What’s the Deal With Fossil Fuels? | California Academy of Sciences

What’s the Deal With Fossil Fuels? | California Academy of Sciences


♪ (music) ♪ Every day we use energy
to power our homes, cars, and more. But most of that energy
comes from fossil fuels. So what exactly are fossil fuels? Well, fossil fuels are made
of the preserved remains of ancient plants and algae, and they come in a variety of flavors. To explore how the three
main types of fossil fuels formed, we need to go back in time–
300 million years ago,before dinosaurs roamed the Earth,when the planet was very different,and it had a more tropical
and humid climate.
Over time, dead plant material
that once captured energy from the Sun
was deposited in swamps,
and then turned into peat,
a dark brown soil-like material.The peat was slowly buried,as more and more material
was deposited over it,
and over millions of years
it was transformed into coal
by high heat and pressure.In a similar process,
but slightly different environment,
oil and natural gas were formed.In this case, the remains
of microscopic algae
sank to the bottom of the seas,
and then were buried over time,
transformed by heat and pressureinto liquid petroleum, or oil,
and natural gas.
All fossil fuels contain hydrocarbons, carbon and hydrogen bonded together. When hydrocarbons are burned
through a chemical reaction, they produce a lot of energy that power our cars, homes, and cities. Most energy in the United States
is produced by coal, petroleum and natural gas,for things like electricity,
transportation, and heating.
But you may also
be surprised to know
that petroleum is also turned into
a lot of our household items,
such as plastic bags and bottles,
footballs, clothes,
cellphones and laptops,and in many cases, soap,
shampoo and toothpaste.
It seems like fossil fuels
are really important to us. So what’s the problem? Well, as you’ve probably heard, fossil fuels aren’t
that environmentally friendly. For one thing, when we extract
the fuel from the groundby pumping or mining it,that can destroy the land,
water, and air around us.
When fossil fuels are burned,
they produce carbon dioxide, or CO₂,
a greenhouse gas that occurs naturally
in the atmosphere.
This CO₂ traps heat from the Sun
near the surface of the Earth.
This greenhouse effect is necessary for keeping the Earth warm and cozy.But burning fossil fuels increases
the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
to levels that make the Earth too warm.Over the last few decades, we’ve only increased
our use of fossil fuels. Plus, any CO₂ we add to the atmosphere stays there for about 100 years, so the problem and the warming
is only getting worse. And our atmosphere isn’t
the only thing affected by burning fossil fuels.About one quarter of CO₂ emission
is actually absorbed by the ocean.
This ocean acidification
can harm life in the sea.
And here’s another problem
with fossil fuels
that has nothing to do
with our environment,
but rather to our future energy needs.Fossil fuels are nonrenewable resources,which means it takes them longer to formthan for us to extract them from the Earthto turn into plastics,
fuel, and toothpaste.
There’s a bright spot
in the middle
of all this fossil fuel dependency.Many people are incorporating
more sustainable energy
into powering their homes and cars.Or, more importantly,
they’re changing their habits
to be more energy efficient.What types of solutions can you think of
to reduce fossil fuel use? Become empowered to power the world,
cleanly and sustainably! ♪ (music) ♪

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