Fossil Fuels


Table of Contents :




Coal supplies us with about 28% of all the energy used. It is burned to make water hot and produce steam. The steam, in turn, generates electric power or operates steam engines. In many countries people use coal to heat their homes.

Coal mining has caused many problems in the past. Accidents in coal mines kill workers every year and breathing coal dust can lead to lung diseases. Although many factories have installed cleaning filters, coal emits sulphur oxides that pollute our air when burned.

Today, scientists are looking into ways to burn coal in a cleaner way – like turning it into liquid or gas first. Such methods are still very expensive and probably cannot be used on a large scale for years to come.

Coal will remain a major source of energy for a long time, because the world still has reserves to last a few hundred years.






Petroleum or crude oil supplies the world with about 40% of its energy. It is not only used to make petrol and heating oil but chemicals, fertilizers, plastics, drugs and other products as well.

Most of our petroleum lies in rock layers deep below the surface of the earth. Oil workers pump it out by drilling into these layers. Then it is transported over long distances, mostly by pipeline or tankers to refineries, where it is made into petrol and diesel as well as other petroleum products.

But like coal, petroleum creates problems in our environment. Tanker accidents cause oil to leak out into the ocean. Burning petrol or diesel in cars and trucks leads to smog and other kinds of pollution.

Although oil reserves are slowly running out, oil companies are constantly searching for new reserves. Such new reserves, however, lie mostly in areas which are very difficult to reach.

In some places, like the western United States, there are big deposits of oil rock, called oil shale. Petroleum can be extracted from this rock but such a process is still very expensive.



Natural Gas


About 20% of the energy used worldwide comes from natural gas. Deposits are usually found in the same areas as petroleum, but there are places, like Siberia that have gigantic gas fields.

Natural gas is a cleaner form of energy because it doesn’t have most of the pollutants that coal and oil have. The gas is turned into liquid and can be transported over long distances through pipelines.



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Related Topics




  • accident =catastrophe, disaster
  • although =while
  • area = place
  • breathe = to take air into your lungs and send it out again
  • cause = lead to
  • constantly = all the time, very often
  • consume =use
  • crude oil = oil that comes out of an oil well naturally
  • deposit = a layer of a mineral or metal in rocks
  • distance =space
  • drill = to make a hole into the earth with a machine
  • drugs = kinds of medicine
  • dust =dry powder, mostly made up of small particles of dirt
  • emit = to send out
  • engine = a machine that produces power so that it can move
  • environment = the air, water, land around us
  • extract = to get something out of a material
  • fertilizer = something that is put on a field to make plants grow
  • generate = to produce something
  • in turn =as a result
  • large scale = here: to be able to produce a lot
  • layer =material between two things
  • leads to =cause; the reason for
  • leak out = to get through a hole and flow into the sea
  • liquid =fluid, watery
  • lung disease = illnesses that make it hard for you to breathe
  • major = important
  • mine = a place where raw materials are dug out of the earth
  • oil shale = sandy, soft rock that has oil in it
  • petrol = the liquid that is used to make cars run—in America it is called gas
  • pollutant = something that makes air or water very dirty
  • pollution =when air, water and other resources get dirty, so that you cannot use them any more
  • probably =likely
  • reach = get to
  • refinery = a factory where oil is made purer and into other products
  • remain = stay
  • reserves =raw materials
  • run out = to become less and less
  • smog = smoke and fog that mix together to produce dirty air
  • source =place where something comes from
  • steam = the hot gas that water produces when it gets hot
  • sulphur oxide =a light yellow chemical that burns and has a very bad smell ; it is combined with oxygen
  • supplies = gives
  • surface =the top layer of something