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What are the Advantages of Fossil Fuels?

By Felicia Dye
Updated May 17, 2024
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Optimism about alternative energy and debates about oil, gas, and coal tend to cause the advantages of fossil fuels to be overlooked. These energy sources are not perfect, but they do fulfill a variety of needs such as providing fuel for heating and transportation. They are also advantageous because they are generally efficient and cheap.

Since fossil fuels have been in use for a long time, people in those industries can generally rely on functioning processes of dealing with these materials. There are methods of discovering, retrieving, and refining these materials that people are generally confident about. There is also technology that already exists to use those materials. This is one of the main advantages of fossil fuels.

Most vehicles, for example, already use petroleum. If other sources of energy are used to power vehicles, many changes will likely be necessary. The way that vehicles operate may need to be adjusted. It is also very likely that the facilities that produce the vehicles will need to be redesigned or reequipped. Furthermore, fueling stations are also likely to need redesigning, if they are not completely eliminated.

The same probabilities exist in other situations. If the use of fossil fuel was eliminated or greatly reduced, home heating systems, power plants, and factories would likely need to be changed. Since so many items are already designed to operate with oil, gas, and coal, it is an advantage to continue using them.

Consumers are also generally comfortable with fossil fuels and confident about what they will do. This means that people will typically invest in the products that they need if they have the money. It is often difficult to get masses of people to change something that is working for something that will allegedly work better. If large scale changes to alternative energy sources were implemented, consumer skepticism could have negative impacts on businesses in those markets or on the economy.

Fossil fuels generate large amounts of money. These materials provide the bulk of some countries' revenue. Related industries also provide jobs around the globe, ranging from mining to pumping fuel at full service stations.

Another of the primary advantages of fossil fuels is that these items are generally considered to be efficient and economic. Many of the options that are suggested as alternatives for coal, gas, and fuel are much more expensive. In addition to being expensive, many of these options require large amounts of materials or resources but produce less energy than a similar amount of fossil fuels.

The relative ease of transporting and distributing oil, gas, and coal is also one of advantages of fossil fuels. Vehicles and pipes are generally sufficient for these tasks. Other energy sources can involve materials that are less understood and more expensive to install and maintain.

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Discussion Comments
By cougars — On Mar 16, 2011

@fiorite- I think you may be missing the point. When peak oil and peak coal numbers are given, they are dependent on a few things: the assumption that consumption will not increase; the assumption that new reserves will be discovered; and the assumption that non-conventional fossil fuel resources will be commercialized.

The fact that energy consumption around the globe is increasing and new reserves are fewer and far between indicates that the number of years until fossil fuels run out will occur much sooner than the predictions. An example of this is BPs published oil reserve studies. Every year, the number of years of oil left decreases at a rate much faster than a year due to all of the factors described above. This is coming straight from an oil company, so there is little reason to believe that their findings are biased against fossil fuels.

By Fiorite — On Mar 15, 2011

I really don't see what all the fuss is about over burning fossil fuels. There is no concrete proof that climate change will be as catastrophic as people say. Additionally, there are enough fossil fuels to last us a few hundred years. Why should we be spending a significant percentage of economic output to try to mitigate something that may or may not happen?

By Georgesplane — On Mar 13, 2011

In the debate over alternative energy vs fossil fuels, there are a number of factors to consider. Fossil fuels are great, but the problems that surround them are plenty. The fact is, regardless of what they do to the planet, fossil fuels are becoming harder to extract and they are generally plentiful in unstable regions. These two reasons alone should be enough to make people want to transition to new fuels. There will definitely be an economic cost to making the change, but this cost will be much lower than what it will cost to adapt to little or no fossil fuels.

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