What are The Main Cons of Fossil Fuels?

The cons of fossil fuels are clear today yet we can't imagine how our society would function without oil, coal and gas.

How would you live without electricity to provide heat or without gasoline to provide transportation? We have built a society depends on fossil fuels.

Fossil fuels are non-renewable energy forces. Oil, coal and natural gas are located in the top layer of the earth's crust.

They were formed hundred of millions of years ago when decaying plant and animal matter was trapped beneath the earth's surface. Pressure and heat led the matter to become what we call fossil fuels.

Today 95% of the energy in the world comes from fossil fuels and 66% of our electdricity is a result of burning these natural resources. The cons of fossil fuels have only become apparent in the past 100 years.

One obvious disadvantage of fossil fuels is they are not available as an unlimited supply. Eventually we will use up all of the coil, oil and natural gas that was produced in the earth so long ago.

For many years we did not worry about exhausting the oil reservoirs or mining the last bit of coal. These resources were available in huge supplies and were expected to last well into the future.

However, in the past 100 years the use of fossil fuels has doubled every 20 years. We are exhausting these resources at a much faster pace than expected. World population growth is the main reason for the increasing demands on fossil fuels.


We use oil to heat homes and to provide fuel for our transportation. Everything from the crayons children use to dishwashing liquid are products that use petroleum.

When oil is pumped from the ground it is bad smelling rough crude oil. There are different grades of crude and each has its uses. Oil must be refined before it can be used as fuel.

There is not sufficient oil production in the U.S. to fill the demands for oil. More than 50% of the oil used in the U.S. is imported. The need to keep oil flowing in from other countries affects our political decisions in many areas of the world.


This fossil fuel is made up of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and sulphur. Coal is basically rock made of sediment and is mined from coal veins that run through the earth in some parts of the country.

The U.S. has more coal than any other fossil fuel. The main source of fuel for power plants, coal is also used in the paper industry and the steel industry. It can be used for plastics, has medical uses and is found in tar and in fertilizer.

Natural Gas

Natural gas is mainly methane. It is usually found near areas where oil fields are located and is pumped and run through a pipeline just as oil is.

Natural gas is invisible to the eye and has no discernible odor. For safety, mercaptan is added to natural gas to provide a recognizable odor. The smell is not pleasant but is distinctive and provides an alert to any gas leaks.

The 22% of the energy produced in the U.S. comes from natural gas. Steel, paper, and glass industries use gas and its also part of medicine. Gas is used in antifreeze and dyes, in photo film and paint.

Natural gas is compressed to produce propane which provides a portable source of energy. Propane is used to provide heat in many areas of the country where natural gas pipelines are not available.

Main Disadvantages

All of the fossil fuels - gas, oil and coal - produce greenhouse gases. These are non-renewable sources of energy and eventually the earth's supply of fossil fuels will become depleted.

The gases produced contribute to global warming and deplete ozone that naturally occurs in our atmosphere. The particulates and pollutants that result from burning oil and coal in particular are a contributing factor in acid rain.

We rely on coal, oil and natural gas for our energy needs even though the cons of fossil fuels are apparent. Renewable energy sources are being researched and developed to replace our dependence on fossil fuels.

In time we may be able to provide most or all of the energy needed by harnessing renewable resources such as geothermal, solar, wind and hydropower. The least developed renewable energy is biomass yet it may in time become the energy of the future.

Though solar power plants and wind turbines are becoming more common and many who own them are selling excess power to the local commercial power grids, these renewable resources are not yet capable of replacing our needs for oil, coal and natural gas.