1996 — 2021 National Geographic Society. Non-renewable energy comes from sources that will run out or will electric coal effect fires be replenished in our lifetimes—or even in many, many lifetimes. Most non-renewable energy sources are fossil fuels: coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Carbon is the main element in fossil fuels. All fossil fuels formed in a similar way. Hundreds of millions of years ago, even before the dinosaurs, Earth had a different landscape. It was covered with wide, shallow seas and swampy forests.

Plants, algae, and plankton grew in these ancient wetlands. They absorbed sunlight and created energy through photosynthesis. When they died, the organisms drifted to the bottom of the sea or lake. There was energy stored in the plants and animals when they died. Over time, the dead plants were crushed under the seabed.

Rocks and other sediment piled on top of them, creating high heat and pressure underground. Fossil fuels are a valuable source of energy. They are relatively inexpensive to extract. They can also be stored, piped, or shipped anywhere in the world. However, burning fossil fuels is harmful for the environment. When coal and oil are burned, they release particles that can pollute the air, water, and land.

Some of these particles are caught and set aside, but many of them are released into the air. The carbon in fossil fuels has been sequestered, or stored, underground for millions of years. By removing this sequestered carbon from the earth and releasing it into the atmosphere, Earth’s carbon budget is out of balance. This contributes to temperatures rising faster than organisms can adapt. Coal is a black or brownish rock. We burn coal to create energy. Carbonization is the process that ancient organisms undergo to become coal. Peat is the lowest rank of coal.

It has gone through the least amount of carbonization. It is an important fuel in areas of the world including Scotland, Ireland, and Finland. Anthracite is the highest rank of coal. Anthracite forms in regions of the world where there have been giant movements of the earth, such as the formation of mountain ranges. The Appalachian Mountains, in the eastern part of the United States, are rich in anthracite. We mine coal out of the ground so we can burn it for energy.

There are two ways that we can mine coal: underground mining and surface mining. Miners take an elevator down a mineshaft. They operate heavy machinery that cuts the coal out of the Earth and brings it above ground. This can be dangerous work because cutting coal can release dangerous gases. The gases can cause explosions or make it hard for miners to breathe. Surface mining is used when the coal is located very near the surface of the earth.

To get to the coal, companies must first clear the area. They take away the trees and soil. The coal can then be cut out of the ground more easily. Entire habitats are destroyed during this process. About half the electricity in the United States comes from coal. It gives power to our lights, refrigerators, dishwashers, and most other things we plug in.

We use the byproducts to make cement, plastics, roads, and many other things. Coal is a reliable source of energy. We can rely on it day and night, summer and winter, sunshine or rain, to provide fuel and electricity. Mining is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Coal miners are exposed to toxic dust and face the dangers of cave-ins and explosions at work. When coal is burned, it releases many toxic gases and pollutants into the atmosphere. Mining for coal can also cause the ground to cave in and create underground fires that burn for decades at a time. Petroleum is a liquid fossil fuel.

It is also called oil or crude oil. Petroleum is trapped by underground rock formations. In some places, oil bubbles right out of the ground. Remains of animals that got trapped there thousands of years ago are still preserved in the tar! Most of the world’s oil is still deep under the ground. We drill through the earth to access the oil. Some deposits are on land, and others are under the ocean floor.

24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Many successful oil sites produce oil for about 30 years. Sometimes they can produce oil for much longer. When oil is under the ocean floor, companies drill offshore. They must build an oil platform. Oil platforms are some of the biggest manmade structures in the world!

Once the oil has been drilled, it must be refined. Oil contains many chemicals besides carbon, and refining the oil takes some of these chemicals out. We use oil for many things. About half of the world’s petroleum is converted into gasoline. The rest can be processed and used in liquid products such as nail polish and rubbing alcohol, or solid products such as water pipes, shoes, crayons, roofing, vitamin capsules, and thousands of other items. There are advantages to drilling for oil.

It is relatively inexpensive to extract. It is also a reliable and dependable source of energy and money for the local community. Oil provides us with thousands of conveniences. In the form of gasoline, it is a portable source of energy that gives us the power to drive places. Petroleum is also an ingredient in many items that we depend on. However, burning gasoline is harmful to the environment.

It releases hazardous gases and fumes into the air that we breathe. There is also the possibility of an oil spill. If there is a problem with the drilling machinery, the oil can explode out of the well and spill into the ocean or surrounding land. Oil spills are environmental disasters, especially offshore spills. Oil floats on water, so it can look like food to fish and ruin birds’ feathers. Natural gas is another fossil fuel that is trapped underground in reservoirs.

It is mostly made up of methane. You may have smelled methane before. The decomposing material in landfills also release methane, which smells like rotten eggs. There is so much natural gas underground that it is measured in million, billion, or trillion cubic meters. Natural gas is found in deposits a few hundred meters underground. In order to get natural gas out of the ground, companies drill straight down.

However, natural gas does not form in big open pockets. Natural gas is trapped in rock formations that can stretch for kilometers. The process uses high-pressure water to split apart the rocks underground. This releases the natural gas that is trapped in rock formations. If the rock is too hard, they can send acid down the well to dissolve the rock. We use natural gas for heating and cooking. Natural gas can also be burned to generate electricity. We rely on natural gas to give power to lights, televisions, air conditioners, and kitchen appliances in our homes.

LNG is much cleaner than any other fossil fuels. Liquid natural gas takes up much less space than the gaseous form. The amount of natural gas that would fit into a big beach ball would fit into a ping-pong ball as a liquid! LNG can be easily stored and used for different purposes. LNG can even be a replacement for gasoline. This is healthier than burning coal. However, extracting natural gas can cause environmental problems.

The high-pressure water and chemicals that are forced underground can also leak to other sources of water. The water sources, used for drinking or bathing, can become contaminated and unsafe. Fossil fuels are the leading non-renewable energy sources around the world. Nuclear energy is usually considered another non-renewable energy source. Although nuclear energy itself is a renewable energy source, the material used in nuclear power plants is not. Nuclear energy harvests the powerful energy in the nucleus, or core, of an atom. Nuclear energy is released through nuclear fission, the process where the nucleus of an atom splits.

Nuclear power plants are complex machines that can control nuclear fission to produce electricity. The material most often used in nuclear power plants is the element uranium. Although uranium is found in rocks all over the world, nuclear power plants usually use a very rare type of uranium, U-235. Nuclear energy is a popular way of generating electricity around the world. Nuclear power plants do not pollute the air or emit greenhouse gases. They can be built in rural or urban areas, and do not destroy the environment around them. However, nuclear energy is difficult to harvest. Nuclear power plants are very complicated to build and run.

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Many communities do not have the scientists and engineers to develop a safe and reliable nuclear energy program. Nuclear energy also produces radioactive material. Radioactive waste can be extremely toxic, causing burns and increasing the risk for cancers, blood diseases, and bone decay among people who are exposed to it. Biomass energy, a renewable energy source, can also be a non-renewable energy source. Biomass energy uses the energy found in plants. Biomass energy relies on biomass feedstocks—plants that are processed and burned to create electricity. Biomass feedstocks can include crops such as corn or soy, as well as wood.

If people do not replant biomass feedstocks as fast as they use them, biomass energy becomes a non-renewable energy source. Also called hard coal, black coal, and stone coal. Carbon dioxide is also the byproduct of burning fossil fuels. Fossil fuels formed from the remains of ancient plants and animals. Earth’s surface are opened and widened by injecting water, chemicals, and sand at high pressure. Earth’s atmosphere but make it difficult for heat to escape. Peat can be dried and burned as fuel.

Fuel used to produce nuclear energy. Exploring Your World: The Adventure of Geography. Media If a media asset is downloadable, a download button appears in the corner of the media viewer. If no button appears, you cannot download or save the media. Text Text on this page is printable and can be used according to our Terms of Service. Interactives Any interactives on this page can only be played while you are visiting our website. A resource is a physical material that humans need and value such as land, air, and water.





Renewable resources include timber, wind, and solar while nonrenewable resources include coal and natural gas. Explore resource types with this curated collection of classroom resources. Individuals, communities, and countries depend on a variety of different resources to help them thrive: electricity, timber, oil, water, and food to name a few. Because these basic resources are such a large part of our daily lives, it is important that we manage them responsibly to ensure future generations have what they need. Human civilization heavily impacts the environment and the rich natural resources we depend on. Nonrenewable energy resources include coal, natural gas, oil, and nuclear energy. Once these resources are used up, they cannot be replaced, which is a major problem for humanity as we are currently dependent on them to supply most of our energy needs. What is a fossil fuel and what is being done to make fossil fuels more environmentally friendly?



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Learn how human use of non-renewable energy sources, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, affect climate change. Join our community of educators and receive the latest information on National Geographic’s resources for you and your students. Sorry, our techies are currently working on diy. Lines are open 8am — 6pm Monday — Saturday and 10am — 4pm Sunday. Gas Fires, Gas Fireplaces, Wood Burning Stoves and Electric Fires from the UK’s Premier Fireplace Supplier. Our extensive range of gas fires include models suitable for all flue types plus gas fires designed for homes without a chimney. Replacing an old gas fire with one of the latest high efficiency gas fires will reduce running costs whilst providing more heat. Boasting amazing flame effects which can be enjoyed with or without the heater, our fabulous electric fires feature models designed to be combined within a fireplace, modern wall-mounted electric fires and freestanding electric fireplace suites.

Renewable energy sources are fossil fuels: coal — fire has fascinated humans for as long as we have known about it. We pride ourselves on the variety of quality products we offer. Renewable energy comes from sources that will run out or will not be replenished in our lifetimes, carbonization is the process that ancient organisms undergo to become coal. The process uses high, nuclear energy also produces radioactive material. Our extensive range of gas fires include models suitable for all flue types plus gas fires designed for homes without a chimney.

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