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Anthropogenic causes of air pollution: Fossil Fuels Combustion

A major cause of air pollution in the world are humans burning of fossil fuels like petroleum or coal continuously, causing tremendous air pollution emissions to the atmosphere.  Moreover, our current ways of transportation are far from Eco-friendly, and even thought companies like Tesla look like they are going to instantly change the world, the electric market is responding quite slowly.

What are fossil fuels?

Any material containing hydrocarbon, naturally made and used to release energy is considered a fossil fuel. Fossil fuels are mainly used for heat energy, work and machine operations. Nevertheless, they are not only used in those particular situations, as fossil fuels are present in our daily routine. For example, every time you turn the lights on, you probably use electricity produced by burning fossil fuels.

oil extraction

Fossil fuels are biologically produced, but how are these exactly formed? Fossil fuels are the accumulated remains of living organisms buried millions of years ago that suffer a transformation process by anaerobic decomposition, high heat and high pressure due to the accumulation of layers of rocks, sand and mud.

Types of fossil fuels

Traditionally, fossil fuels have been divided into 3 types depending on their composition and origin: coal, natural gas and petroleum (also known as crude oil). However, since the mid-1980s orimulsion has been recognized as the fourth fossil fuel, a substance derived from the bitumen formed in the Orinoco oil belt in Venezuela.

Fossil fuels advantages and disadvantages

A lot problems may come to your mind when thinking about fossil fuels. However, as the major source of energy nowadays, it has been imposed because of the advantages it had over the competition. In this section you will find all the pros and cons of fossil fuels:

Fossil fuels advantages

  1. The energy produced by fossil fuels is greater than the one produced by an equivalent amount of other energy resource. It is the source with higher calorific value.
  2. Fossil fuels are a technology that is globally developed. It is not about energy or transportation, many products sold nowadays were developed thanks to fossil fuels, for example computers. Just about everything we do in life right now is tied, one way or another, to the consumption of a fossil fuel.
  3. Fossil fuels are both cheap and reliable. Fossil fuels like coal are way more inexpensive on energy production than any other source.
  4. Fossil fuels have become safer over time. For example, coal emissions can now be captured, condensed and released into a safer way through water.
  5. Available technology makes the research of fossil fuels pretty simple.
  6. Transport of fossil fuels is very easy, it is usually done through pipes.
  7. Huge advance were made on the construction and safety of power plants, so nowadays these are very easy to build up. However, nuclear energy is still very dangerous.
  8. Fossil fuels are easier to extract and process, hence are cheaper than the non-conventional forms of energy.

Refinery

Fossil fuels disadvantages

  1. Fossil fuels are a finite resource and the alarming rate at which fossil fuels are being consumed has resulted in substantial depletion of their reservoirs. Besides, it takes millions of years and specific conditions to replace a fossil fuel.
  2. The hydrocarbons present in the fossil fuels, release greenhouse gases, such as methane, carbon dioxide etc., which are capable of damaging the ozone layer and polluting the environment.
  3. Fossil fuels are often cheap because of subsidies. Many governments tend to subsidize the price of fossil fuels instead of letting the free market govern, thus making prices more affordable for consumers.
  4. Other harmful gases emissions derived from fossil fuels processing, such as carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide, are responsible for acid rain, which has spelled disaster for the ecology.
  5. Fossil fuels can damage the environment through human error. Fossil fuels can also spill during transport, creating environmental damage as the product spills out. This is particularly problematic for petroleum products.
  6. Extraction of fossil fuels has endangered the environmental balance in some areas. Moreover, coal mining has jeopardized the lives of several mine workers.
  7. The depletion of reservoirs has made the extraction of fossil fuels an expensive affair. This is likely to affect the fuel prices in near future.
  8. Fossil fuels have directly and indirectly contributed to global warming, the issue that is being combated all over the world.

At the end, moral cases and debates on fossil fuels have been widely spread worldwide. If there is a thing that we all could agree is that this debates are predominated by a posterior lack of action.

Burning of fossil fuels in power plants

Power plants burn a massive amount of fossil fuels such as natural gas, coal and petroleum to produce electricity. As a result of these massive activities, they are one of the major causes of air pollution. Furthermore, these are all non-renewable resources and supply will ultimately be exhausted.

Numbers never lie, and in 2018 non-renewable energy is still the 80% of the total energy production in the world. Although some efforts have been on the regulation of these activities, in practice electricity is a basic need and most of them are ignored or covert actions.

power plant

Exhaust from vehicles

Pollution from automobiles is clearly visible in almost every city of the world. The vast majority of vehicles run on fossil fuels like gasoline that emit soot and harmful gases, generating primary and secondary pollutants on urban areas. On average, private transportation accounts for about 10 percent of your carbon footprint.

When we think about exhaust from vehicles cars come to mind, but we should take into account any mean of transport, including trucks, jeeps, cars, trains, airplanes, shipping vessels and others. We rely on them to fulfill our daily basic needs of transportation, but these vehicles are passively killing living organisms and the environment.

vehicles air pollution

Air pollution from fossils fuels combustion

A variety of primary and secondary pollutants are emitted due to these activities: airborne particles, sulfur dioxide (SO2), carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons, organic compounds, chemicals, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and others.

Fossil fuel emissions contain the major greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane (CH4), nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases. Therefore, air pollution of these activities is not only a menace for the air quality in cities, but also a big threat to the global warming and the environment.

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