Electricity is a very convenient form of energy that can be generated using different energy resources. Some of these resources are renewable and some are non-renewable. Each resource has advantages and disadvantages.
The fossil fuels are coal, oil and natural gas. They are fuels because they release heat energy when they are burned. They are fossil fuels because they were formed from the remains of living organisms millions of years ago.
About three-quarters of the electricity generated in the UK comes from power stations fuelled by fossil fuels. To the right is an energy transfer diagram for the generation of electricity from a fossil fuel such as coal.
Fossil fuels are non-renewable energy resources. Their supply is limited and they will eventually run out. Fossil fuels do not renew themselves, while fuels such as wood can be renewed endlessly.
Fossil fuels release carbon dioxide when they burn, which adds to the greenhouse effect and increases global warming. Of the three fossil fuels, for a given amount of energy released, coal produces the most carbon dioxide and natural gas produces the least.
Coal and oil release sulfur dioxide gas when they burn, which causes breathing problems for living creatures and contributes to acid rain.
Check Fuels from crude oil to make sure you understand these points.