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, are burned to produce heat. This heat is then used to generate steam, which powers electricity turbines.

Fossil energy is also used to power vehicles. Gasoline and diesel fuel are derived from crude oil, a fossil fuel. These fuels are used to power cars, trucks, and buses.

In addition, fossil energy is used to heat homes and businesses. Natural gas, another fossil fuel, is often used for this purpose.

Pros and Cons of Fossil Energy

Fossil energy sources, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, are non-renewable resources formed over millions of years from the remains of plants and animals. Fossil energy currently accounts for about 80% of the world's primary energy needs, but it has some significant drawbacks.

The pros of using fossil energy include

  • The abundance of fossil fuels compared to other energy sources

  • The relatively low cost of extracting and using fossil fuels

  • The high energy density of fossil fuels, which makes them an efficient way to store and transport energy

The cons of using fossil fuel energy include:

  • Fossil fuels are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change.

  • Extracting and using fossil fuels can negatively impact local communities and the environment.

  • Fossil fuels are non-renewable resources that will eventually run out.

How Do Fossil Fuel Plants Work?

Coal and oil power plants, while they are the most prevalent, are also the most polluting. The problem with these plants is that burning coal or oil releases sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. These chemicals mix with water vapor in the atmosphere to form acid rain, damaging trees, and other vegetation, harming aquatic life, and corrupting buildings.

Natural gas power plants are much cleaner than coal or oil, but they release carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.

Effects on Human Health

Air pollution contains nanoparticles that can enter the human body through inhalation, ingestion, or skin contact. Due to their small size, nanoparticles can cross cellular membranes and accumulate in organs. This can lead to toxicity and other health problems. Some health effects of nanoparticles include DNA damage, inflammation, and oxidative stress. Long-term exposure to nanoparticles may also increase the risk of cancer.

There is still much unknown about the health effects of nanoparticles. More research is needed to understand how nanoparticles interact with the human body and what the potential health risks are.


Fossil energy is a type of energy that comes from fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are formed over millions of years from the remains of organisms like plants and animals. Coal, oil, and natural gas are all examples of fossil fuels. Fossil energy is a non-renewable resource, which means it cannot be replenished once it has been used. 

It makes it an important resource to conserve. There are many ways to conserve fossil energy, such as using public transportation instead of driving, carpooling, recycling, and energy-efficient appliances.


Published: April 3, 2017
Last review: November 7, 2022