Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
n. any fuel derived from hydrocarbon deposits such as coal, petroleum, natural gas and, to some extent, peat; these fuels are non-renewable, and their burning generates the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide
n. fuel consisting of the remains of organisms preserved in rocks in the earth's crust with high carbon and hydrogen content
Fossil fuels are fuels formed by natural processes such as anaerobic decomposition of buried dead organisms, containing energy originating in ancient photosynthesis. The age of the organisms and their resulting fossil fuels is typically millions of years, and sometimes exceeds 650 million years. Fossil fuels contain high percentages of carbon and include petroleum, coal, and natural gas. Other commonly used derivatives include kerosene and propane. Fossil fuels range from volatile materials with low carbon: hydrogen ratios like methane, to liquids like petroleum, to nonvolatile materials composed of almost pure carbon, like anthracite coal. Methane can be found in hydrocarbon fields either alone, associated with oil, or in the form of methane clathrates.
The theory that fossil fuels formed from the fossilized remains of dead plants by exposure to heat and pressure in the Earth's crust over millions of years was first introduced by Georgius Agricola in 1556 and later by Mikhail Lomonosov in the 18th century.
The Energy Information Administration estimates that in 2007 the primary sources of energy consisted of petroleum 36.0%, coal 27.4%, natural gas 23.0%, amounting to an 86.4% share for fossil fuels in primary energy consumption in the world. Non-fossil sources in 2006 included nuclear 8.5%, hydroelectric 6.3%, and others ( geothermal, solar, tidal, wind, wood, waste) amounting to 0.9%. World energy consumption was growing about 2.3% per year.
Although fossil fuels are continually being formed via natural processes, they are generally considered to be non-renewable resources because they take millions of years to form and the known viable reserves are being depleted much faster than new ones are being made.
The use of fossil fuels raises serious environmental concerns. The burning of fossil fuels produces around 21.3 billion tonnes (21.3 gigatonnes) of carbon dioxide (CO) per year, but it is estimated that natural processes can only absorb about half of that amount, so there is a net increase of 10.65 billion tonnes of atmospheric carbon dioxide per year (one tonne of atmospheric carbon is equivalent to 44/12 or 3.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide). Carbon dioxide is one of the greenhouse gases that enhances radiative forcing and contributes to global warming, causing the average surface temperature of the Earth to rise in response, which the vast majority of climate scientists agree will cause major adverse effects. A global movement towards the generation of renewable energy is therefore under way to help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
Usage examples of "fossil fuel".
The American Civil War first reflected the industrial revolution, chiefly in the massive gain of troop mobility through railroads exploiting the chemical energies of a fossil fuel, coal.
This is equivalent to eight times all the fossil fuel burned in the hundred years from 1850 to 1950.
If bio-diesel or stockpiles of fossil fuel derived diesel are available, it is recommended that a small diesel tank be added to the newer equipment.
When we started, fossil fuel burning pumped six billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air every year.
That's the power delivered by a pretty substantial fossil fuel station.
Except in this case there is no evil corporation or fossil fuel economy to blame.
That was certainly enough for the people operating the sensor recorders to give him full reports on the leadership potential of the twelve men, all mid-level executives in the fossil fuel industry.
The second major source of fossil fuel was shale oil, much of which did not make the stringent space standards.
But the fact remains that coal has some serious disadvantages, both as a fossil fuel and as a source of organic chemicals.
They can't get electricity because the air's already full of crap from fossil fuel plants and we're running out of fossil fuels, and damned fools keep delaying the nuclear plants that might get us out of that particular box.
Like the other amusement rides, it was no longer powered by fossil fuel or electricity.