Sample Essay on Use of Fossil Fuels in South Australia

Executive summary

Every day we go about carrying out our duties, we see vehicles and other motor vessels move around. When our vehicles run out of oil, we run to the nearby filling station to add more fuel into our tanks. Sometimes machines run out of fuel and we run to acquire additional fuel to keep them running. These machines and motor components utilize fossil fuel to drive their operations. Fossil fuels are the major sources of energy used in driving various mechanical processes around the world (Gordon, 2003). Fossil fuel forms the major component of all fuel in the world. Examples of fossil fuel commonly sued around the world include coal, natural gas, petroleum, shale oils and bitumen. These forms of fossil fuel are currently used as the major sources for heat and electricity. South Australia, one of the fastest growing regions in terms of economic productivity has a rising demand for energy due to its increasing industrialization.

Fossil fuels, especially coal forms the largest share of energy sources in the region. This document illustrates the rationale for using fossil fuels in South Australia citing its advantages and disadvantages. The study highlights the need for the Australian government to investigate into the use of fossil fuel in various sectors of productivity. This need is based on the fact that fossil fuels are exhaustible and presents numerous avverese effects compared to benefits on a long term basis (Alex, 2008). The occurrence of different forms of fossil fuels has been discussed into details as well as their exploitation procedures. A recommendation on the need for Australia to deepely investigate her reliance on fossil fuels and explore clean forms of energy such as solar and wind has been made in the end owing to its location in an arid region with sufficient solar and wind power suitable for the generation of solar and wind energies.

Besides, a trade off analysis based on cost-benefit analysis has been used to inform the decisions arrived at in the recommendation section. The writer’s opinion is that the Australian government should investigate the relevant issues arising and prevalent in the fossil fuels industry and address all problems to ensure the provision of safe and sustainable energy.


Fossil fuel is formed from the remains of prehistoric organisms buried deep beneath the earth and fossilized to form fuel. These include the remains of plants and animals. The plants get their energy from the sun during photosynthesis and convert this energy into a storage form. The plants are then consumed by animals that consequently use this form of energy to run their metabolic processes and store excesses in their bodies (Alex, 2008). When these organisms die and their remains fossilized over many years, the energy stored within them remains and this is what forms the fossil fuel. Today, fossil fuel is the widest used form of energy in the world.

They take millions of years to form and are forms of non- renewable energy. In terms of occurrence, coal exists as a hard, black coloured, rock-like substance that is formed from dead plants and animal materials that were formally subjected under extreme heat and pressure for millions of years. Petroleum on the other hand occurs as a dark coloured material mainly common in extreme hot desert conditions. Figure 1 and 2 below shows the occurrence of coal deposits under natural conditions;

Figure 1: occurrence of different forms of fossil fuel (Australian institute 2014)

a)A lump of coal deposit(“The potteries museum”)                  

  1. b) Liquid oil (shepherd, 2002)           c) Natural gas burnt(shepherd, 2002)

The major constituents of fossil fuel are carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Other metal compositions of fossil fuel include sulfur as well as other nitrogen compounds. During fossil fuel combustion, different pollutants are released into the atmosphere such as fly ash, sulfur oxides (SO2 and SO3), nitrogen oxides (Nx such as NO, NO2, and NO3) as well as other organic compounds (Jennifer, 2002). The fly gas, the most dangerous component of fossil fuel by products is composed of various trace elements, including the heavy metals that form the most common pollutants in the world today. Several environmental concerns have been discussed concerning the use of fossil fuel. Fossil fuel, mainly occur in areas that are considered to be extremely hot such as hot desert conditions. Such include petroleum, natural gas and bitumen.  Southern Australia is one of the major producers and consumers of fossil fuels in the world hence contributes immensely to the emissions of various forms of pollutants into the surrounding environments.

In comparison to other energy forms such as wind, solar and hydro-based energy, fossil fuel is more efficient and effective in performing various functions such as running machines and motor components. Besides, fossil fuel is highly portable and can be easily transferred from one location to another, i.e. by Lories and other locomotive engines (Alex, 2008). However, fossil fuel is non-renewable and hence exhaustible energy sources, unlike the other sources mentioned above. Overdependence on it as a means of productivity is, therefore, shortlived and need tobe reexamined. Moreover, in terms of usability, fossil fuel produces a lot of pollutants such as carbon compounds, including the ozone destructive gases such as carbon dioxide and sulfur compounds (Gordon, 2003). This makes it one of the most used unclean sources of energy that has resulted into wide environmental pollution and atmospheric degradation. The other sources of energy are renewable forms and do not produce any form of polluting gases, hence categorized as clean sources of energy. According to Alex, (2008) the levels of carbon emissions and eutrophication in most of the south Australian waters is contributed to by her overreliance on fossil f uels hence the need to reexamine its usage and investigate better means of utilization.

Other forms of fossil fuel occur in extremely cold conditions such as cold desert conditions. Such include coal and shale oils. The major producing areas for fossil fuel include the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Nigeria and other regions lying within the dry desert conditions of the world. Coal and shale oils are common in cold regions lying along the polar areas such as Russia, Australia as well as other Oceania nations. This study agrees with the fact that the Australian government need to deeply investigate on her use of fossil fuels to drive various productive activities. This is based on the numerous and long term adverse effects that cumulates in the environment through continued use of such fuel types (Tran, Dargusch, Moss & Hoang, 2013). The effects include environmental degradation, pollution and diseases proliferation, all having tremendous negative impacts on the livelihoods of the residents and beyond. About this fact, the study discusses the environmental impacts of fossil fuel use in southern Australia and the entire world.  In light of these findings, this study then gives a recommendation on whether South Australia should continue using fossil fuel or other alternative sources of fuel.

How fossil fuels work

The manner in which fossil fuel works is quite complex, considering the fact that they are nonrenewable forms of energy. Fig 3 illustrates how fossil fuel functions as a form of energy.

Figure 3: how fossil fuel work (“Fossil fuel”)

                  When fossil are burnt, they produce heat just like any other plant of the animals’ component. The heat produced, in the form of steam is then used to turn turbines just as in the case with wind or hydrogenation practices. The turbines are then used as the primary power producing components. The energy is then transported to various parts of the country through electric poles and other available means of transportation. In many cases, fossil fuel is used directly in our homes and in factories to produce electric power that runs machine components, for lighting and for heating our homes and cooking (Jennifer, 2002). Diagrams a, b and c shows how fossil fuel is processed and used. As evidenced from the diagrams, the release various by-products of fossil fuels such as carbon, nitrogen and sulphur compounds cause great harm to the natural environments thus need to be curtailed. Extreme occurrence of an production of such by-products in southern Australia places it in great danger of diseases multiplication and acute environmental degradation. The government of southern Australia, and other consuming partners, therefore, need to reexamine their use of fossil fuels to drive various sectors of their economies

Fig 3: how various forms of fossil fuel are used       

  1. a) Oil refinery(image galleries) b) Power stations burn fuel (Fiona, 2013)       
  1. c) natural gas used for (shepherd, 2002)

       Natural gas, the only safe to use type of fossil fuel is commonly used in homes to cook, heat and for lighting purposes. Petroleum on the other hand is mainly used to run machine components such as vehicles and in industrial processing systems. The major use of petroleum is in the industrial sector where it accounts for up to 49% of all the fuel used (“Facts”, 2009). The largest sector is transportation that utilizes a lot of petroleum products per day, including petrol, diesel and kerosene. Other than in large-scale applications, fossil fuel used at small scales to run machine components or provide heating in homes is burnt directly to produce the required energy either by turning gears or to produce heat and light. Fossil fuels are used in all countries of the world, despite the various environmental problems associated with it.

Extraction of fossil fuel

Fossil fuel is extracted in different and complex ways depending on the nature of their occurrences. Such include the location in terms of geographical positioning and its location beneath the soils (Trask, 2006). Besides, different forms of fuel are extracted in a different manner. The following diagrams show the extraction processes for different categories of fossil fuel. Deep shafts laid vertically or horizontally are used to extract petroleum and natural gas from deep under the ground. Coal can be mined by quarrying from the surface or from underground channels

Fig 4: fossil fuel extraction mechanisms

a)An oil rig pumping in sea(shepherd, 2002)                    

  1. b) Coal mined from a quarry( shepherd,2002)
  1. c) Extraction of oil and gas from deep underground(Shepherd,2002)

                 Fossil fuel consumption in South Australia

The Australian economy is solely dependent on fossil fuel for its production mechanisms. Almost all sectors of production in the region use fossil fuel such as petroleum and coal to drive different production systems. Coal mining, dominates Australia’s energy production systems. Over three-quarters of all coal outputs, however, go for exports. Australia is rated the fifth among the world’s largest coal producers (“energy balance”, 2011). A significant quantity of natural gas is also produced in the region with more proven reserves of unconventional gas having been discovered in the near past. However, the country is less endowed with oil resources. The little present is used locally with just less than half their oil needs imported for local use. Coal, as ABS, (2011) records is the leading Australia’s energy used and accounts for up to 42% of all the energy requirements in the country. Coal is mainly used for power generation while oil accounts for 32% and natural gas 21% of energy use and are mainly used to meet other national needs other than power generation.  Table 2 shows fossil fuel utilization in southern Australia in comparison to other regions between 2008 and 2014(Leigh, 2014).

Regional use of fossil fuel((Leigh, 2014). 

All nations of the world today, use fossil fuel to perform different functions ranging from transportation to perform household chores. The largest percentage of fossil fuel is used in the industrial and agricultural sectors. This is because these sectors are considered multiproduction sectors that consume a lot of power (Foome, 2010). More industrialized nations use a lot of fuel compared to less industrialized nations. Fuel purchase and provision forms the huge chunk of all national budgets, making it the most cherished product sought for by all nations of the world. Table 2 below shows the statistics on consumption patterns for fossil fuel by the top 15 consuming countries (Robert, 2014)

Table 2: world’s top 20 fossil fuel consuming countries(Robert, 2014)

According to ABARES, (2010), the largest consumers of fossil fuel are those that have huge economies as well as huge production systems. China, USA, UK, Japan and South Korea are the top five countries in terms of economic sizes and are the largest consumers of fossil fuel. Based on the statistical analyses of fossil fuel consumption systems per sector, it is realized that the industrial sector contributes the largest percentage in terms of fuel consumption amounting to up to 46% of al world consumptions. Agricultural sector follows at about 32% of all consumptions (“Australian commodity statistics”, 2010). A large part of the consumed fuel in the agricultural sector is used in field production, processing and transportation. Sectoraly, fossil energy consumption patterns can be illustrated as shown in the chart 1 below

Chart 1: fossil energy consumption per sector of production (“Energy balances”, 2014)  

Advantages and disadvantages of using fossil fuel

Since the extinction of the primitive man and the advent of the modern industrious man, the need for fuel has risen consistently and intensively over the years. The advent of agrarian revolutions and consequently industrialization further put a lot of pressure on the various sources of fuels for related uses around the world. In correspondence to this dire productive need, the discovery of fossil fuels appeared to have solved the whole issue. Today, fossil fuel is responsible for a great proportion of the world’s electric power needs as well as the total energy demands. Since the discovery of fossil fuels in the early 1900, the world’s fossil fuel requirements and consumption patterns have nearly doubled after every 20 years. The use of fossil fuels in different sectors of production has been linked to various advantages and disadvantages (Trask, 2006). Despite various environmental concerns being associated with the use of fossil fuels, it has remained the most preferred source of power that drives the world’s economy. This section of the study looks at the advantages and disadvantages of using fossil fuels in production systems around the world.


Fossil fuel use has been associated with a number of advantages. Some of these are described in this section of the study. To begin with, fossil fuels have been greatly cherished and adored by the world economies due to their ability to produce high amounts of power/energy using just small amounts of the fuels. Fossil fuel is composed of extreme high caloric value that is capable of producing large quantities of energy per unit. Compared to other sources such as solar, wind and water, fossil fuels produce the highest amount of energy per unit quantities thus cheaper forms of production for various production sectors (Keith, 2009). Secondly, fossil fuels are also known for their ease of location and accessibility compared to other forms such as tidal and geothermal. The fossil reservoirs are very easy to locate and find. Less sophisticated technological applications are required to locate, explore and harvest fossil fuels, for instance, oil is easily mined by using shafts laid on or beneath the ground to reach the reservoirs. This technology is deemed easy to use and cheaper compared to the process of generating hydroelectric power through building of dams and erection of turbines.

Moreover, fossil fuels occur in abundance as compared to other forms such as geothermal, wind and water sources. Extensive research has indicated that fossil fuel is truly an abundance resource covering a large portion of the world’s land surface. It is for this reason that fossil fuels are the most used forms of fuels in various sectors of production including the industrial and agricultural sectors. Huge power plants have been erected by various countries to exploit fossil fuels energy power to be used in various sectors of production at a cheaper cost (Keith, 2009). The abundance of fossil fuels makes them a cheaper source of fuel that can be used to spur economic development at a less productive cost.

Disadvantages of fossil fuels

Many countries are today shying away from using fossil fuels for their wide array of production activities. A number of regulations have as well been established to help various countries and organizations to curtail excessive use of fossil fuels owing to their ease of exhaustion and serious environmental concerns. To illustrate this fact, fossil fuels are mainly composed of carbon components that make them the best emitters of carbon dioxide and other environmentally harmful gases. Gases emitted during fossil fuels combustion such as carbon dioxide and methane cause serious harm to the ozone layer of the atmosphere (“minerals and petroleum exploration”, 2011). Carbon dioxide emission is today the world’s greatest concern affecting people far and wide. The current issue of global warming and climate change is caused by serious emissions of carbon dioxide gas and other related gases that have resulted into serious environmental changes across the globe. Secondly, the processes involved in fossil fuels production, transportation and use has been associated with a lot of risks. Oils and gas leakages cause widespread environmental and ecological concerns. For instance, the oil spill in the Mexican gulf is rated as the most dangerous oil spills that resulted into the death of millions of aquatic organisms.

Cost analysis for fossil fuels use

The use of fossil fuels is related to serious environmental concerns, among which is global warming aspects and climate change. Serious issues have been related to these changes including habitat destruction, species change and replacements, destruction of the ozone layer, water, air and soil pollution among others. These negative effects have had tremendous effects on the world production systems especially in the agricultural sector where production capacities have been declining over time. Serious food insecurity has cropped into several countries creating a generation of desperate and malnourished persons. The processes of reversing these conditions (Trask, 2006) such as through carbon sequestration and reforestation have borne little fruits with extreme environmental conditions being on the rise. Besides, the amount of money, time and effort needed to reverse the serious damages caused by fossil fuels release is huge compared to the damages caused. The environmental effects will take thousand of years to restore and the effort so huge.


Overreliance on fossils fuels in southern Australia is unspeakable. The environmental effects of the fuels are far much reaching and needs serious address in every sector of production. Current emission trends in Australia are rising at an alarming rate. Coupled with the fact that South Australia is one of the dry regions, her cut on the use of fossil fuels and carbon emission trends should be curtailed to the highest extent. The current emission rates in the world are higher than before. The Australian economy is fast growing and thus increasing her energy needs and consequently emission levels. For future curtails on carbon emissions and environmental protection, there is every need for the Southern Australian governments to reinvestigate her overreliance on fossils fuels and probe suitable ways of curbing the situation. This would mean minimizing the negative impacts of the by-products of fossil fuels use such as pollution, eutrophication and diseases proliferation. It would also mean thinking about clean forms of energy such as solar and wind that are adequately endowed in the region. The area is suitable for the production of solar and wind energy forms given the fact that it lies within a dry region that receives maximum isolation from the sun. This solar energy can be tapped to produce energy for productive purposes other than relying on fossil fuels.


Fossils fuel use and overreliance posses a lot of dangers to the environment and to humanity in general. Environmental pollution is currently the greatest concern for all nations of the earth. These effects are realized by excessive use of fossils fuels and products especially in industrial and agricultural production systems. It is for this reason that many countries and organizations have laid down rules and regulations to help in monitoring their use of fossils fuels with an aim of striking a balance between pollution and environmental conservation. Besides, fossil fuels are nonrenewable and need serious conservation practices through sparing use. Australia is currently one of the countries with the fastest growing economies. As a result, its energy requirements have almost doubled making it among the countries that emit the highest amounts of carbon and contributing to serious environmental concerns. It is for this reason that South Australia need to explore other forms of clean energy given the fact that it lies within an arid region that has sufficient solar concentrations and adequate wind that can be harnessed to produce solar and wind energies respectively for productive use.


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