16th August 2019

Use of natural resources

Natural resources, such as oil and coal, are used for many different things. Natural resources can be used to make electricity, power vehicles and create products. There are many different types of natural resources, including coal, oil and natural gas.

Coal

A lump of coal

Coal is the result of fossils broken down over millions of years. It is used for many things, such as:

  • making electricity
  • heating buildings with fireplaces (although wood is starting to replace coal)

Coal is just carbon, so when it is burnt, it produces carbon dioxide, which contributes to climate change. Coal is starting to become used less and less, so much so that the UK managed to go three days without using coal to make electricity. Coal is also a non-renewable resource, meaning it will run out one day.

How can you get coal?

You can get coal by mining at places where coal can be found. At these places, coal mines can be found, where workers find lumps of coal and send it back up to the surface.

What are the environmental impacts of coal?

When burnt, coal produces carbon dioxide, which is released into the atmosphere and contributes to climate change. In order to mine for coal, certain techniques have to be used, which change the landscape. The mining of coal usually stops the land being used for things such as hunting and growing food.

Oil

Crude oil is the most used oil, and is used for a lot of things in our everyday lives, including:

  • petrol (used to power cars and trucks)
  • jet fuel
  • making most plastics
  • making electricity

There are other oils, such as sunflower and lavender oil, but these are mainly used as cooking oils or as medicine for certain diseases.

How do you get crude oil?

You can get crude oil by drilling into the ground at certain locations. The most common ones are the United States, Saudi Arabia and China. Crude oil is made out of fossils which have broken down over millions of years.

What are the environmental impacts of crude oil?

One environmental impact of crude oil is the chemicals released when mining and burning the oil. These chemicals include benzene, carbon dioxide (which is a greenhouse gas) and nitrogen oxides. Because crude oil isn’t a renewable resource, it will run out in the next few decades. There are alternatives to crude oil, such as biofuels, although they have problems of their own.

Natural gas

Natural gas has the same chemical makeup as methane. It doesn’t have any odours and is colourless. It can be used for many things, such as:

  • heating buildings
  • making electricity
  • heating water
  • cooking

When burnt, natural gas produces carbon dioxide, water vapour and nitrogen oxides. Like coal and oil, it is a non-renewable resource and will run out one day.

How can you get natural gas?

You can get natural gas by drilling down deep into the ground using a special machine. Once that has happened, material surrounds the hole in order to keep the natural gas in. In order to get the gas, rocks must be broken. There are various chemical solutions that can be used in order to do this, but it can contaminate the surrounding groundwater. The machines used to release the natural gas release a lot of pollution.

What are the environmental impacts of natural gas?

One environmental impact of natural gas is the pollution released by the machines which are used in order to release the gas. Another impact is the chemicals released when natural gas is burnt, which includes carbon dioxide, water vapour and nitrogen oxides.

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