Fossil fuels are buried deposits of petroleum, coal, peat, natural gas, and other carbon-rich organic compounds derived from the dead bodies of plants and animals that lived many millions of years ago. Over long periods of time, pressure generated by overlying sediments and heat from within the Earth have concentrated and modified these materials into valuable energy sources for human purposes. Fossil fuels currently provide about 90% of all technological energy used in the world.
Coal, oil and gas are all fossil fuels. They are used to heat our homes, provide power for industry and fuel our cars. Fossil fuels are made from trees, plants and tiny sea creatures which were buried millions of years ago. They were squashed and heated so much that they changed into the fossil fuels we find today. These fuels are then burned and used to produce steam which drives generators to make electricity.
Oil and gas are normally found trapped in pockets called fields deep underground. Geologists know how to use the clues found on geological maps to find those oil and gas fields. Now that countries around the world are trying to find ways to reduce their carbon emissions (including those released from the burning of fossil fuels) – geological maps can help again! In the same way that oil and gas can be trapped underground, carbon dioxide can also be trapped. If we can store the carbon dioxide we produce, we can help reduce the effects of global warming.
Increasingly, we are looking to alternative forms of energy as we try to reduce the impact we have on our environment. One option is to harness the energy that is contained within the earth in the form of heat. This can be used to directly heat homes and businesses by pumping water down beneath a house and bringing it back once it has been heated up. It can also be used indirectly to generate electricity – Geothermal Energy Plants currently produce 0.3% of the world’s electricity.
In some places, the hot water comes straight out of the ground by itself – these geothermal springs are used for bathing all over the world. The Romans used geothermal springs to bathe in and to heat buildings!
Renewable energy is energy from sources that are unlimited or replenish in a relatively short amount of time. Long before electricity, renewable energy sources powered people's daily needs. People captured the Sun's rays for warmth, burned wood to cook, and used wind to pump water. In the modern day, scientists have developed many systems to harness and transform the energy from renewable sources into energy that people can use.