What Are the 3 Types of Fossil Fuels?

Updated March 22, 2017

The three primary fossil fuels are oil, natural gas and coal and are a non-renewable source of energy. Fossil fuels are believed to have been formed from plants and animals that lived on earth approximately 300 million years ago. Each fuel type is a source used to meet energy requirements, industrialised countries use to support home, business and industrial needs around the globe.


Fossil fuels have been a source for heating homes and businesses for hundreds of years. For example, coal helped the development of industry by powering large furnaces used for manufacturing goods, as well as providing fuel for the production of steam used in internal combustion engines. Fossil fuels and their byproducts have expanded uses in businesses production, ranging from soaps, shampoos and cosmetics, to asphalt and even the manufacturing of various types of paint, according to the website Canadian Nuclear Association.


America and other industrial countries must find more environmentally and economically viable ways to develop and utilise energy because of the eventual depletion of fossil fuel sources. Renewable energy sources that will replace the finite supply of fossil fuel sources must be developed for future use. The growing fossil fuel demand is outstripping the discovery of new oil deposits. The Middle East holds the world's largest oil deposits and discovery of new oil deposits there, "plunged from 187 billion bbl (barrels) discovered in 1963 to 1972, to 16 billion bbl discovered during the decade ending in 2002," according to the website World Oil.

Health and Environmental Impact

The increased burning of fossil fuels such as gas, oil and coal in many industrialised countries has resulted in more and more carbon dioxide (CO2) entering the atmosphere. This has created a "greenhouse effect," which traps heat in the atmosphere. This greenhouse effect damages the Earth's ozone level, and many scientists believe it has the capability of causing adverse temperature and climate swings. Ground-level air quality health problems such as respiratory disorders, chronic lung diseases and asthma are expected due to damage to the ozone layer. In addition, higher temperatures could prolong disease transmission seasons if combined with favourable rainfall patterns, according to the EPA website.

Renewable Energy Sources

Renewable energy sources that are both environmentally safe as well as economically viable to produce are being developed or enhanced in America as well as other countries. This drive to develop new viable sources for energy is due in part to projected worldwide shortages of nonrenewable fossil fuels. New, smaller nuclear fusion facilities are being considered as an energy source, and a process to use hydrogen as a energy source is being developed as a substitute for natural gas. Solar energy cells, wind farms, energy plants and even the use of heat produced by human waste facilities, are energy sources being developed as fossil fuel energy replacements, according to the University of Michigan website.

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About the Author

Kevin Fobbs began writing professionally in 1975 and has been published in the "New York Times," "Detroit News," "Michigan Chronicle," "Soul Source" magazine and "Writers Digest" magazine. Fobbs obtained a political science and journalism degree from Eastern Michigan University and attended Wayne State University Law School.