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The Disadvantages of Fossil Fuel

By Joshua Duvauchelle ; Updated June 13, 2017

Fossil fuels like gas and coal supply the United States with approximately 85 percent of its energy production and consumption, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Though fossil fuels are cheap to process and relatively widely available, they present several disadvantages to both you, the United States and the entire global community.

Not Renewable

Fossil fuels like coal and natural gas are natural resources. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warns that they're not renewable and can't be replenished, unlike renewable energy sources like solar or wind energy. The California Energy Commission estimates that the current known reserves of fossil fuels like oil will be depleted within 70 years, as of 2002.

Health Risks

The particles released by burning fossil fuels contribute to air pollution, which leads to numerous potential health problems, according to the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. The institute says this includes low lung functioning, chronic asthma, cardiovascular disease and chronic bronchitis.

Climate Change

Greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide, or CO2, may contribute to climate change by affecting how the sun's radiation is retained and reflected in the atmosphere. Most of America's CO2 emissions, approximately 82 percent, come from the use of fossil fuels, reports the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The administration says industrial energy production using fossil fuels is the greatest greenhouse gas contributor, followed by transportation due to the dependence of automobiles on gas.

National Security

More than half of the petroleum that the United States uses is imported from foreign sources, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Depending on other countries for your fossil fuel energy, including many Middle Eastern countries, presents a security issue for the U.S. Countries can use their hold on America's fossil fuel supplies as a potent political bargaining chip, potentially putting the U.S.'s national concerns at risk.


Fossil fuel supplies from foreign sources or companies controlling finite fuel supplies are susceptible to market manipulation and wide price fluctuations, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The department reports that price manipulations by Middle Eastern countries and market fluctuations have cost the nation $1.9 trillion between 2004 and 2008. Renewable energy sources like wind energy supply consistent supplies that free consumers from such costly fluctuations.

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