Fossil fuels

We get energy from many different types of energy resources, including fuels, food and stores of energy such as batteries or the wind. We can divide energy resources into two categories:

  • non-renewable energy resources cannot be replaced once they are all used up
  • renewable energy resources can be replaced, and will not run out

Fossil fuels are non-renewable energy resources.

Fossil fuels

Crude oil, coal and gas are fossil fuels. They were formed over millions of years, from the remains of dead organisms:

  • coal was formed from dead trees and other plant material
  • crude oil and gas were formed from dead marine organisms
Big yellow mining truck in front of wall of coal at open pit mine.
Coal is a solid fossil fuel

Fossil fuels took a very long time to form and we are using them up faster than they can be replaced. Once they have all been used up, they cannot be replaced. Fossil fuels are therefore finite resources. They are no longer being made or are being made extremely slowly.

Electricity from fossil fuels

About three-quarters of the electricity generated in the UK comes from power stations fuelled by fossil fuels. Energy from the burning fuel is used to boil water. The steam turns turbines, and these turn electrical generators. Unfortunately, the use of fossil fuels releases pollution, including: