What are fossil fuels?
Fossil fuels are energy resources like coal, oil, and natural gas. They are organic materials that form over millions of years after dead plants and animals are buried and exposed to extreme pressures and temperatures.
But really, fossil fuels aren't all bad! They are the building blocks of our modern, industrial society. The luxuries and comforts that we enjoy (like plastics, heat and electricity) come primarily from the burning of fossil fuels. The use of these readily available resources have allowed for the development of modern technologies, international travel and have even helped to eliminate the need for slave labor through mechanical innovation.
Oil is THE energy source of our time. We refine the crude, extracted oil into different products like gasoline, jet-fuel, diesel and even plastics. This fossil fuel has promoted global commerce and is behind many of the greatest technological and social innovations of our day.
However, the environment is paying a serious price for our unbridled consumption of fossil fuels and our climate is warming at a rate that may cause irreversible consequences. Oil spills, ecological damage, pollution and human health risks are just some of the negative impacts of oil exploration, development and use.
Dependence on oil as an energy source is a real danger to our National Security, our environment and our economy. Promoting domestic renewable energy sources instead will provide green jobs, safeguard our health and break our reliance on unstable foreign governments and oil cartels.
Other drawbacks of oil:
- Mining for oil destroys natural habitats and poses dangers to both workers and residents.
- The refining process requires the use of toxic chemicals and high amounts of energy.
- Transporting and burning oil emits CO2 and other pollutants into the air that we ALL breathe.
92% of the coal used in the United States is burned to generate electricity. The Valmont coal-fired power plant in Boulder allows us to turn on our lights at night. as well as run many other kids of equipment and technology Coal has also provided many jobs and helped to raise people’s standard of living all around the world.
- Mining coal is extremely dangerous to human health and to the environment.
- Transporting coal requires massive machinery.
- Burning coal emits CO2, a major cause of climate change. Mercury contamination, ozone pollution and acid rain also stem from the firing of coal.
A quarter of the energy consumption of the U.S. comes from natural gas. We use this fossil fuel to heat our homes and to make products like paints, plastics and explosives. Natural gas has thousands of uses. We use it to produce steel, glass, paper, clothing, brick, electricity and much more!
The extraction of this fuel source does have environmental impacts though. Natural gas exploration, the installation of gas rigs and the construction of pipelines to carry the finished product are all contraversial. The Roan Plateau is a perfect LOCAL example of this heated debate. Although natural gas can be a contentious issue for many Colorado locals, experts around the world are supporting it's development as a means to back up the variable capacity of renewable energy generation.
As waste is broken down by bacteria they release methane and this methane is allowed to escape into the atmosphere. Methane is not useless; we can harness methane and burn it as a fuel. Even though this causes the release of CO2, it won’t be as big of a contributor to global climate change as allowing the methane to escape directly to the atmosphere.
Methane capture is becoming a popular way to deal with waste management and energy production with the same project. This kind of big thinking is happening in Colorado right now as the Governors Energy Office and the Colorado Carbon Fund work together to capture methane from the Larimer County landfill.