Fossil Fuels: How Do They Negatively Affect the Environment?

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Fossil fuels are the largest greenhouse gas emitters in the world, contributing 3/4 of all carbon, methane and other greenhouse gas emissions. Burning coal, petroleum and other fossil fuels at extremely high temperatures (combustion) is the primary means by which electricity is produced, but also leads to heavy concentrations of pollutants in our air and water.

The real problem is that the atmosphere already absorbs a ton of greenhouse gases naturally, but is trapping up to 25 percent more of the sun's radiation due to annual increases in greenhouse gas emissions. Just think of the atmosphere as a very thick blanket of insulation—a blanket of insulation that grows thicker and more absorbent by the year.

Here are some eye-popping statistics from the Energy Information Administration:

  • 3.2 billion tons of additional carbon dioxide annually.
  • More than 2.5 million metric tons of carbon is produced by power plants.
  • 98 percent of U.S. energy production comes from non-renewable sources, a.k.a. fossil fuels.
  • The U.S. consumes more than 20 million barrels of oil per day, with more than one million tons of coal consumed annually as well.

The increased awareness surrounding global warming and the importance of renewable energy is vital, but the fact remains that fossil fuel production and consumption has hundreds of years of history, and the use of renewable energy is still in its infancy.

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