Fossil fuels are formed from decomposed plants and animals that lay buried deep inside the earth for millions of years. With the progress of time, heat and pressure turn these remains into fossil fuels. The most common ones are coal, crude oil (petroleum) and natural gas. They have multiple uses (from generating electricity and powering vehicles and planes to heating homes). Fossil fuels are nonrenewable and can harm the environment since the carbon stored in them gets released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that causes global warming.

According to the National Academies of Sciences, 81 percent of the total energy used in the United States comes from coal, oil, and natural gas. This is the energy that is used to heat and provide electricity to homes and businesses and to run cars and factories. Unfortunately, fossil fuels are a nonrenewable resource and waiting millions of years for new coal, oil, and natural gas deposits to form is not a realistic solution. Fossil fuels are also responsible for almost three-fourths of the emissions from human activities in the last 20 years. Now, scientists and engineers have been looking for ways to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and to make burning these fuels cleaner and healthier for the environment.

Scientists across the country and around the world are trying to find solutions to fossil fuel problems so that there is enough fuel and a healthy environment to sustain human life and activities in the future. The United States Department of Energy is working on technologies to make commercially available natural-gas-powered vehicles. They are also trying to make coal burning and oil drilling cleaner. Researchers at Stanford University in California have been using greener technologies to figure out a way to burn fossil fuels while lessening their impact on the environment. One solution is to use more natural gas, which emits 50 percent less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than coal does. The Stanford team is also trying to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it underground—a process called carbon capture and sequestration. Scientists at both Stanford and the University of Bath in the United Kingdom are trying something completely new by using carbon dioxide and sugar to make renewable plastic.

Credit : National geographic

Picture Credit : Google 

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