Fossil fuel

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The main fossil fuels (from top to bottom): natural gas, oil, and coal

A fossil fuel [lower-alpha 1] is a hydrocarbon-containing material such as coal, oil, and natural gas, [2] formed naturally in the Earth's crust from the remains of dead plants and animals that is extracted and burned as a fuel. Fossil fuels may be burned to provide heat for use directly (such as for cooking or heating), to power engines (such as internal combustion engines in motor vehicles), or to generate electricity. [3] Some fossil fuels are refined into derivatives such as kerosene, gasoline and propane before burning. The origin of fossil fuels is the anaerobic decomposition of buried dead organisms, containing organic molecules created by photosynthesis. [4] The conversion from these materials to high-carbon fossil fuels typically require a geological process of millions of years. [5]

Contents

In 2022, over 80% of primary energy consumption in the world and over 60% of its electricity was from fossil fuels. [6] The large-scale burning of fossil fuels causes serious environmental damage. Over 70% of the greenhouse gas emissions due to human activity in 2022 was CO2 from burning them. [7] Natural processes on Earth, mostly absorption by the ocean, can remove only a small part of this CO2. Therefore, there is a net increase of many billion tonnes of atmospheric carbon dioxide per year. [8] Although methane leaks are significant, [9] :52 the burning of fossil fuels is the main source of greenhouse gas emissions causing global warming and ocean acidification. Additionally, most air pollution deaths are due to fossil fuel particulates and noxious gases. It is estimated that this costs over 3% of the global gross domestic product [10] and that fossil fuel phase-out will save millions of lives each year. [11] [12]

Recognition of the climate crisis, pollution and other negative impacts caused by fossil fuels has led to a widespread policy transition and activist movement focused on ending their use in favor of sustainable energy. [13] Because the fossil-fuel industry is so heavily integrated in the global economy and heavily subsidized, [14] this transition is expected to have significant economic impacts. [15] Many stakeholders argue that this change needs to be a just transition [16] and create policy that addresses the societal burdens created by the stranded assets of the fossil fuel industry. [17] [18]

International policy, in the form of United Nations sustainable development goals for affordable and clean energy and climate action, as well as the Paris Climate Agreement, is designed to facilitate this transition at a global level. In 2021, the International Energy Agency concluded that no new fossil fuel extraction projects could be opened if the global economy and society wants to avoid the worst impacts of climate change and meet international goals for climate change mitigation. [19]

Origin

Since oil fields are located only at certain places on Earth, only some countries are oil-independent; the other countries depend on the oil-production capacities of these countries. Countries by Oil Production in 2013.svg
Since oil fields are located only at certain places on Earth, only some countries are oil-independent; the other countries depend on the oil-production capacities of these countries.

The theory that fossil fuels formed from the fossilized remains of dead plants by exposure to heat and pressure in Earth's crust over millions of years was first introduced by Andreas Libavius "in his 1597 Alchemia [Alchymia]" and later by Mikhail Lomonosov "as early as 1757 and certainly by 1763". [21] The first use of the term "fossil fuel" occurs in the work of the German chemist Caspar Neumann, in English translation in 1759. [22] The Oxford English Dictionary notes that in the phrase "fossil fuel" the adjective "fossil" means "[o]btained by digging; found buried in the earth", which dates to at least 1652, [23] before the English noun "fossil" came to refer primarily to long-dead organisms in the early 18th century. [24]

Aquatic phytoplankton and zooplankton that died and sedimented in large quantities under anoxic conditions millions of years ago began forming petroleum and natural gas as a result of anaerobic decomposition. Over geological time this organic matter, mixed with mud, became buried under further heavy layers of inorganic sediment. The resulting high temperature and pressure caused the organic matter to chemically alter, first into a waxy material known as kerogen, which is found in oil shales, and then with more heat into liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons in a process known as catagenesis. Despite these heat-driven transformations, the energy released in combustion is still photosynthetic in origin. [4]

Terrestrial plants tended to form coal and methane. Many of the coal fields date to the Carboniferous period of Earth's history. Terrestrial plants also form type III kerogen, a source of natural gas. Although fossil fuels are continually formed by natural processes, they are classified as non-renewable resources because they take millions of years to form and known viable reserves are being depleted much faster than new ones are generated. [25] [26]

Importance

Net income of the global oil and gas industry reached a record US$4 trillion in 2022. 2008- Oil and gas industry global net income - IEA.svg
Net income of the global oil and gas industry reached a record US$4 trillion in 2022.
After recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, energy company profits increased with greater revenues from higher fuel prices resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, falling debt levels, tax write-downs of projects shut down in Russia, and backing off from earlier plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Record profits sparked public calls for windfall taxes. 2007- Profits of energy companies (annual) - stacked bar chart.svg
After recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, energy company profits increased with greater revenues from higher fuel prices resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, falling debt levels, tax write-downs of projects shut down in Russia, and backing off from earlier plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Record profits sparked public calls for windfall taxes.

Fossil fuels have been important to human development because they can be readily burned in the open atmosphere to produce heat. The use of peat as a domestic fuel predates recorded history. Coal was burned in some early furnaces for the smelting of metal ore, while semi-solid hydrocarbons from oil seeps were also burned in ancient times, [29] they were mostly used for waterproofing and embalming. [30]

Commercial exploitation of petroleum began in the 19th century. [31]

Natural gas, once flared-off as an unneeded byproduct of petroleum production, is now considered a very valuable resource. [32] Natural gas deposits are also the main source of helium.

Heavy crude oil, which is much more viscous than conventional crude oil, and oil sands, where bitumen is found mixed with sand and clay, began to become more important as sources of fossil fuel in the early 2000s. [33] Oil shale and similar materials are sedimentary rocks containing kerogen, a complex mixture of high-molecular weight organic compounds, which yield synthetic crude oil when heated (pyrolyzed). With additional processing, they can be employed instead of other established fossil fuels. During the 2010s and 2020s there was disinvestment from exploitation of such resources due to their high carbon cost relative to more easily-processed reserves. [34]

Prior to the latter half of the 18th century, windmills and watermills provided the energy needed for work such as milling flour, sawing wood or pumping water, while burning wood or peat provided domestic heat. The wide-scale use of fossil fuels, coal at first and petroleum later, in steam engines enabled the Industrial Revolution. At the same time, gas lights using natural gas or coal gas were coming into wide use. The invention of the internal combustion engine and its use in automobiles and trucks greatly increased the demand for gasoline and diesel oil, both made from fossil fuels. Other forms of transportation, railways and aircraft, also require fossil fuels. The other major use for fossil fuels is in generating electricity and as feedstock for the petrochemical industry. Tar, a leftover of petroleum extraction, is used in the construction of roads.

The energy for the Green Revolution was provided by fossil fuels in the form of fertilizers (natural gas), pesticides (oil), and hydrocarbon-fueled irrigation. [35] [36] The development of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer has significantly supported global population growth; it has been estimated that almost half of the Earth's population are currently fed as a result of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer use. [37] According to head of a fertilizers commodity price agency, "50% of the world's food relies on fertilisers." [38]

Environmental effects

The Global Carbon Project shows how additions to CO2 since 1880 have been caused by different sources ramping up one after another. CO2 Emissions by Source Since 1880.svg
The Global Carbon Project shows how additions to CO2 since 1880 have been caused by different sources ramping up one after another.

The burning of fossil fuels has a number of negative externalities  harmful environmental impacts where the effects extend beyond the people using the fuel. These effects vary between different fuels. All fossil fuels release CO2 when they burn, thus accelerating climate change. Burning coal, and to a lesser extent oil and its derivatives, contributes to atmospheric particulate matter, smog and acid rain. [39] [40] [41]

Global surface temperature reconstruction over the last 2000 years using proxy data from tree rings, corals, and ice cores in blue. Directly observational data is in red, with all data showing a 5 year moving average. Common Era Temperature.svg
Global surface temperature reconstruction over the last 2000 years using proxy data from tree rings, corals, and ice cores in blue. Directly observational data is in red, with all data showing a 5 year moving average.

Climate change is largely driven by the release of greenhouse gases like CO2, and the burning of fossil fuels is the main source of these emissions. In most parts of the world climate change is negatively impacting ecosystems. [44] This includes contributing to the extinction of species and reducing people's ability to produce food, thus adding to the problem of world hunger. Continued rises in global temperatures will lead to further adverse effects on both ecosystems and people; the World Health Organization has said that climate change is the greatest threat to human health in the 21st century. [45] [46]

Combustion of fossil fuels generates sulfuric and nitric acids, which fall to Earth as acid rain, impacting both natural areas and the built environment. Monuments and sculptures made from marble and limestone are particularly vulnerable, as the acids dissolve calcium carbonate.

Fossil fuels also contain radioactive materials, mainly uranium and thorium, which are released into the atmosphere. In 2000, about 12,000 tonnes of thorium and 5,000 tonnes of uranium were released worldwide from burning coal. [47] It is estimated that during 1982, US coal burning released 155 times as much radioactivity into the atmosphere as the Three Mile Island accident. [48]

Burning coal also generates large amounts of bottom ash and fly ash. These materials are used in a wide variety of applications (see Fly ash reuse), utilizing, for example,[ clarification needed ] about 40% of the United States production. [49]

In addition to the effects that result from burning, the harvesting, processing, and distribution of fossil fuels also have environmental effects. Coal mining methods, particularly mountaintop removal and strip mining, have negative environmental impacts, and offshore oil drilling poses a hazard to aquatic organisms. Fossil fuel wells can contribute to methane release via fugitive gas emissions. Oil refineries also have negative environmental impacts, including air and water pollution. Coal is sometimes transported by diesel-powered locomotives, while crude oil is typically transported by tanker ships, requiring the combustion of additional fossil fuels.

A variety of mitigating efforts have arisen to counter the negative effects of fossil fuels. This includes a movement to use alternative energy sources, such as renewable energy. Environmental regulation uses a variety of approaches to limit these emissions; for example, rules against releasing waste products like fly ash into the atmosphere. [41]

In December 2020, the United Nations released a report saying that despite the need to reduce greenhouse emissions, various governments are "doubling down" on fossil fuels, in some cases diverting over 50% of their COVID-19 recovery stimulus funding to fossil fuel production rather than to alternative energy. The UN secretary general António Guterres declared that "Humanity is waging war on nature. This is suicidal. Nature always strikes back and it is already doing so with growing force and fury." He also claimed there is still cause for hope, anticipating the US plan to join other large emitters like China and the EU in adopting targets to reach net zero emissions by 2050. [50] [51] [52]

Illness and deaths

Deaths caused as a result of fossil fuel use (areas of rectangles in chart) greatly exceed those resulting from production of renewable energy (rectangles barely visible in chart). 2021 Death rates, by energy source.svg
Deaths caused as a result of fossil fuel use (areas of rectangles in chart) greatly exceed those resulting from production of renewable energy (rectangles barely visible in chart).

Environmental pollution from fossil fuels impacts humans because particulates and other air pollution from fossil fuel combustion cause illness and death when inhaled. These health effects include premature death, acute respiratory illness, aggravated asthma, chronic bronchitis and decreased lung function. The poor, undernourished, very young and very old, and people with preexisting respiratory disease and other ill health are more at risk. [54] Global air pollution deaths due to fossil fuels have been estimated at over 8 million people (2018, nearly 1 in 5 deaths worldwide) [55] at 10.2 million (2019), [56] and 5.13 million excess deaths from ambient air pollution from fossil fuel use (2023). [57]

While all energy sources inherently have adverse effects, the data show that fossil fuels cause the highest levels of greenhouse gas emissions and are the most dangerous for human health. In contrast, modern renewable energy sources appear to be safer for human health and cleaner. The death rates from accidents and air pollution in the EU are as follows per terawatt-hour (TWh):

Energy sourceNos. of deaths
per TWh
Greenhouse gas
emissions
(thousand tonnes/TWh)
Coal24.6820
Oil18.4720
Natural gas2.8490
Biomass4.678–230
Hydropower0.0234
Nuclear energy0.073
Wind0.044
Solar0.025

[58] As the data shows, coal, oil, natural gas, and biomass cause higher death rates and higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions than hydropower, nuclear energy, wind, and solar power. Scientists propose that 1.8 million lives have been saved by replacing fossil fuel sources with nuclear power. [59]

Phase-out

Bloomberg NEF reported that in 2022, global energy transition investment equaled fossil fuels investment for the first time. 2018- Energy transition investment versus fossil fuel investment.svg
Bloomberg NEF reported that in 2022, global energy transition investment equaled fossil fuels investment for the first time.
Fossil fuel phase-out is the gradual reduction of the use and production of fossil fuels to zero, to reduce deaths and illness from air pollution, limit climate change, and strengthen energy independence. It is part of the ongoing renewable energy transition, but is being hindered by fossil fuel subsidies.

Just transition

Just transition is a framework developed by the trade union movement [61] to encompass a range of social interventions needed to secure workers' rights and livelihoods when economies are shifting to sustainable production, primarily combating climate change and protecting biodiversity. In Europe, advocates for a just transition want to unite social and climate justice, for example, for coal workers in coal-dependent developing regions who lack employment opportunities beyond coal. [62]

Divestment

As of 2021, 1,300 institutions possessing US$14.6 trillion have divested from the fossil fuel industry. Divestment growth en.svg
As of 2021, 1,300 institutions possessing US$14.6 trillion have divested from the fossil fuel industry.

Fossil fuel divestment or fossil fuel divestment and investment in climate solutions is an attempt to reduce climate change by exerting social, political, and economic pressure for the institutional divestment of assets including stocks, bonds, and other financial instruments connected to companies involved in extracting fossil fuels. [64]

Fossil fuel divestment campaigns emerged on college and university campuses in the United States in 2011 with students urging their administrations to turn endowment investments in the fossil fuel industry into investments in clean energy and communities most impacted by climate change. [65] In 2012, Unity College in Maine became the first institution of higher learning to divest [66] its endowment from fossil fuels.

By 2015, fossil fuel divestment was reportedly the fastest growing divestment movement in history. [67] As of July 2023, more than 1593 institutions with assets totalling more than $40.5  trillion in assets worldwide had begun or committed some form of divestment of fossil fuels. [68]

Industrial sector

In 2019, Saudi Aramco was listed and it reached a US$2 trillion valuation on its second day of trading, [69] after the world's largest initial public offering. [70]

Economic effects

Air pollution from fossil fuels in 2018 has been estimated to cost US$2.9 trillion, or 3.3% of the global gross domestic product (GDP). [10]

Subsidies

Fossil-fuel subsidies per capita, 2019. Fossil-fuel pre-tax subsidies per capita are measured in constant US dollars. Fossil-fuel-subsidies-per-capita.svg
Fossil-fuel subsidies per capita, 2019. Fossil-fuel pre-tax subsidies per capita are measured in constant US dollars.

Fossil fuel subsidies are energy subsidies on fossil fuels. They may be tax breaks on consumption, such as a lower sales tax on natural gas for residential heating; or subsidies on production, such as tax breaks on exploration for oil. Or they may be free or cheap negative externalities; such as air pollution or climate change due to burning gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. Some fossil fuel subsidies are via electricity generation, such as subsidies for coal-fired power stations.

Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies would reduce the health risks of air pollution, [71] and would greatly reduce global carbon emissions thus helping to limit climate change. [72] As of 2021, policy researchers estimate that substantially more money is spent on fossil fuel subsidies than on environmentally harmful agricultural subsidies or environmentally harmful water subsidies. [73] The International Energy Agency says: "High fossil fuel prices hit the poor hardest, but subsidies are rarely well-targeted to protect vulnerable groups and tend to benefit better-off segments of the population." [74]

Despite the G20 countries having pledged to phase-out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, [75] as of 2023 they continue because of voter demand, [76] [77] or for energy security. [78] Global fossil fuel consumption subsidies in 2022 have been estimated at one trillion dollars; [74] although they vary each year depending on oil prices, they are consistently hundreds of billions of dollars. [79]

Lobbying activities

The fossil fuels lobby includes paid representatives of corporations involved in the fossil fuel industry (oil, gas, coal), as well as related industries like chemicals, plastics, aviation and other transportation. [80] Because of their wealth and the importance of energy, transport and chemical industries to local, national and international economies, these lobbies have the capacity and money to attempt to have outsized influence on governmental policy. In particular, the lobbies have been known to obstruct policy related to environmental protection, environmental health and climate action. [81]

Lobbies are active in most fossil-fuel intensive economies with democratic governance, with reporting on the lobbies most prominent in Canada, Australia, the United States and Europe, however the lobbies are present in many parts of the world. Big Oil companies such as ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, TotalEnergies, Chevron Corporation, and ConocoPhillips are among the largest corporations associated with the fossil fuels lobby. [82] The American Petroleum Institute is a powerful industry lobbyist for Big Oil with significant influence in Washington, D.C. [83] [84] [85] In Australia, Australian Energy Producers, formerly known as the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA), has significant influence in Canberra and helps to maintain favorable policy settings for Oil and Gas. [86]

The presence of major fossil fuel companies and national oil companies at global forums for decision making, like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, [87] Paris Climate Agreement negotiations, [87] and United Nations Climate Change conferences has been criticised. [88] The lobby is known for exploiting international crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, [89] or the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, [90] [91] to try to roll back existing regulations or justify new fossil fuel development. [89] [90] Lobbyists try to retain fossil fuel subsidies. [92]

See also

Notes

  1. The term has been considered a misnomer because it does not actually originate from fossils, but from organic matter. [1]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Coal</span> Combustible sedimentary rock composed primarily of carbon

Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock, formed as rock strata called coal seams. Coal is mostly carbon with variable amounts of other elements, chiefly hydrogen, sulfur, oxygen, and nitrogen. Coal is a type of fossil fuel, formed when dead plant matter decays into peat and is converted into coal by the heat and pressure of deep burial over millions of years. Vast deposits of coal originate in former wetlands called coal forests that covered much of the Earth's tropical land areas during the late Carboniferous (Pennsylvanian) and Permian times.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sustainable energy</span> Energy that responsibly meets social, economic, and environmental needs

Energy is sustainable if it "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Most definitions of sustainable energy include considerations of environmental aspects such as greenhouse gas emissions and social and economic aspects such as energy poverty. Renewable energy sources such as wind, hydroelectric power, solar, and geothermal energy are generally far more sustainable than fossil fuel sources. However, some renewable energy projects, such as the clearing of forests to produce biofuels, can cause severe environmental damage.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fossil fuel power station</span> Facility that burns fossil fuels to produce electricity

A fossil fuel power station is a thermal power station which burns a fossil fuel, such as coal or natural gas, to produce electricity. Fossil fuel power stations have machinery to convert the heat energy of combustion into mechanical energy, which then operates an electrical generator. The prime mover may be a steam turbine, a gas turbine or, in small plants, a reciprocating gas engine. All plants use the energy extracted from the expansion of a hot gas, either steam or combustion gases. Although different energy conversion methods exist, all thermal power station conversion methods have their efficiency limited by the Carnot efficiency and therefore produce waste heat.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Climate change mitigation</span> Actions to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to limit climate change

Climate change mitigation is action to limit the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that cause climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions are primarily caused by people burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas. Phasing out fossil fuel use can happen by conserving energy and replacing fossil fuels with clean energy sources such as wind, hydro, solar, and nuclear power. Secondary mitigation strategies include changes to land use and removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. Governments have pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but actions to date are insufficient to avoid dangerous levels of climate change.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Politics of climate change</span> Interaction of societies and governments with modern climate change

The politics of climate change results from different perspectives on how to respond to climate change. Global warming is driven largely by the emissions of greenhouse gases due to human economic activity, especially the burning of fossil fuels, certain industries like cement and steel production, and land use for agriculture and forestry. Since the Industrial Revolution, fossil fuels have provided the main source of energy for economic and technological development. The centrality of fossil fuels and other carbon-intensive industries has resulted in much resistance to climate friendly policy, despite widespread scientific consensus that such policy is necessary.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Coal pollution mitigation</span>

Coal pollution mitigation, sometimes labeled as clean coal, is a series of systems and technologies that seek to mitigate health and environmental impact of burning coal for energy. Burning coal releases harmful substances, including mercury, lead, sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and carbon dioxide (CO2), contributing to air pollution, acid rain, and greenhouse gas emissions. Methods include flue-gas desulfurization, selective catalytic reduction, electrostatic precipitators, and fly ash reduction focusing on reducing the emissions of these harmful substances. These measures aim to reduce coal's impact on human health and the environment.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Business action on climate change</span> Range of activities by businesses relating to climate change

Business action on climate change includes a range of activities relating to climate change, and to influencing political decisions on climate change-related regulation, such as the Kyoto Protocol. Major multinationals have played and to some extent continue to play a significant role in the politics of climate change, especially in the United States, through lobbying of government and funding of climate change deniers. Business also plays a key role in the mitigation of climate change, through decisions to invest in researching and implementing new energy technologies and energy efficiency measures.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Carbon capture and storage</span> Collecting carbon dioxide from industrial emissions

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a process in which a relatively pure stream of carbon dioxide (CO2) from industrial sources is separated, treated and transported to a long-term storage location. For example, the burning of fossil fuels or biomass results in a stream of CO2 that could be captured and stored by CCS. Usually the CO2 is captured from large point sources, such as a chemical plant or a bioenergy plant, and then stored in a suitable geological formation. The aim is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and thus mitigate climate change. For example, CCS retrofits for existing power plants can be one of the ways to limit emissions from the electricity sector and meet the Paris Agreement goals.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fossil fuels lobby</span> Lobbying supporting the fossil fuels industry

The fossil fuels lobby includes paid representatives of corporations involved in the fossil fuel industry, as well as related industries like chemicals, plastics, aviation and other transportation. Because of their wealth and the importance of energy, transport and chemical industries to local, national and international economies, these lobbies have the capacity and money to attempt to have outsized influence on governmental policy. In particular, the lobbies have been known to obstruct policy related to environmental protection, environmental health and climate action.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Coal-fired power station</span> Type of thermal power station

A coal-fired power station or coal power plant is a thermal power station which burns coal to generate electricity. Worldwide there are over 2,400 coal-fired power stations, totaling over 2,000 gigawatts capacity. They generate about a third of the world's electricity, but cause many illnesses and the most early deaths, mainly from air pollution.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fossil fuel phase-out</span> Gradual reduction of the use and production of fossil fuels

Fossil fuel phase-out is the gradual reduction of the use and production of fossil fuels to zero, to reduce deaths and illness from air pollution, limit climate change, and strengthen energy independence. It is part of the ongoing renewable energy transition, but is being hindered by fossil fuel subsidies.

Energy subsidies are measures that keep prices for customers below market levels, or for suppliers above market levels, or reduce costs for customers and suppliers. Energy subsidies may be direct cash transfers to suppliers, customers, or related bodies, as well as indirect support mechanisms, such as tax exemptions and rebates, price controls, trade restrictions, and limits on market access.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Environmental impact of the energy industry</span>

The environmental impact of the energy industry is significant, as energy and natural resource consumption are closely related. Producing, transporting, or consuming energy all have an environmental impact. Energy has been harnessed by human beings for millennia. Initially it was with the use of fire for light, heat, cooking and for safety, and its use can be traced back at least 1.9 million years. In recent years there has been a trend towards the increased commercialization of various renewable energy sources. Scientific consensus on some of the main human activities that contribute to global warming are considered to be increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases, causing a warming effect, global changes to land surface, such as deforestation, for a warming effect, increasing concentrations of aerosols, mainly for a cooling effect.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Environmental impact of the petroleum industry</span>

The environmental impact of the petroleum industry is extensive and expansive due to petroleum having many uses. Crude oil and natural gas are primary energy and raw material sources that enable numerous aspects of modern daily life and the world economy. Their supply has grown quickly over the last 150 years to meet the demands of the rapidly increasing human population, creativity, knowledge, and consumerism.

Substitutional fuels are fuels that can replace, either partially or completely, conventional fuels. It includes biodiesel, biogas, alcohol, myco-diesel, algal fuel, and metal fuel. They have applications to replace conventional fuels in functions such as transportation, although they still compose a small proportion of global fuel sources. Lots of substitutional fuel use is the result of government-enforced mandates, exemptions, or subsidies.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Energy transition</span> Significant structural change in an energy system

An energy transition is a significant structural change in an energy system regarding supply and consumption. Currently, a transition to sustainable energy is underway to limit climate change. It is also called renewable energy transition. The current transition is driven by a recognition that global greenhouse-gas emissions must be drastically reduced. This process involves phasing-down fossil fuels and re-developing whole systems to operate on low carbon electricity. A previous energy transition took place during the industrial revolution and involved an energy transition from wood and other biomass to coal, followed by oil and most recently natural gas.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Carbon bubble</span> Hypothesized economic bubble involving fossil-fuel energy producers

The carbon bubble is a hypothesized bubble in the valuation of companies dependent on fossil-fuel-based energy production, resulting from future decreases in value of fossil fuel reserves as they become unusable in order to meet carbon budgets and recognition of negative externalities of carbon fuels which are not yet taken into account in a company's stock market valuation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fossil fuel subsidies</span> Financial support by governments for coal, oil, gas, and electricity generated from them

Fossil fuel subsidies are energy subsidies on fossil fuels. They may be tax breaks on consumption, such as a lower sales tax on natural gas for residential heating; or subsidies on production, such as tax breaks on exploration for oil. Or they may be free or cheap negative externalities; such as air pollution or climate change due to burning gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. Some fossil fuel subsidies are via electricity generation, such as subsidies for coal-fired power stations.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Greenhouse gas emissions by China</span> Emissions of gases harmful to the climate from China

China's greenhouse gas emissions are the largest of any country in the world both in production and consumption terms, and stem mainly from coal burning, including coal power, coal mining, and blast furnaces producing iron and steel. When measuring production-based emissions, China emitted over 14 gigatonnes (Gt) CO2eq of greenhouse gases in 2019, 27% of the world total. When measuring in consumption-based terms, which adds emissions associated with imported goods and extracts those associated with exported goods, China accounts for 13 gigatonnes (Gt) or 25% of global emissions.

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Further reading