Currently, we as human beings are totally dependent on non-renewable energy sources for our energy needs. Over 80% of the energy we are consuming comes from fossil fuels. We need the energy to power our homes, facilities, and transportation and with an increase in population, we need more and more of it. Basically, humans derive energy from renewable sources and non-renewable sources. So in today’s article, we will primarily focus on non-renewable sources of energy, their sources, and their effects on the environment.
What is Non-Renewable Energy?
Natural resources that cannot be replaced after use are known as non-renewable energy resources. Fossil fuels such as Coal, Petroleum, and Natural gas are common examples of non-renewable energy sources. These energy sources will vanish completely one day and they will not be available for thousands of years or even more, which means they have no future.
Most of the sources of non-renewable energy come from fossil fuels and interestingly these fossil fuels were not created overnight but were created by natural processes over a large period of time. According to researchers, fossil fuels are made up of remains of dead plants, animals, and marine creatures that were buried under the earth’s surface millions of years ago. Due to the huge amount of heat and pressure and time, these dead animals and plants got transformed into crude oil. There are huge underground pockets of these energy sources located all over the world but we need mining, extraction, and refining processes to take these fuels out for our energy requirements.
Uses of Non-Renewable Energy Sources
Humans extract non-renewable sources in different forms like coal, petroleum, natural gas, etc to use them for energy needs, like transportation, electricity, etc. Currently, these energy sources are the primary source of power in the whole world. These sources of energy lie between layers of the earth’s crust and to extract them, we need different technical processes like drilling, mining, pumping, etc.
Non-renewable sources fall under two categories: Fossil fuels and Nuclear energy, so let’s discuss these terms briefly
- Fossil Fuels
Energy sources such as coal, natural gas, liquid petroleum, and Crude oil are common examples of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are the primary source of energy in the world. The whole world is depending on these energy resources for energy needs. In simple words for electricity generation we need coal to run our thermal power plants, for transportation we need petroleum products to power our vehicles, even in cooking food we need liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) which is also a fossil fuel. So in the current scenario, we can’t imagine our life without fossil fuels. But in the future, they will surely vanish so we need to relocate our energy needs towards Renewable Energy Sources.
- Nuclear Energy
The other group of non-renewable resources is nuclear fuels. Uranium is nuclear fuel, it is a radioactive element found beneath rocks in many parts of the world. Miners mine Uranium deposits and then it is purified. Once it is purified then with the help of nuclear power plants, workers produce electricity using a nuclear fission reaction. The uranium used in nuclear power plants is a very rare type of uranium therefore uranium is a non-renewable resource. Other than nuclear power plants, there are many technological uses of nuclear energy around the globe. Such as medical use, and agro use, it is also used in space programs.
- In the medical sector nuclear energy has numerous benefits. Nuclear technology gives us images inside of the human body which helps us to treat the patients.
- In agricultural fields, workers use nuclear radiation to stop insects from reproducing.
- Space Scientists use nuclear energy in space exploration programs.
What are the Advantages of Non- Renewable Energy Sources?
Non-Renewable energy sources are the primary source of energy in the world, we are dependent on these sources for our energy needs. Here we are discussing the advantages of non-renewable energy sources
- High in Energy– These energy sources provide us more energy compared to renewable energy sources like Solar Energy, Wind Energy, etc.
- Easy to Use– Non-renewable energy sources like Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), Diesel, and Petrol are very easy to use, and currently, they are affordable and abundant in nature.
- Creating Jobs and Employment– Non-renewable energy sources create jobs and employment in their extraction, mining, refining, distribution, and transportation processes.
- Easiest Way to Store Energy– These energy sources are very easy to store for example it is easy to store an LPG cylinder compared to storing solar energy or wind energy.
- Availability– Non-renewable fuels are available easily all over the world. It is easy to find a Petrol Pump or a CNG pump compared to a Solar Energy farm
What are the Disadvantages of Non-Renewable Energy Sources on the Environment?
There are many disadvantages of non-renewable energy to our environment but the major disadvantage is pollution. Pollution is the addition of harmful substances to the environment. Pollution is always very harmful to the environment and its inhabitants. There are huge natural disastrous impacts due to the continuous use of non-renewable sources. Here we are discussing the harmful effects of Non-Renewable energy sources.
- Air Pollution & Health-related Problems
The main reason for air pollution is the burning of fossil fuels and pollutants from vehicle exhaust. If we take an example, the main emissions from coal-fired and lignite-based thermal power plants are SOx, CO2, NOx, Mercury, and Fly ash. These all emissions are dangerous for humans like mercury is linked to both neurological damage in humans and in animals. Similarly, other emissions like SOx and NOx have impacts on respiratory systems. Besides, other fossil fuels also emit similar gasses which are hazardous to the environment.
- Global Warming and Climate Change
When fossil fuels are burned for energy generation, dangerous gases are emitted into the surrounding air like Co2, So2, and CO. These gases are known as greenhouse gases these are the most well-known pollutants of the environment. Co2 and methane contribute to the rising climate. Continuous emission of these gases into the environment is the main cause of climate change. According to various researches, experts say that increasing emission of Co2 in air leads to a significant increase in the atmospheric temperature which then ultimately leads to global warming.
Upon burning, coal becomes the worst source of emissions of carbon dioxide in the environment. The burning of coal causes 48% Co2 emission in the environment worldwide, this much carbon emission in our environment is increasing the temperature of the earth causing the melting of icebergs and glaciers.
- Acid Rain and Aquatic Life
The combustion of fossil fuels emits gasses such as SO2. This SO2 gas gets mixed with water in the air thus causing acidification of water. This combination can cause the rain to become acidic in nature and is called acid rain. This acid rain can cause damage to plants, trees, animals, aquatic life, and our environment.
- Land Pollution
Using non-renewable resources cause a bad impact on the surface of the earth. Plastic, which is also a by-product of fossil fuel, is the most common reason of land pollution because plastic takes millions of years to decompose. Chemicals that are used during the mining and extraction processes are also causing land pollution.
- Nuclear Waste
Directly there is no emission produced while using nuclear fuels but whenever nuclear energy is consumed there is always radioactive waste formed as a by-product. This by-product can generate radioactive waste for centuries. Radioactive waste is very harmful to our planet and its inhabitants..
- Oil Spills
An oil spill is the unintentional release of petroleum onto the surface of the water body, especially into the sea. Oil spills happen unintentionally and only occur due to accidents but the impact of the oil spill is on a very large scale. Oil spills instantly destroy aquatic life, killing marine animals like whales, and dolphins, destroying the breeding habitat of fishes, and causing water pollution on a very large scale. An oil spill from a single oil tanker can destroy the aquatic food chain for months and years.
So keeping all these points in mind, we came to a conclusion that indeed using non-renewable energy sources for our energy needs is easy and affordable, but they are costing us our environment and health. So by continuing non-renewable sources we are not only exhausting them but also impacting the environment most. Thus by acknowledging and accepting such disasters we have only a chance to switch to green sources of energy.