This page was created as part of a term project for Environmental Studies 320 at the University of Michigan in the fall of 1995. The original author of this page is no longer maintaining it, and is not available for questions. Most of the statistics on this page were gleaned from US Department of Energy pamphlets. While the pamphlet titles aren't available, those of you looking for statistics can find lots of good ones at the DOE Information Administration home page. You can also find out lots of good energy information at the Department of Energy page itself.

Fast Facts About Fossil Fuels:
First, the USA
For more information, check out the Department of Energy Home Page.

So what does it all mean?

90% of the energy we use in this country comes from fossil fuels. Aside from the environmental impacts of exploration and extraction of fossil fuels, their use causes such things as smog, acid rain, and contributes to global warming. Furthermore, the world's supply of fossil fuels is not limitless. Coal, oil, and natural gas heat our homes, power our cars, generate electricity, and basically run America's industries. As we begin to rely on these sources more and more, their abundance becomes less and less. Finding new reserves often means exploring and tapping environmentally sensitive areas such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This becomes extremely costly, and some argue, draws attention as well as funds away from finding alternative sources.

What are these alternative sources?

The alternatives are, most notedly, the renewables. Although conservation and nuclear energy are also thought of as fossil fuel substitutes, it is sun power, wind power, and water power that garners support from the environmentally conscious. Hydroelectricity accounts for nearly 4% of the U.S. energy, with solar and wind power making up less then 1%. Wind farms in the United Kingdom have met with some success, and advocates of these options maintain that most renewables are now capable of producing energy at rates which are competative with other sources. Their implementation is quick and relatively easy, and as the technology is used it will be refined to become even more efficient. Best of all, renewable resources produce no air or water pollution. Check out the Alternative Fuels Data Center for more on this.

Sounds great... so what's the problem?

Although very few actually argue against the development of these options, many simply don't believe that the sun, wind, and rain can produce enough energy to meet our needs. The unreliability of the sun and the wind make for these options to be met with highly guarded optimism. Plus, there is the issue of the amount of land needed to make solar or wind power viable. Currently, the technology just isn't advanced enough to make these options viable on a large scale without covering a plot of land the size of some states. Of course hydroelectricity has been around, and been doing well for quite awhile. However, environmentalists are now beginning to notice the effects damming up rivers seems to have on the immediate surroundings. The fish population, as well as plants and wildlife are all impacted when man steps in and alters the natural state. Other questions about alternative fuels in response to the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 can be referred to the A.F.D.C. hot line at

Want more?

Look at the Econet Energy Resources Section

or the Energy and Environment Link

Send an e-mail petition to your congressman

Go to the ES 320 home page

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This page last updated 4/7/98.