Fossil Fuels Coal, Petroleum, And Natural Gas

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Fossil fuels—coal, petroleum (oil), and natural gas — are concentrated organic compounds found in the Earth’s crust. They are created from the remains of plants and animals that lived millions of years ago in the form of concentrated biomass. According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), fossil fuels meet 81 percent of U.S. energy demand.
Scattered records of the use of coal date to at least 1100 BC. By the middle Ages, small mining operations began to spread in Europe, where coal was used for forges, smithies, lime-burners, and breweries. The invention of fire bricks in the 1400s made chimneys cheap to build and helped create a home heating market for coal. Coal was firmly established as a domestic fuel in much of Europe by the 1570s, and represented the major heating source for buildings, especially in cities located far from easy access to less energy-dense biomass forms.
Coal was the first of the fossil fuels to go into widespread use, displacing low-energy firewood as the leading source of fuel in the US, and triggering the country’s industrialization in the second half of the 19th century. Within a few decades, the US went from a net importer of coal (mostly from Britain) to a major exporter of the fossil fuel, a development made possible by mining the nation’s vast reserves of coal.
Oil was used in architectural adhesives, ship caulks, medicines, and roads in Mesopotamia around 3000 BC. Two thousand years later, the Chinese refined crude oil for use in

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