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Fossil Fuels

( Article Type: Explanation )

Fossil fuels are non-renewable (limited) natural resources, which means that one day they will run out and alternative energy sources will have to be found for them. They include crude oil, coal, gas or heavy oils, which are made up of partially or completely decomposed plants and animals. These plants and animals died millions of years ago and, over long periods of time, they became a part of the earth’s crust and were exposed to heat and pressure which, through carbon chemistry, turned them into fossil fuels and sources of energy for people.

Fossil fuels, when burnt, release gases and particles, which can cause pollution if not managed correctly. Carbon dioxide, one of the gases released from burning fossil fuels is contributing to global warming. South Africa’s energy supplies are based mainly on power stations, which burn low-grade coal and emit vast quantities of sulphur dioxide, carbon dioxide and other pollutants.

Over the years, studies have revealed that the fossil fuel emission from Eskom’s Highveld power stations have had a marked impact upon the vegetation of Mpumalanga. There is no doubt that at this point in time, most countries are not in a position to completely replace their fossil fuel burning power stations with cleaner options such as wind, wave, hydro-electric and solar.

However, many countries have begun serious research and development work into alternative power options. For example, many remote microwave or cellular towers are powered by solar power. This is an easier, cheaper and safer option than extending power lines to often remote areas just for a power supply.