What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Fossil Fuel?

Updated March 23, 2017

There are many advantages and disadvantages to fossil fuels. While there are adequate amounts to currently sustain the demand, fossil fuels are not a renewable resource. The environmental havoc wreaked by the use of these fuels is growing rapidly and has become the object of considerable world concern. However, until another affordable alternative energy source is discovered, fossil fuels will likely remain the primary energy source in the United States and abroad.


Fossil fuels--oil, coal and natural gas--are responsible for producing most of the energy consumed in the United States. This use is sustainable in the near future. However, fossil fuels are not a renewable resource because they take millions of years to create. This means that once the stores are depleted, there will be no way to produce more. As the current rate of use exceeds the current rate of fossil fuel creation, the need for alternative energy is imminent. Fossil fuels offer us only a short-term reliability and must be replaced by a sustainable alternative in the future.

Environmental Toll

A notorious source of pollution, fossil fuels produce carbon dioxide. This chemical contributes to the greenhouse effect. Coal, a prevalent resource in the United States, also produces sulphur dioxide, a contributor to acid rain. Although the United States currently has enough coal reserves to last more than 200 years at the current level of use, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, coal does irreparable damage to the environment. In addition to pollution and global warning, mining coal destroys large tracts of land, including habitats and scenic landscapes.

Economic Toll

Fossil fuels are abundant and cost-effective. They generate significant amounts of electricity with relatively little cost. The use of coal-powered electricity creates numerous jobs. Miners harvest the coal, which is delivered to power plants via trains. These trains need engineers and other workers to remain functional. The plant also needs maintenance and other crews to ensure functionality.

Other Advantages

Fossil fuels are easy to find, and the power stations that use them can be constructed almost anywhere. They provide an efficient, established power source that enables our lifestyle. Most transportation and buildings rely on fossil fuels for functionality.

Other Disadvantages

The process of using fossil fuels can be dangerous and difficult for some workers. Coal miners face daily hazards as they work to harvest the coal. Fossil fuels carry a foul smell, making the mine and power plant extremely odorous and undesirable. Because of the high quantities of coal a power plant requires, the surrounding area is often piled high with the resource.

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About the Author

Nicole Thelin has more than a decade of professional writing experience. She has contributed to newspapers such as the "Daily Herald" of Provo, Utah, and now writes for several online publications. Thelin is pursuing a bachelor's degree in education from Western Governors University.