With much emphasis being placed in recent years on energy conservation, pollution and global warming, there is a real need to educate ourselves and our children regarding the vast differences between renewable and non renewable resources. Non renewable resources are those which cannot be recreated quickly enough to replenish energy once it has been used up and are also known to have damaging effects on the delicate balance of the ecosystem.
Two Main Types of Non Renewable Resources
There are really only two main categories under which non renewable resources fall, fossil fuels and uranium (radioactive minerals). However, within the category of fossil fuels energy is produced by burning petroleum products such as oil, coal and natural gas. Uranium is used in nuclear fission to fuel nuclear power plants. None of these sources can be replenished quickly enough to provide fuel for an ever increasing need for power.
Petroleum products are the number one source of fuel at the moment and this group includes such products as oil, gasoline, diesel fuel and propane. Of this group, only oil occurs naturally in a liquefied form as propane is a gas and is liquefied during processing. Further, this group of non renewable resources is held to be responsible for the bulk of damage to the ecology but that only stands to reason as it is the largest group of fuels used for energy and in the production of electricity.
Although coal is not used in concentrations that it was in years past, it is still the most copious fossil fuel that is produced within the United States. Coal is a combustible sedimentary rock that takes literally millions of years to create from decayed plants. It is composed primarily of carbon and hydrocarbons and even though there is currently an adequate supply, there is a limit to this most abundant of non renewable resources.
Most people aren't aware of the fact that natural gas is comprised largely of methane that resulted from decaying plants and animals millions of years ago. Over time the earth built up around this decaying organic matter and trapped the gasses between layers of earth and rock. An interesting fact here is that some of the organic material was changed by heat and pressure into petroleum oil and coal while pockets of natural gas remained trapped within the earth's crust which is where we find it today.
Contrary to what many people believe, uranium that is used in nuclear power plants is not in endless supply. There are limited amounts of the form of uranium that is used in nuclear fission and fusion, U-235. Even though uranium itself is commonly found in rocks everywhere around the globe, U-235 is somewhat rare and must be processed prior to being used to fuel nuclear power plants. Unfortunately, many people believe that nuclear power is a renewable energy source but in reality, nuclear power is fueled with one of earth's non renewable resources.
Even though it is a well known fact that non renewable resources will, one day, be depleted, there doesn't seem to be enough focus on finding alternative, renewable resources. Also, non renewable resources carry with them the potential for devastating effects. The burning of fossil fuels do untold damage to the environment while there is ever growing concern regarding nuclear power, of which current events in Japan have been a key example. It is imperative to drastically reduce consumption of non renewable resources for both these reasons.