What Are Nonrenewable Resources?

Nonrenewable resources include coal, petroleum, natural gas and nuclear energy. Coal, as of 2015, is the most abundant nonrenewable resource, and coal mining creates problems, such as threatening worker safety, disrupting human and animal habitats, and increasing pollution.

Petroleum, also called oil, comes from the remains of ancient animals and plants. Like all nonrenewable resources, once tapped, oil sources are irreplaceable. Gasoline, jet fuel and plastics are substances that use oil. Oil mining leads to environmental issues, such as smog, habitat disruption and greenhouse gases. Natural gas finds use in heating homes and in vehicles, but its extraction leads to problems similar to those that coal and oil mining cause. Uranium, which is mined, is necessary to produce nuclear energy. Nuclear energy produces radioactive waste, which has effects on human and animal populations for thousands of years. Leaks and nuclear accidents can have devastating effects all over the planet.

Examples of renewable resources include solar energy, wind and water. The sun drives solar energy, which provides heating and electricity, among other uses. Wind turbines use wind energy to create electricity, but wind energy has been used for hundreds of years in windmills and ships. Hydropower uses water for mechanical processes and for turbines and generators that create electricity.