Fossil fuels are formed from the remains of ancient plants and animals, buried deep inside the Earth for millions of years.

Over a long, long time, heat and pressure has turned these remains into the fossil fuels that we call coal, oil and natural gas. Today, fossil fuels are mined and burned to release the energy stored inside them.

Fossil fuels are widely used because there is a good supply and they are fairly cheap to mine and drill for. However, fossil fuels are non-renewable, which means that one day they will be all gone. People can't make fossil fuels!

Some uses of fossil fuels

Coal and natural gas are burned to make the electricity that we use in our homes for cooking and for heating and cooling.

  • They are used to power factories.
  • Oil is changed into petrol for cars and trucks, and into fuel for aeroplanes and ships.
  • Plastics are made from fossil fuels.

What's wrong with fossil fuels?

When they are burned, the carbon stored inside fossil fuels is released into the atmosphere as a gas known as carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and is causing global warming.

Burning petrol (made from oil) in cars pollutes the air we breathe.

Power plants too burn oil and coal to make electricity and release poisonous gases into the air. These gases cause air pollution and acid rain. 

Coal is a fossil fuel

Coal is dug out of the earth at mines like this. Getty Images

Coal is dug out of the earth at mines like this. Getty Images

Coal was formed from layers of dead plants. 

Coal took millions of years to form.

Coal is a non-renewable fuel.

Coal has to be dug out of the

earth. Coal is burned at power stations to make electricity.

Coal is also used in the making of plastics, tar, fertilisers, and some medicines.

Problems with coal

Coal mining disturbs the land, affecting the landscape and the plants and animals that live

there. Air and water quality can be affected by mining. Burning coal released greenhouse gases into the atmosphere which is causing global warming.

 

Oil is a fossil fuel

Oil and natural gas are reached in places under the oceans using drills from oil rigs like this

Oil and natural gas are reached in places under the oceans using drills from oil rigs like this

Oil was formed from the remains of dead animals and plants.

Oil took millions of years to form.

Heat and pressure  produced crude oil. The oil is released from the earth using a drill. The oil flows up pipes to the surface.

At a refinery the oil is turned into petroleum (petrol) The word petroleum means 'rock oil'.

Some uses of oil

Crayons, dishwashing liquids, computers, CDs and DVDs and medicines.

Problems with oil

When oil and petrol are burned they give off dangerous gases. The gases are causing global warming and acid rain. Car exhausts cause damage to buildings. The gases can also cause diseases such as cancer and asthma. Lead in the atmosphere from car exhausts is dangerous, especially to young children.

Natural gas

Gas is sent from storage through pipes to our homes and factories. Getty Images

Gas is sent from storage through pipes to our homes and factories. Getty Images

Natural gas was formed in the same way as oil and coal. It took thousands of years to form.

We get it by drilling. The gas flows up through pipes and is stored in underground tanks. It travels to our homes and buildings through pipes. When it is chilled, the gas turns into a liquid and can be transported by tanker.

 

Renewable energy is the alternative to using fossil fuels. Read about renewable energy on kidcyber

Read more about natural gas:

http://www.kids.esdb.bg/naturalgas.html

Watch videos about the finding, transporting and the uses of oil and natural gas: 

http://www.api.org/story/index.html

Read about coal and coal mining:

http://www.eia.doe.gov/kids/energyfacts/sources/non-renewable/coal.html

Watch a slide show about how fossil fuels are formed, their uses and some of the problems with them:

http://studyjams.scholastic.com/studyjams/jams/science/energy-light-sound/fossil-fuels.htm

Watch a video about the formation of fossil fuels