Thursday, April 10, 2008

Fossil Fuels

There are three major forms of fossil fuels: coal, oil and natural gas. All three were formed many hundreds of millions of years ago before the time of the dinosaurs - hence the name fossil fuels. The age they were formed is called the Carboniferous Period. It was part of the Paleozoic Era. "Carboniferous" gets its name from carbon, the basic element in coal and other fossil fuels.
The Carboniferous Period occurred from about 360 to 286 million years ago. At the time, the land was covered with swamps filled with huge trees, ferns and other large leafy plants, similar to the picture above. The water and seas were filled with algae - the green stuff that forms on a stagnant pool of water. Algae is actually millions of very small plants.
Some deposits of coal can be found during the time of the dinosaurs. For example, thin carbon layers can be found during the late Cretaceous Period (65 million years ago) - the time of Tyrannosaurus Rex. But the main deposits of fossil fuels are from the Carboniferous Period.
As the trees and plants died, they sank to the bottom of the swamps of oceans. They formed layers of a spongy material called peat. Over many hundreds of years, the peat was covered by sand and clay and other minerals, which turned into a type of rock called sedimentary.
More and more rock piled on top of more rock, and it weighed more and more. It began to press down on the peat. The peat was squeezed and squeezed until the water came out of it and it eventually, over millions of years, it turned into coal, oil or petroleum, and natural gas.
Saving Fossil Fuels
Fossil fuels take millions of years to make. We are using up the fuels that were made more than 300 million years ago before the time of the dinosaurs. Once they are gone they are gone.
So, it's best to not waste fossil fuels. They are not renewable; they can't really be made again. We can save fossil fuels by conserving energy.


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