Talk:Fossil fuel

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I think this: "The total fossil fuel used in the year 1997 is the result of 422 years of all plant matter that grew on the entire surface and in all the oceans of the ancient earth.[6]" needs to be removed - as shown in the diagram on carbon cycle total fossil fuel reserves (~4000Gt) are the equivalent of around 70 years of photosynthesis (60x70=4200). Can anyone suggest how the cited sentence could be correct? Smartse (talk) 10:41, 9 October 2009 (UTC)

I've decided to remove this and another questionable statement from the same source. Smartse (talk) 13:45, 14 October 2009 (UTC)
I am guessing the citation '[6]' quoted above was the Dukes 2003 paper (Climatic Change v61, pp31–44 doi: 10.1023/A:1026391317686). What it should have said is that the annual carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion equals 422 times the net carbon fixed annually by the world's biota (i.e., 422x the world's annual NPP).
I think the second figure relates to the same paper where it states annual ff. carbon emissions are "73 times the global standing stock of carbon in vegetation". The paper goes on to say, "Assuming that the photosynthetic process has an average efficiency of 1.7% and plant matter is 45% carbon, the amount of solar energy required to grow this vegetation was 120 × 10^24 J, or 36 times the sum of solar energy that strikes Earth’s surface in one year."
Since this was removed several years ago I guess no one really cares! Thought I would mention it in case someone thought the article might benefit from putting it back in. Bonza9683 22:36, 19 July 2012 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Bonza9683 (talkcontribs)

Origins section unreferenced, no mention of photosynthesis[edit]

I removed the following from the lede section, where it doesn't belong when there's not treatement of the material elsewhere in the article and it doesn't summarize what material is in the article:

Fossil fuels are fuels formed by natural processes such as anaerobic decomposition then geologic compression and heating of buried dead organisms such as cyanobacteria and plants who originally stored solar energy in chemical bonds through the process of photosynthesis (leading some to term such fuels 'archived' photosynthesis).[1]

This reference is a poor one for use here. What we need are references that give a general summary of the origin of fossil fuel, at least some with emphasis on the cycle of photosynthesis->plants growth->animal growth->plant and animal death->decay in conditions that produce fossil fuel. I'm not finding such sources quickly with simple searches. The material is easily available, it's just the choice of a sound reference that's eluding me at the moment. --Ronz (talk) 16:46, 3 June 2013 (UTC)

Part of the problem is trying to discuss three different items (coal, petroleum, and natural gas) as one topic. The entire article has this problem. --Ronz (talk) 20:12, 4 June 2013 (UTC)


  1. ^ Thomas Faunce, Stenbjorn Styring, Michael R. Wasielewski, Gary W. Brudvig, A. William Rutherford, Johannes Messinger, Adam F. Lee, Craig L. Hill, Huub deGroot, Marc Fontecave, Doug R. MacFarlane, Ben Hankamer, Daniel G. Nocera, David M. Tiede, Holger Dau, Warwick Hillier, Lianzhou Wang and Rose Amal. "Artificial photosynthesis as a frontier technology for energy sustainability" Energy Environ. Sci., 2013,6, 1074-1076 DOI: 10.1039/C3EE40534F (accessed 2 June 2013


Considering that the OECD estimated $523 billion a year is spent on fossil fuels subsidies around the world, we should include this estimate, explain why it is subsidized and by which countries. - Shiftchange (talk) 00:11, 23 October 2013 (UTC)

Common misconception[edit]

Can I get a reference to the commonly held misconception that fossil fuels are derived from "dead dinosaurs"? I just added this to the page for petroleum: "It was once commonly thought that fossil fuels, like petroleum, were derived from so-called "dead dinosaurs". However, further scientific investigation has revealed that this cannot be the case, as fossil fuel formations have been dated to as many as 300 Ma, whereas the first dinosaurs did not appear for another 75 million years."

Source: Horn, Geoffrey M. (2010). Energy Today: Coal, Oil and Natural Gas. New York, New York: Infobase Publishing, Chelsea House Publishers. p. 8. ISBN 978-1-4381-3220-4.

Thanks in advance. (talk) 06:58, 11 January 2014 (UTC)


Under the Reserves section, it talks about flows as production. I'm assuming (by the numbers they are talking about), it is talking about how fast the material is being mined from the reserves...?

I don't know if anyone knows a source, but I think an interesting addition to the article would be how fast fossil fuels are actually being generated (with the million year process, it has to be a very low number, but the earth is big and old, I imagine someone has to of figured out roughly how much, say coal, is produced by the earth every day). As mentioned in the intro, they are strictly speaking renewable, and it would be interesting to see the (how many..?) order of magnitude difference in production and consumption.

I didn't find anything in a quick search of online resources :(

(Also, I would say the word production is ambiguous. When I first read it i thought of the earth producing new fossil fuels, not humans mining. Maybe it should be clarified?) StarDolph (talk) 22:33, 22 January 2014 (UTC)

Production is the most commonly used term in the various fossil fuel industries. If you like, you might insert a line that production as it is used by industry is the same as extraction. Plazak (talk) 23:13, 22 January 2014 (UTC)

I doubt many industry sources would be talking both about generation and extraction, like this article does. I made a slight clarificaiton, changed "flows are production" to "flows are production of fossil fuels from these reserves"

Interestingly, when reading , it sounds like fossil fuel deposits might of been more generally formed from major events (such as a lake or marsh drying up, or a mass extinction) instead of a steady process, which is what I would of expected. Still, it seems like someone must have done a study of generally how much material transitions from fossilized remains to say, oil over a time period.... StarDolph (talk) 00:05, 23 January 2014 (UTC)

Fossil fuels form under unusual conditions, but not suddenly. The unusual conditions are those that allow a great deal of organic material to accumulate and be preserved over a long period of time, to form coal or sourcebeds for oil or gas. Mass extinctions? I'm not aware of any major fossil fuel deposits associated with mass extinctions, such as that at the end of the Permian, or the Cretaceous/Tertiary extinction event. Plazak (talk) 03:49, 23 January 2014 (UTC)
Of course they do not form suddenly, however you rarely care about how long a pipeline is when it comes to throughput once the pipeline has been filled (that is, if you have a thousand year process, and you start one block of material every year, eventually you will be getting one block of processed material every year). Things like variance in length of the process and quantity per year would eventually average out over time. I found that article interesting because it discussed another element required (the caprocks), which is not something I would expect to be as gradual as say, organic material accumulation. But now that I think about it however, given the time and distance scales we are talking about (million years and the entire earth), even that should average out quite nicely....
I guess I'm saying the following sentence bugs me: "They are continually being formed via natural processes as plants and animas die and then decompose and become trapped beneath sediment. However, fossil fuels are generally considered to be non-renewable resources because they take millions of years to form, and known viable reserves are being depleted much faster than new ones are being made.": The length of time it takes to form matters only if you want to increase the production rate, the existing production rate should make the same as the existing material would of been constantly added to the process and thus you should have a relatively constant output. Of course, it doesn't mean that number would be big, but it would be an interesting number to have in relation to the extraction rate.... StarDolph (talk) 03:09, 24 January 2014 (UTC)
And without that number I don't quite see how "and known viable reserves are being depleted much faster than new ones are being made" makes sense / can be supported. By definition you would not know about new reserves being created without them first.. you know... being discovered?
I guess something like 'we know they are not being created very fast because no reserves have been found in places that were previously checked", if it could be supported... StarDolph (talk) 03:21, 24 January 2014 (UTC)

What about spills, crashes, and explosions as environmental effects?[edit]

Environmental effects seem to focus on the consumption end, but almost every single day somewhere in the US (and elsewhere in the world) there occurs some disaster wherein a fuel-laden tanker truck or fuel-carrying train crashes and spills its toxic load, or explodes into a fireball on the highway, or where some fuel-carrying oceangoing vessel dumps or spills some of its contents, or where a fuel pipeline leaks or bursts, poisoning people's groundwater. The collective effect of these thousands of disasters must be felt over time, must it not? Pandeist (talk) 04:37, 12 April 2015 (UTC)

Those are indeed important aspects of the subject, but I don't see a problem with this article. This is a top level article that should (and in this case does) provide a fast summary of the sub issues, then linking to the place those are developed further. It contains the paragraph
Harvesting, processing, and distributing fossil fuels can also create environmental concerns. Coal mining methods, particularly mountaintop removal and strip mining, have negative environmental impacts, and offshore oil drilling poses a hazard to aquatic organisms. Oil refineries also have negative environmental impacts, including air and water pollution. Transportation of coal requires the use of diesel-powered locomotives, while crude oil is typically transported by tanker ships, each of which requires the combustion of additional fossil fuels.
and at the top of the enviro section it links to the main article addressing the environmental side of fossil fuels. Thanks for your interest. How's that other article look to you?
NewsAndEventsGuy (talk) 05:39, 12 April 2015 (UTC)
But given the historical importance of things like the Exxon Valdez spill and the Deep Water Horizons disaster ( and the thousands of deaths and billions of dollars in destruction wrought by many others) ought there not be at least some whisper of these effects in painting the broad picture? Pandeist (talk) 19:39, 12 April 2015 (UTC)
Suggest some good RS-based text? NewsAndEventsGuy (talk) 20:56, 12 April 2015 (UTC)
Well I blogged on it here.... Pandeist (talk) 00:17, 13 April 2015 (UTC)
I think transport spills and accident should be included and its omission is significant. It's not adequately covered in any links I have found. The article doesn't even mention pipelines or fuel spills and the only accident links to Three Mile Island accident. I think a Transportation of fossil fuels section is required outside of the Environmental effects section which touches on the topic in its 7th paragraph. It also means this article should not be rated B class. - Shiftchange (talk) 23:11, 14 April 2015 (UTC)

"Millions of years"[edit]

This is hopelessly imprecise. How old is the most recent organic source of fossil fuel? 2 million years old? Or 50 million years? Something between? Or more than 50 million? Koro Neil (talk) 07:41, 12 April 2015 (UTC)

I think that what that text is trying to say is that it requires time of the order of millions of years (as opposed to hundreds of thousands of years) to get a source rock mature enough to expel hydrocarbons. That being said, the statement is not supported by the cited source (or at least in the version I have access to[1]). The youngest effective source rocks that I know of are of latest Miocene to earliest Pliocene age (so about 5 million years ago) in the Caspian region, the so-called Productive Series[2]. Mikenorton (talk) 12:04, 12 April 2015 (UTC)
I just love good RS-based answers. Keep it up! NewsAndEventsGuy (talk) 12:45, 12 April 2015 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request on 3 March 2016[edit]

The name is George and not Georg. Typo Yajas Malhotra (talk) 14:07, 3 March 2016 (UTC)

yellow tickY Partly done - actually his real name was Georgius Agricola not George, so I have changed it to Georgius from Georg, which was just a common contraction. - Arjayay (talk) 15:59, 3 March 2016 (UTC)

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