Coal, oil, and natural gas are the three main forms of fossil fuels energy. The use of those forms of energies is believed by many scientists to have had a major impact on the environment, and as a result, on human health. Reliance on fossil fuels, when the source of those fuels is other than domestic, also has a far-reaching impact on national economies and international relations, which is not always good.
Fossils were formed during the Carboniferous Period, some 360 to 286 million years ago. They are the remains of plants and animals from that period. Once used, fossil fuels are not renewable. Starting in the 20th century, the polluting qualities of fossil fuels became clear in the form of such environmental abnormalities as smog and acid rain, to name two.
The earliest known use of coal as energy was in China about 3,000 years ago. They may have used it to smelt copper. Coal is used today as a source of fossil fuels energy for factories and power plants. Its use has had a visible impact on the atmosphere, especially in industrial urban centers. The burning of coal, to be used as fuel, is believed to be responsible for many health problems in humans, such as increased respiratory disorders, and increases in the incidence of heart attacks.
Oil, also known as petroleum, was formed more than 300 million years ago. The carbon from sea creatures known as diatoms, which were the size of pinheads, eventually turned into oil due to pressure and heat from being buried under rocks and other sediment. Oil was used as fuel for lamps before the invention of the electric light bulb during the 1870s.
Oil is used as a fossil fuels energy source for automobiles and other forms of transportation. It is essential for the transport of food and other necessities to sustain human life in modern cultures. Countries, such as those in the Middle East, export oil to countries like the United States, which gets 50% of its oil supply from abroad. This dependency can make life difficult for the average citizen in many countries of the world, in terms of what supplies are made available, and fuel prices can wildly fluctuate and become very expensive. Dependence on this form of fossil fuels energy might force political decisions, in relation to the supplier country, that may not always be beneficial for the country supplied.
Natural gas, another source of fossil fuels energy, is usually found in the same general underground areas where oil is found. It was first discovered in Iran, several thousands of years before the common era (BCE). The ancient Persians worshiped fire and used natural gas to fuel their eternal flames.
Today, natural gas is usually considered the most economical of conventional forms of fossil fuels energy for the heating and cooling of homes and businesses. Heating oil for homes or cottages tends to be more expensive than heating with natural gas because of wide fluctuations in oil prices. In both cases, their use causes pollutants to escape into the air.
In the United States, the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy has attempted to promote the continued use of fossil fuel energies by stockpiling emergency supplies of crude oil and heating oil. It also supports initiatives for developing less polluting fuels from cleaner burning coal and hydrogen. Environmentalists would instead prefer to develop other solutions to the global warming that is believed to have come about due to the use of fossil fuels energy, and the emissions it creates.
If measures are not taken to use clean renewable sources of energy such as solar, the consequences, in the environmentalists' opinion, could be dire. Increased temperatures, due to the warming, might cause glaciers to melt, and the water could flood low-lying wetlands and other terrain. Extreme heat patterns could bring about droughts, which tend to have an adverse effect on plant and animal life, more frequent. In general, the effects of global warming have the potential to make necessary resources scarcer.