Fossil fuels mainly consist of hydrogen and carbon bonds and are the important sources of energy since time immemorial. Man’s energy needs in every aspect are being served by fossil fuels only. These fuels are basically derived from the organic remains and decomposition of prehistoric animals and plants.
These organic remains are several million years old and are converted to carbon-containing fossil fuels by the extreme pressure and temperature of the Earth’s crust. These fuels produce a huge amount of heat and energy to meet man’s every need. Coal, petroleum, and natural gas are considered to be the three most important fossil fuels. Let us discuss the four main types of fossil fuels known so far:
Petroleum, also known as crude oil or condensate is one of the most widely used fossil fuels. The word petroleum is derived from the Latin words petro and ileum. Petro means rock and oleum mean oil. This fuel is highly valuable for mankind and almost every industry is dependent on this fuel. Hence it is also known as the “black gold”.
Petroleum is a liquid fuel that is made of hydrocarbons compounds inclusive of other liquid organic compounds. It is extensively used as fuel for automobiles, jets and to produce electricity. Its derivatives are also utilized in the plastic and medicine industries.
Petroleum products are derived from refined crude oil. Unprocessed crude oils that occur naturally are also referred to as petroleum products. Petroleum demand has been increasing year after year and which has immensely contributed to the water and air pollution worldwide. Because this is a stored reserve and due to high demand the oil field is depleting every year by around 2.5 percent.
Coal is a flammable organic and one of the rich sources of fossil fuel. It is usually brown or black in color. About one-quarter of the total world’s energy and 40 percent of the world’s electricity production is provided by coal. Several iron and steel industries in India and around the world are highly dependent upon coal.
Owing to its high use and demand coal reserves are also declining steeply and is on the verge of extinction within a few years from now. Hence we must find some alternative sources of energy that will serve the same purpose. Some of the alternative energy resources like solar energy, wind energy, and hydro energy are being used widely, but the user needs to be increased more.
Natural gas is a colorless gas and is a mixture of several hydrocarbon gases like methane, ethane, propane, and butane. It is a combustible, convenient, and efficient source of energy. Methane (CH4) is the main component of natural gas. It has two parts: conventional gas- which can easily be extracted and unconventional gas- which requires more advanced technologies for extraction.
Natural gas also helps in the generation of electricity and is widely used for industrial, commercial, and residential purposes. Unlike any other fossil fuels, natural gas usually causes less pollution as this is comparatively cleaner. But like any other fossil fuel, this energy resource is also depleting rapidly.
Ecosystem: The Major Types Of Ecosystems In The Earth’s Environment
In simple words, the ecosystem of an area comprises of the living organisms, the geographical environment, the non-living components, and the inter-relationship between organisms as well as with the environment.
As per the Encyclopedia of Global Warming and Climate Change, the ecosystem of our environment is of eight major types. They are temperate forest, grasslands, tropical rain forests, deserts, the chaparral, the tundra, the taiga, and the marine ecosystem.
- Temperate forest
Temperate forests are present in different parts of Europe and in the eastern parts of the United States. Hardwood trees populate the temperate forests. These are deciduous trees that lose leaves every year in the autumn season. If compared to dense jungles, the number of species existing in temperate forest regions is limited. One can easily spot animals like raccoons, salamanders, and deer.
Also known as plains or prairie, grasslands get nearly 20 inches of rainfall every year, most of which occur in the thriving season. Though forests are rarely seen, herbs and grasses grow in abundance.
The grass is the source of food to animals inhabiting the grasslands, but they are always chased by predators. Grasslands also support several crops and varieties of grains.
- Tropical Rain forests
Tropical rainforests are located in areas that receive plenty of rainfall throughout the year. Jaguar, piranha, anaconda, macaw, mountain gorilla are easily spotted in the rainforests.
Importance of tropical rainforest: Rainforests offer us a wide diversity of animals and plants. They also keep Earth healthy through the absorption of carbon dioxide.
A desert is a vast area of arid land that gets 10 inches or less rainfall throughout the year. Almost all continents have deserts and they can be either cold or hot. The four types are cold desert, hot desert, semi-arid desert, and coastal desert.
Animals and plants in this type of ecosystem have special adaptive features that help them survive in extreme temperatures and without water for days.
Importance of desert ecosystem: The dry conditions of a desert encourage the formation of valuable minerals. They are not empty wastelands but the abode of one-sixth of the total population of the world.
- The Chaparral
Chaparral is located in places that have climatic conditions like the Mediterranean regions- dry, hot summers, and wet, mild winters. The Chaparral, also known as Mediterranean Forest, Scrub biome, and Woodland, receives rainfall mainly in winter months. Vegetation consists primarily of thorny bushes and tangled shrubs.
Importance of the chaparral: We need to preserve the chaparral because it protects the soil from erosion and is an ideal habitat for several animals and plants.
- The Tundra
The term ‘tundra’ stands for treeless, barren land. The tundra region lies in the southern and the northern hemisphere between the poles and the coniferous forests. Some of the countries are Iceland, Russia, Canada, Greenland, and Norway.
The chilling climate is not suitable for most plants. Arctic fox and reindeer are among animals found in the tundra.
Importance of the Tundra: The tundra has a great role to play in regulating the planet’s temperature. So, it maintains biodiversity.
- The Taiga
In North America, people refer to the Taiga as the snow forest or the boreal forest. Taiga is a biome comprising of coniferous forests of spruces, larches, and pines. It is the fastest land biome in the world. Animals found here are grey wolves, minks, foxes, squirrels, bears, and lynxes.
Importance of the taiga: Besides supporting the life of animals, humans, and plants, the taiga region assists the environment by releasing oxygen and removing carbon dioxide. Deforestation in these areas can cause serious ecological imbalance.
- The Ocean
The quantity of saltwater in the ocean ecosystem is more than the presence of freshwater. The food chain has plants at the bottom, followed by crustaceans and smaller fish. Seals, whales, and dolphins are on the topmost layer of the food chain. Currents, tides, rock reefs, and sandbars provide sustenance to plant life.
Importance of the ocean: Oceans absorb most of the carbon dioxide and are the greatest producer of oxygen. They provide us food, transportation, recreation, and medicines.
So, all eight ecosystems have a significant role to play in maintaining harmony in the environment. Preservation of the rich ecosystems is a must for the sake of co-existence all life forms.
Fossil Fuels: Meaning, Types, Formation, And Importance
Fossil fuels can be defined as natural fuels (such as gas or coal), formed in the past from remains of various living organisms (animals and plants). In other words, fossil fuel is an organic substance, present under the ground in the form of deposits, created in an earlier geological period and used widely as a significant source of electricity and energy.
Fossil fuels can be found is almost any product that we humans use on a daily basis. They satisfy 90 percent of the world’s electricity demand.
Types of fossil fuels:
Four types of fossil fuels are present in the world. They are:
- Natural Gas
Formation of fossil fuels
The formation of fossil fuels takes place when organic matters buried deep under the earth’s surface receive continuous pressure and heat for millions of years. When it comes to natural gas and oil, the organic matters responsible for the creation of these fossil fuels have their source in the marine ecosystem. Coal, on the other hand, owes its formation to peat forests of ancient times.
Importance or uses of fossil fuels:-
The three main types of the above-mentioned fossil fuels exist in three varied states of matter. Oil is present in liquid form, coal is solid, and natural gas exists in the form of gas. Let us have a look at the ways in which we can use these fossil fuels.
- Uses of oil
The petroleum of crude oil is commonly known as black gold. The uses of oil are many and in various fields. It is required for the generation of electricity and also used by the transportation industry as fuel for jets and automobiles. Apart from that, oil has several byproducts that are used widely in the production of tars, plastics, waxes, lubricants, chemicals, and medicines also most of the fertilizers and pesticides available in the market either use oil or any of its byproducts.
- Uses of natural gas
Natural gas is basically a gaseous fuel, the main ingredient of which is methane. One advantage of using natural gas is that it is comparatively cleaner than coal and oil. We use natural gas in cooking appliances such as fuel stoves, in air conditioning, in heat appliances required for heating homes, water, and buildings. Natural gas also provides electricity and produces paints, dyes, plastics, and fertilizers. Manufacturing companies and industries such as steel foundries, aluminum smelters, and glass foundries also rely on natural gas to a great extent. Apart from the uses mentioned above, natural gas also has its use in transportation as LNG or CNG.
- Uses of coal
Coal is a fossil fuel that is present in the environment in a solid-state. It is made up of five key elements, namely, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, and sulfur. There are three types of coal-based on their properties, namely, anthracite, bituminous, and lignite. As opposed to the other two, anthracite is hard and the carbon content is high, therefore, producing the highest energy.
An interesting fact about coal is that it can exist for more than 200 years. In ancient times, people used coal to smelt metal ores. There are several countries that cannot afford oil or natural gas as they are extremely expensive and thus, rely solely on coal for generating energy. Another usage of coal is the generation of electricity and as a component in electrical utilities.
Coal and its byproducts are also found in products such as aspirin, plastics, solvents, dyes, and soaps. The steel industry, cement manufacturing industry, pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, and the paper manufacturing industry also makes use of coal or its byproducts for manufacturing several essential products of daily use.
Eco-friendly alternatives to fossil fuels
This was just a brief description of fossil fuels and their uses in our life. The increasing use of coal and other fossil fuels in construction, industry, and transportation release carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. CO2 is a greenhouse gas that plays a key role in increasing the temperature of the planet. Fossil fuels also take millions of years to form. This is the reason why we need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and rely more on renewable energy sources such as geothermal, wind, tidal, solar, hydro-electric, and bio-fuels.
Benefits of Solar Energy: Diverse Applications (Part 2)
With countless gadgets and technologies that can leverage solar power in the modern world, it is important to learn the benefits of solar energy and its diverse uses. My previous post about the diverse uses of solar energy offers an in-depth discussion of how this form of energy could be used at homes, holiday properties, and central power stations. Here are other applications of solar energy.
Solar water heating systems
In a home or business, hot water systems for kitchens, space heating, and bathrooms are nearly universal. What most people don’t know is that they can leverage solar power to get enough hot water in their homes and commercial buildings. Property owners can user thermal panels along with storage tanks to store the hot water. When needed, this water can circulate to a heater, shower or sink.
The modern ‘in floor’ heating systems and the traditional baseboard heating systems offer solar heat as the pre-heater to a traditional hot water tank or furnace. This will serve as the backup to your solar thermal system.
One of the common benefits of solar energy is the diverse industrial applications associated with it. For decades, solar energy has been the primary power supply of choice for many industrial applications, especially where power is needed in a remote area. In these applications, solar energy is cost-effective. This is because many individual uses need just a few kilowatts of electric power.
Solar energy is also used on transportation signalings such as lighthouses, offshore navigation buoys, road traffic warning signals, and aircraft warning lights. It is also used to power environmental or situation monitoring tools and even corrosion protection systems for well-heads, bridges, pipelines, and more. For huge electrical loads, it is cost-effective to configure the hybrid power system and link to a PV with a sizeable diesel generator.
The benefits of solar energy here include the reliability and minimal maintenance needed. That makes this form of energy ideal in regions that are hard to get to.
Lighting, water pumping, and heating in the developing world
In addition to off-grid properties, remote buildings such as clinics, schools, and community halls can benefit from solar power. It can power telephones, different pieces of refrigeration equipment, TV, and more. WHO (World Health Organization) requires every clinic to have these devices. Rather than having a base solar power generator for each dwelling, it is possible to configure a central power plant. The plant power homes through a local wired network. It can also serve as a battery charging station where the member of the entire community can charge their batteries here.
On a commercial building, atria can be effectively covered with PV modules. These modules are semi-transparent to offer shaded light. In factories, the large roof areas offer a perfect location for solar modules. Besides, the vertical walls of commercial buildings can offer opportunities for PV incorporation.
Whether it is charging a wireless speaker or powering a renewable, the list of uses and benefits of solar energy is endless.
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