Non-Renewable Energy – Advantages and Disadvantages

We all are well aware that most of the energy sources used in the world are non-renewable resources. These sources of energy have been a boon to humanity and for the development of the world. Much like any other resource, non-renewable energy has its advantages and disadvantages.

Unfortunately, despite the pros and cons, these resources cannot be replenished. We have already used these resources to the point of exhaustion. Therefore, we need to understand these non-renewable resources better to get an insight into how we can use them and preserve them at the same time.

What is Non-Renewable Source of Energy?

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Non-renewable sources of energy are not replenishable. The sources might start growing back, given a few million years. They power most of the world’s industries and run almost all the vehicles in the world.

Petroleum, Natural Gas, Coal, and Nuclear Energy are the four main sources of non-renewable energy. Some also consider biomass as a non-renewable energy source since it is extracted from burned plants to create electricity.

Although we still have some amount of these non-renewable resources left with us, they are starting to run out. Oil, for instance, will only be available for our use for the next 42 years. Likewise, Natural Gas has an estimated existence of a mere 62 years.

However, if we start limiting our use of these resources right away and find alternative solutions for them, we may be able to save them for a little longer.

Haphazardly using non-renewable resources is not just making them used up entirely, but also polluting our environment. Burning these non-renewable sources is usually essential to produce energy from them. In the process, a lot of toxic gases are released to the environment, hence degrading it.

Therefore, it is of immense importance that we start taking steps to preserve these precious non-renewables.

Types of Non-Renewable Energy

Non-renewable energy has two main types, based on their natural production method. Those two types are discussed below in detail:

1. Fossil Fuel

Fossil fuel is the energy source that has gone through immense heat and pressure after being buried down deep beneath the Earth’s surface for millions of years.

The fossil fuels we have today are all results of the remains of plants and animals that got buried about 300-360 million years ago. This period is called the Carboniferous Period.

All the primary energy sources we use today, like coal, petroleum, and natural gas, are fossil fuels. They are valuable sources of energy that are very easy to extract. They are also less costly in comparison to other sources.

However, burning fossil fuels also causes air, water, and land pollution. Not just that, even the extracting process of fossil fuels can be toxic to the environment. Furthermore, they also release a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, causing the depletion of the Ozone layer and, ultimately, Global Warming. Read about the detailed pros and cons of fossil fuels here.

2. Nuclear Energy

While nuclear energy itself is a renewable source of energy, its extraction process requires a lot of non-renewable sources. It is produced by a process called nuclear fission in which the nucleus, the core of an atom, is split. The process produces a lot of energy that is later converted to electric energy and put into daily use.

Nuclear power plants regulate the process of nuclear fission. The power plants mostly use the element called uranium, commonly found in rocks all over the world. However, they use a specific and rare type of uranium, U-235.

Around 30 countries in the world are using this energy source to produce energy. They do not pollute the air or emit any kind of toxic fumes. However, power plants are tough to run. Besides, nuclear energy also produces radioactive materials, which can cause fatal diseases like cancer if exposed to radiation.

Sources of Non-Renewable Energy

We are well aware that non-renewable energies are available in a limited amount in nature. It is also necessary for us to know precisely where they come from. Here are the most common sources of non-renewable energy:

1. Coal

the image represents coal
This is the picture of Coal.

Coal is the remains of plants and animals that were buried under the surface of the Earth millions of years ago and underwent high pressure and heat. It is a fossil fuel commonly used for heating systems as well as powering appliances. In fact, half of the electricity in the USA is produced by coal.

1. Petroleum

Man filling petrol on a vehicle

Petroleum, commonly known as crude oil or simply oil, is also a fossil fuel. It, too, is produced by the remains of plants and animals that go through high pressure and heat.

Oil is mostly found trapped beneath underground rocks or feet under the surface of the Earth. It has also been found as pools in many locations. Petroleum is the most common fuel used to run engines, machinery, and vehicles all around the world.

2. Natural Gas

As another fossil fuel, natural gas is formed when tiny sea plants and animals sink to the bottom of the oceans and get buried by rocks. These buried plants and animals get highly pressured and heated as the rocks gradually increase in thickness to produce potent gas that can produce energy.

Natural gas is commonly used for fuelling industries, operating machinery in farming, and even fuelling hot air balloons. Furthermore, natural gas is also used for heating systems, barbeques, machinery, and appliances at homes.

3. Nuclear Energy

Nuclear energy is not a fossil fuel. It is also considered as a renewable source of energy. However, extracting it requires a lot of non-renewable Uranium, U-235. Therefore, it is a non-renewable source of energy. The machinery used for extracting nuclear energy is called a nuclear power plant.

Although used in a very less amount in the world, about 30 countries use this source for producing electricity.

Advantages of Non-Renewable Energy

Available in large quantity

Since humans discovered these energy sources ages ago, they are now in a ready-to-use form. Thus, they are also conveniently available in large quantities and have made our lives much easier throughout the years.

Affordable

Since they are so readily available, non-renewable energy sources are also not very expensive. Currently, they are much easily accessible anywhere and hence, do not require more investment of money.

Easy-to-produce

he availability of non-renewable energy sources also makes the subsequent power very easy to produce. If a place has enough fuel to generate power, a fuel plant can be built there. So, it is not very difficult to extract.

Efficient

One of the main reasons why we depend so much on the non-renewables is because we know that they can produce powerful, effective, and efficient energy. They provide more power in a short time, unlike other sources of energy.

Disadvantages of Non-Renewable Energy

Non-replaceable

One of the main drawbacks of non-renewable energy is that its sources are not replenishable. Therefore, it becomes a compulsion for us to use them limitedly. However, we are highly dependent upon these sources.

Environmental damage

Because these fuels need to be burned for them to produce energy, it is a given that they emit smoke to the environment. The smoke they emit is not necessarily healthy or environment-friendly.

The smoke released to the environment may be toxic for natural habitats. Furthermore, extracting this energy means the loss of a lot of fertile soil and even forests resulting in environmental degradation.

Human Adjustment

Since we humans are so dependent upon the non-renewables, it is too difficult for us to live a life without them. Non-renewable sources only provide convenience and produce more energy.

Besides, they are not very pricy either, and you don’t have to install an entire system in your house. Thus, do not demand more expenses. Hence, it can be challenging for us to live a life without non-renewables.

Global Warming

One of the main reasons we are facing an environmental crisis today is global warming. The burning of fossil fuel is highly responsible for that. The fossil fuel, when burned, emit a high amount of carbon dioxide, which directly causes ozone layer depletion. Thus, they are toxic to our planet.

Rising Cost

With time, these non-renewable resources are running out. They are on the verge of being entirely used up. Therefore, they are also getting more and more expensive as time passes.

Health Risk for Workers

Another essential thing about non-renewables is that mining them can be highly dangerous. Extracting natural gas, nuclear energy, oil, or even coal can be fatal to the people who work to extract them. They release toxic fumes that cause significant health issues once they enter our system.

Evaluating Energy

We need to be able to know if the energy we are using is worth producing at all. We need to be sure that they are sustainable and degrade the environment as little as possible.  According to a list constructed by Rider University, we can evaluate any energy source based on these five criteria.

Availability

We need to make sure an energy source lasts for a considerable amount of time. You should know if they are going to be available for the next 15 years, 50 years, or 50+ years. It is not very rational to produce energy that is running out.

Energy yield

Here, we consider the amount of other energy needed to produce our energy. If production is going to be more costly than using it, it may not be a good idea to use it.

Rider University has produced a ratio of “energy produced to energy expended during production.” A higher ratio means better energy yield. If the ratio is less than 1, it will cause energy loss.

Cost

The cost of manufacturing and producing energy is another thing to consider before daily application. If the technology used for production is too expensive, it is not worth the investment.

Environment

Rider University also puts special concern towards the environment. It is essential to evaluate how much toxic elements are going to be released or how much of the environment can be damaged while producing energy.

Renewability

Developing any energy that is going to run out is not a great idea. If the generated power is going to be used up and finished up one day, producing and depending upon them will only make things more difficult for us.

To Sum Up,

Non-renewable energy sources are highly convenient and efficient. They do not require a lot of investment and are easily available.

Nonetheless, their disadvantages out-number their advantages. They can be toxic to the environment and the animals living in it. Besides, they are not replenishable.

Therefore, we should start taking steps towards being entirely environment-friendly. We can begin to use alternative sources of energy and adapting to them before the non-renewables die out.

Opting to use alternative sources will make us less dependent upon the non-renewable energy sources and help us save the environment as well.