Fossil fuel is defined as the material containing hydrocarbons from the remains of plants and animals buried inside the soil for many years. These hydrocarbons are extracted and burnt by human beings to release heat and energy.
Fossil fuel is an important topic in exams like JEE 2022, NEET UG 2022, KVPY exam 2022, NTSE exam, and CUCET. According to the NEET 2022 Syllabus and JEE Advanced 2022 Syllabus, students need to pay proper attention to the chapters that cover the topics of fossil fuels. However, understanding this chapter is essential not only for exams but also for conserving our environment. This is why it is an important section in the KVPY syllabus, NTSE exam syllabus, and CUCET 2022 syllabus.
Different types of fossil fuels
Since fossil fuel is an important topic for competitive exams, students need to clearly understand the concepts of this chapter to improve their JEE 2022, NEET UG 2022, NTSE exam, KVPY exam 2022, and CUCET preparation. Therefore, before knowing the uses of fossil fuels, it is essential to understand the process of their formation.
Fossil fuels are formed when the dead remains of plants and animals are decomposed under extreme pressure inside the earth’s crust for millions of years. It consists of hydrogen and carbon molecules. Primarily there are three types of fossil fuels:
- Natural gas
To improve your JEE preparations and answer the questions from this chapter in JEE Main 2022 Exam Pattern, it is important to understand all the three types of fossil fuels.
1. Coal: It is a solid form of fossil fuel and looks like a hard chunk of black stone. Coal is extracted from the earth’s crust through mining. The mining process includes either surface mining or underground mining. KVPY books state that the chemical composition of coal includes carbon, oxygen, sulphur, hydrogen, and nitrogen molecules. The quality of coal depends upon the distribution and concentration of these five elements. Today coal is broadly used for processing metal, generating electricity, etc.
2. Natural gas: It is a lightweight fossil fuel. It occurs naturally along with petroleum, but it accumulates above the petroleum layer inside the earth’s crust since it is lighter. Natural gas contains methane, and it is highly flammable. It primarily has the following properties:
- It is odourless
- It is colourless
- It is highly flammable
3. Petroleum: It is a liquid form of fossil fuel that contains hydrogen and carbon molecules. It is formed when the dead remains of animals go through a process known as Diagenesis. Petroleum is a refined byproduct of crude oil extracted from the oil well, which forms naturally deep inside the earth’s surface. Crude oil has five different grades, and the lighter grades are most preferred for commercial purposes.
What are the effects of burning fossil fuels?
Undoubtedly fossil fuels are the most convenient and cost-effective sources of energy. However, burning fossil fuel poses great harm to the environment, human and animal health, air quality, and climate conditions. This is a great concern and one of the reasons why hydrocarbons are considered JEE Main 2022 Important Chapter.
Fossil fuels are the main contributors to rising carbon dioxide concentration in the environment. This ultimately increases the earth’s atmospheric temperature and causes damage to the ozone layer. Moreover, the extraction process of fossil fuel itself causes harm to human beings and the environment as a whole.
Ocean acidification caused by fossil fuel
The studies suggest that seas and oceans absorb nearly 25 percent of the carbon emitted from burning fossil fuels. After the beginning of the industrial revolution and the increase in the people’s consumption of fossil fuels, the large water bodies have become 30 percent more acidic. This poses a great threat to sea organisms.
With the acidification of seawater, the calcium carbonate that forms the shell of the lobster, oyster, and numerous other sea creatures degrades. This causes a disturbance in the underwater ecosystem and ultimately results in the extinction of many creatures. With the reduction in the growth rate of species, the entire ecology and food chain are disturbed.
Air pollution due to burning fossil fuels
The burning of fossil fuels releases several harmful pollutants into the air. These include carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxide (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), sulphur dioxide (SO2), mercury, lead, and particulate matter. Most air pollution is caused by the burning of non-renewable sources of energy such as coal, gas, and petroleum.
Moreover, the power plants that use only coal for generating energy emit nearly 42% of the dangerous mercury and particulate matter into the earth’s atmosphere. In addition, vehicles powered by fossil fuels such as cars, buses, aeroplanes, trucks, bikes, etc., add to the concentration of harmful gases like nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide. All these pollutants result in respiratory diseases in human beings and increase the earth’s temperature.
Threats of global warming
The burning of fossil fuels is the main cause of rising atmospheric temperature. This happens because the carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere traps the heat from the sun and reduces the dispersion of this heat. This situation is known as the greenhouse effect. With the increase in carbon dioxide concentration, more heat from the sun gets captured in the atmosphere due to the enormous consumption of fossil fuels. This condition ultimately leads to increased earth’s temperature resulting in the threat of global warming.
Increase in the sea level
The increasing fossil fuel consumption indirectly results in increasing water levels of seas and oceans. As discussed above, fossil fuel consumption increases the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere, which results in increased atmospheric temperature. This situation ultimately leads to the melting of glaciers and increases the water level of seas and oceans.
The melting of icebergs and the increasing water level are expected to cause severe climate changes in different parts of the world, such as severe drought, floods, etc. Moreover, many coastal areas will get submerged in the water bodies and the cities near water bodies may also face harsh consequences of global warming and increased water levels.
Harmful effects of oil spills
The transportation of crude oil or its refined byproducts such as petroleum, gas, etc., is risky. Any leakage in the transportation system causes harmful effects on the environment. If the oil spills into any water body, it can pollute the water and kill many aquatic animals. In addition to this, as the oil is highly flammable, there is an increased chance of it catching fire. This again will emit an enormous amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Increasing health hazards
Increased use of fossil fuel results in various health issues even for the people who follow an active and healthy lifestyle. In recent years, people have witnessed a massive increase in respiratory diseases in small children and young adults. This is majorly caused by the high concentration of carbon dioxide gas in the earth’s atmosphere. The long-term effects of air pollution can lead to increased ageing and deterioration of the lungs, the onset of diseases like asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, etc. Since there are many health hazards of burning fossil fuels, hydrocarbons are counted among NEET 2022 Important Chapters.
Acid rain is caused by the toxic gases
The burning of fossil fuels emits many harmful gases into the atmosphere. Some of these gases, such as nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide, rise very high in the earth’s atmosphere and react with other compounds like oxygen and water to form acid. These mixed chemicals are carried away to large distances until they become heavy and fall in the form of acid rains and snow. Today many places experience acid rain, which harms animal and plant lives.
Important facts about fossil fuels
Today people consume fossil fuels for almost every purpose. From cooking food to driving to performing heavy industrial tasks, society is highly dependent on fossil fuels. These fuels are formed by the natural process over millions of years and are a non-renewable source of energy. Fossil fuels amount to almost 80% of the total energy consumption daily. Below are some facts about fossil fuels:
- Fossil fuels are used to produce different grades of plastics.
- According to studies, fossil fuel reserves may get empty in the next 100 years. Moreover, all the non-renewable sources of energy will be available for only 1000 years.
- It is the most cost-efficient source of energy. Therefore, it is widely used around the globe.
- All the fossil fuels are decomposed remains of animals and plants.
FAQs on the effects of burning fossil fuels
Q1. If burning fossil fuels increases atmospheric temperature, why do some places experience a steep fall in temperature?
To understand this situation, people first need to know the difference between the climate and weather of a particular region. For example, the weather might be snowy, but the climate can be dry, or it might rain outside, and the climate can be humid. The burning of fossil fuels increases atmospheric temperature, but it does not remove the occurrence of weather. However, it does affect the duration of the weather, which means the winter can be freezing but for a short period.
Q2. How do increasing carbon dioxide levels disturb the food chain?
Increased levels of carbon dioxide result in uncertain and untimely rainfall. This affects the farming sector. The crops often don't receive enough rainfall and dry up, while sometimes, due to untimely heavy rainfall, some crops get destroyed. This situation greatly affects the farmer's plantation and harvesting decision resulting in disturbance to the food chain. On the other hand, the increasing sea temperature results in range shifts of fish which adversely affects fisheries.
Q3. What are some options to reduce the burning of fossil fuels?
The best way to reduce the burning of fossil fuels is to reduce the demand for the product or services that utilise this non-renewable source of energy to produce them.
1. This can be done in the following ways: Purchase products that are manufactured by recycling materials.
2. Invest in the products that can be reused. This includes controlling the use of products like paper and plastic bags manufactured for single usage. 3. 3. Avoid using products produced using petroleum such as nylon, polyester, etc.
Q4. What is meant by energy efficiency, and how is it beneficial?
Energy efficiency means using less amount of power to perform any activity. This is very beneficial for the conservation of energy. By utilising the power efficiently, people can reduce greenhouse effects, reduce the cost of household expenses, and lower the demand for energy generation. Utilising energy efficiently is the cheapest and most effective way of reducing the harmful effects of burning fossil fuels.