Non Renewable Energy Source

What is the Definition of Non Renewable Energy?

What is a non renewable energy source? A natural resource that cannot be grown, produced, or utilized at the same time as it is consumed is considered non renewable.

Think of these types of energy sources as finite rather than infinite. What are these energy sources?

Coal, natural gas, oil or petroleum, oil shale, nuclear power, and tar sands are non renewable sources of energy that we utilize to power our factories, schools, businesses, and homes throughout 85% of the world.

Four Non Renewable Sources of Energy

These are the four main sources of non renewable energy in today's world. Our challenge for the future is to transition away from these types of energy in order to create a more renewable and sustainable world that allows the Earth AND our children and grandchildren to flourish.

Non Renewable Energy - Coal

The coal in mines across the world might last another 200 years or so before it is depleted. There are two types of coal used for energy: lignite and bituminous. It must be mined from deep within the earth. Coal is primarily used for generating power because it's inexpensive. In rural areas of the world, coal is used to heat homes and cook food.

Benefits of Coal

  • Inexpensive energy resource

  • The most abundant non renewable energy source in the world

Drawbacks of Coal

  • Erosion from the mining procedures

  • Destruction of natural environment and animal habitats

  • Miners are injured or killed from explosions inside the mines

  • Burning coal releases harmful toxins and chemicals into our breathing air

  • Residual ash from burning coal is toxic and usually ends up in a landfill

Non Renewable Energy - Natural Gas

Natural gas, which is primarily methane, is the result of decayed plants and animals trapped within layers of rock under pressure and hot temperatures. Natural gas is a by-product of oil. It's used for heating homes and commercial buildings. It's also used to produce items we use every day such as clothing, paint, paper, glass, antifreeze, and even some medicines.

Benefits of Natural Gas

  • Odorless

  • Natural gas can be cooled and changed into a liquid - much easier to store and transport in liquid form

  • Cleaner than other fossil fuels

Drawbacks of Natural Gas

  • Natural gas is primarily used in the cold months, so excess natural gas must be stored

  • Greenhouse gases emitted when burned

  • Miles of pipelines affect the environment

Non Renewable Energy - Oil or Petroleum

Oil is extracted from rock under the earth's surface. It's used to produce fuels such as gasoline for our vehicles, fuel for jets and airplanes, diesel fuel, and oil for heating purposes. Oil is also used to produce other products such as plastic, industrial strength chemicals and the asphalt for our roads.

Benefits of Oil

  • Burns much cleaner than coal

  • Inexpensive

Drawbacks of Oil

  • Environmental pollution - burning oil emits harmful toxins into the air

  • Limited supply - at the rate we are using oil, this resource could be depleted in 30 years or so

  • Oil drilling is risky and can cause harm to marine life and wildlife when there is a spill or leak

  • Greenhouse effect is attributed somewhat to oil drilling procedures

Non Renewable Energy - Nuclear Power

Nuclear power accounts for roughly 1/5th of the power generated in the United States. This non renewable energy source used uranium for fueling the nuclear reaction, which in turn produces power for commercial applications. Uranium is mined from rock and then turned into very small ceramic pellets, roughly the size of the tip of your finger. Several of these uranium pellets are stacked together within fuel rods, which make fuel assemblies. These assemblies are what you would find within the reactor core of a nuclear power plant. The heat inside the reactor generates steam, which produces electricity.

Benefits of Nuclear Power

  • No air pollution

  • No greenhouse emissions

Drawbacks of Nuclear Power

  • Nuclear plants require significant amounts of concrete and metal

  • Mining of uranium can damage the environment

  • Nuclear energy produces radioactive waste that must be carefully stored for thousands of years

  • Very expensive compared to fossil fuels

Oil shale and tar sands are not utilized as energy sources on the same scale as the other fossil fuels, but if and when the oil resources are depleted, these two non renewable sources of energy may be tapped as additional resources.

Non renewable energy sources may be inexpensive compared to renewable energy sources, but they will come to an end eventually because it's not possible to reproduce them in response to the demand. Renewable energy sources on the other hand are readily available and will not run out - they are renewable!


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