Coal, oil and natural gas are three main types of fossil fuels. Fossils fuels are combustible materials that are formed over millions of years by the decomposition of plant and animal life.
Oil is extracted from the ground as crude oil and refined into products like gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. Though the use of oil has been essential to human technological, economic and social development, there are many problems associated with this fossil fuel. Drilling for oil destroys natural habitats, and the refining process is energy intensive and uses toxic chemicals. Burning oil emits carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere, and the transport of oil can lead to oil spills.
Coal is generally extracted through mining, and its use has historically been a factor in raising standards of living around the world through providing jobs and electricity. However, mining for coal is detrimental to human health, and when unregulated, it can be a dangerous and deadly job. Burning coal releases carbon dioxide and is known to cause ozone pollution and acid rain.
Natural gas is a mixture of methane and other hydrocarbons. It is used for heating and to make a variety of products, including paints, plastics, glass and paper. It also produces carbon dioxide when burned but has a lower carbon output compared to coal and oil. Natural gas extraction can be very damaging to the environment.