Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fossil fuels

I knew this, but wanted to confirm it. The fossil fuels - coal, oil, and natural gas - that we burn for 85% of our energy are deposits formed from plants and animals that lived up to 300 million years ago. The questions I had were all answered here:
  • Much of our fossil fuel deposits are made of ocean-dwelling phytoplankton and zooplankton, transformed by pressure, heat, and lots and lots of time.
  • Coal goes through a slightly different process, beginning as peat (a mass of dead and decomposing plant matter), then transforming to lignite (brownish rock that contains recognizable plant matter), then becoming bituminous coal.
  • The original source of the energy that we access is the solar energy the prehistoric organisms trapped in their bodies eons ago.
And Wikipedia furnished these two astounding facts:
  • Each liter of regular gasoline is the time-rendered result of about 23.5 metric tons of ancient organic material deposited on the ocean floor.
  • 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.
On that note, I'm going to go fill the tank of the Mother Ship up with gas for the drive to Florida...

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