What are the Different Fossil Fuels Effects?

Ken Black

Whether they are political, environmental, or social in nature, fossil fuels effects can be far reaching and have a significant impact upon the world's population. Fossil fuels power the world's economy and bring money to impoverished regions, which are positive impacts, but some say they are achieved at a significant cost. These costs have prompted governments and private industries around the world to search for different sources of energy, some of which may not come with these negative fossil fuels effects.

Most vehicles use fossil fuels.
Most vehicles use fossil fuels.

One of the most positive fossil fuels effects may be the fact that many of the places that are rich in oil are poor in other natural resources. This may be because they are located in deserts or colder regions of the world where the opportunity for other resources is limited. Therefore, fossil fuels often fund social programs and private economies in areas where there are few other opportunities.

There are variety of harmful emissions that come from the burning of fossil fuels, along with the release of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
There are variety of harmful emissions that come from the burning of fossil fuels, along with the release of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Another one of the fossil fuel advantages is the fact that most internal combustion engines and electrical plants use this type of fuel in the form of gasoline and coal respectively. The reason why fossil fuels became the preferred energy source is because of their ability to convert potential energy into mechanical energy. They do so at a very efficient rate and therefore use less fuel per unit of energy.

While these positive benefits can be very good, especially for some equipment and regions, negative fossil fuels effects have some looking for alternative sources of energy. While these alternative sources often do not produce the same amount of energy, they are often renewable and can be produced in a broader range of geographical locations. They can also counteract some of the negative social, political, and environmental fossil fuels effects.

The social and political impacts of fossil fuels are somewhat related to each other. Political pressures surrounding fossil fuels can often lead to unrest, regime changes, and even war. These situations can lead to extreme social hardships. Even if a country is cash rich, the delivery system and dangerous situations involving social unrest may mean that many people never see many of the benefits of fossil fuel money.

The effects of fossil fuels also include negative impacts on the environment. These include a variety of harmful emissions that come from the burning of fossil fuels, along with the release of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. These emissions are responsible for poor air quality and smog in many areas around the world. Carbon dioxide has been identified by many climate scientists as a key factor in global warming and a particularly potent greenhouse gas.

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Discussion Comments


@ GenevaMech- If the interactions between the earth's systems were only so simple. If that could work, it would be a great idea, but the fact is the oceans are at their limit as far as carbon storage is concerned. The oceans are acidifying and this is just one of the factors in the debate of fossil fuels vs renewable energy.

The carbon that is already in the atmosphere is mixing with precipitation, falling back into the earth's oceans where it mixes with water to form a weak carbonic acid. The change in pH is ever so slight, but it is having an effect on ocean ecosystems worldwide. Carbonic acid dissolves the calcium in the shells and skeletons of ocean organisms. Species especially affected are tiny plankton (the base of the ocean food chain), eggs and young fish, and corals (the sanctuaries for 25% of ocean biodiversity). This will ultimately result in further diminished numbers of marine life, which means less food for the billion or so people who get all of their protein from seafood.


I hear a lot of talk about global warming and the need to sequester carbon. Wouldn't it make sense to just pump the exhaust from power plants into the bottom of lakes and the ocean? I saw on National Geographic that the ocean is one of the largest stores of carbon in the world. Would this not be an easy solution to global warming and its effects, or am I missing something here?


I would have to argue that fossil fuels are not very efficient. Only 40% of the energy in coal is converted to usable energy. This may be better than many of the renewable or alternative energy resources available, but the externalized costs (effects on global warming and health) more than offset any efficiency gains. Furthermore, there is little that can be done to improve the efficiency of fossil fuels since the industry is very mature.

Renewables on the other hand, see gains in efficiency every few years. They will certainly begin to see gains as more money is invested in their development. In fact, hydroelectric, wind, and thermal solar technologies are already rivaling efficiency of natural gas plants, without having large fuel supply costs or harmful emissions and pollutants. I am not saying that these energy sources do not have their flaws, but fossil fuels are no magical substance either. They are dirty, finite fuel sources that hinder future technological innovation.

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