Study Notes on Fossil Fuels for UGC NET Paper-1

By Mohit Choudhary|Updated : July 7th, 2022


Fossil Fuels 

  • Fossil fuels mainly include coal, oil, and natural gas. They are currently the world's primary energy source.
  • Fossil fuels are formed through the natural process by the process of anaerobic decomposition of buried organisms.
  • Most fossil fuels have an age of millions of years.
  • Fossil fuels like coal, petroleum, and natural gas contain high percentages of carbon.
  • They are finite resources i.e. they are non-renewable resources. They take millions of years for the formation and presently known viable reserves are being depleted faster than the new ones being generated.
  • The past century's economic development is fueled mostly by fossil fuels.
  • World’s energy comes from petroleum (34%), coal (27%), and natural gas (24%), amounting to an 85% share for fossil fuels in primary energy consumption in the world.
  • Whereas the contribution of Non-fossil fuels in world energy from nuclear is 4.4%, hydroelectric (6.8%), and other renewables (4.0%, including geothermal, solar, tidal, wind, wood, and waste.

Petroleum Oil

  • Oil is the world’s primary fuel source for transportation of all kinds.
  • Underground reservoirs are the main source of oil. Also, it is found embedded in shales as well.
  • After extraction, crude oil is processed in oil refineries to create fuel oil, gasoline, liquefied petroleum gas, and other non-fuel products such as pesticides, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, and plastics.
  • The USA is the largest consumer of oil. The USA is followed by China, Japan, and India. The 10 biggest oil-consuming nations account for more than 58% of the world's total oil consumption per day.
  • Recently, Saudi Arabia became the largest supplier of Oil to India. Iraq is second.


  • Coal is primarily used in the generation of electricity.
  • China is the largest producer of coal globally.
  • Coal combustion releases gases like sulfur dioxide which causes acid rain. It further releases harmful pollutants like nitrogen oxides and mercury.
  • Coal mining is also damaging to the environment. It destroys soil and vegetation. Further, it destroys rivers and streams through mines wastes.

Natural Gas

  • It occurs naturally and approximately consists of 95% hydrocarbon methane, the other 5% consists of nitrogen, carbon dioxide, helium, or hydrogen sulfide.
  • Natural gas is mostly used to produce heat, electricity, cooking, and transportation.
  • It is cleaner than coal and oil and releases almost zero sulfur dioxide emissions and far fewer nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions.
  • It is the cleanest-burning hydrocarbon fuel.
  • It is used in vehicles in the form of CNG (Compressed Natural Gas).
  • It is abundant and versatile, helping meet the growing demand for energy globally, and able to partner with renewable energy sources. 


  • Fossil fuels are of great importance because they produce a significant amount of energy.
  • Even today, 80 percent of our energy needs come from fossil fuels.
  • Fossil fuels were the main reason behind the industrial revolution.
  • Forms of transportation like railways, aircraft, buses and cars, all require fossil fuels.
  • Tar, a leftover petroleum extraction, is used in the construction of roads.

Environmental effects

  • The burning of fossil fuels produces around 35 billion tonnes (35 gigatons) of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year.
  • The natural process can absorb only a small part of the above-given amount, therefore there is a net increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
  • Increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide contributes to global warming.
  • Excess of carbon dioxide further leads to ocean acidification.
  • USA population is less than 5% of the world's population, but still, they consume more than 25% of the world's supply of fossil fuels.
  • Combustion of fossil fuels produces air pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, and heavy metals.
  • Combustion of fossil fuels causes Acid Rain which impacts vegetation, monuments, water bodies, and many more things.
  • Flash Ash is also the main constituent that is released after burning coal. 
  • Coal mining methods have negative environmental impacts, and offshore oil drilling poses a hazard to aquatic organisms.
  • Oil refineries also have negative environmental impacts, including air and water pollution.
  • In economics, pollution from fossil fuels is called a negative externality. Increased Tax is considered as one way to make people use fewer fossil fuels and for companies to use cleaner fuels. This aims to make fossil fuels more expensive, thereby reducing their use and the amount of associated pollution, along with raising the funds necessary to counteract these effects.
  • Moreover, this environmental pollution impacts humans because particulates and other air pollution from fossil fuel combustion cause illness and death when inhaled by people.
  • These health effects include premature death, acute respiratory illness, aggravated asthma, chronic bronchitis, and decreased lung function.

We hope you all understood about fossil fuels for paper-1

Thank you, Team Byju's Exam Prep


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