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The Origin of the term 'fossil' fuels

  1. Nov 5, 2009 #1
    This is a random question and I'm not scientifically oriented (which is obviously why I'm posting here).

    If the origin of 'fossil' fuels as we know them came from the leftovers of biological species, why is 'fossil' fuel not called 'tree' fuel?

    Sure it sounds stupid, but there have been trees, plants, and vegetation on the earth probably much longer (or equally as long) as most animal/insect lifeforms. Not only that, but generally speaking (and before humanity shat all over the planet) trees and vegetation covered nearly everything. I would imagine there have been A LOT more trees and vegetation that has grown/died throughout the earth's history than any kind of biological life form.

    I'm not questioning the concept of biotic oil origins, I'm merely curious as to why they're called 'fossil' fuels. As for the theory of abiotic oil origins, while I'm skeptical of it, I'd be interested in knowing more about any results found.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 5, 2009 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  4. Nov 5, 2009 #3
    Thanks for the information.

    Hopefully humanity can progress past the age of oil. Is oil convenient and practical today? Absolutely. Is there any reason we shouldn't strive to maximize the use of renewable energy sources? Absolutely not.

    Wishful thinking on my part, it's just a bit bothersome to me of what is done in the interest of oil. But what do I know, I don't even understand the process of oil :P
  5. Nov 15, 2009 #4
    Google abiotic oil. Lot of strange information out there but the Russians claim worthwhile recovery.
  6. Nov 15, 2009 #5
    When there is literally no more oil left to drill on the planet, I wonder what humanity will be inevitably do to choose an alternate energy source.

    Oil company CEO's and executives, are going to milk oil as long as physically possible to greedily line their own pockets with Billions of dollars at the expense of the enviroment and people's health. When oil does eventually run out, there will probably be another world war or something.
  7. Nov 20, 2009 #6


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    You have some very contorted view of economics, Absolute. The reason why corporations extract and refine oil for us is because it is the most efficient way of increasing quality of life. This is something we are willing to give them a lot of money for.
  8. Nov 21, 2009 #7
    I think the name 'fossil fuel' stuck because it was a neat alliteration. Technically it is not fossilised, that is a different process. The two major groups of fossil fuels currently extracted, the one roughly being coal and the other gas and oil [although gas can come from coal], in terms of there sources. Coal tends to be the remains of terrestrial vegitation that did not decompose (parhaps because it lay in anoxic swamps) while coal and gas tend to have come from large sources of biotic matter in water that have come to rest on anoxic sea\ lake beds without fully decomposing and have subsiquently been buried under layers of sedimentary deposits. To become oil and gas they have to eventualy be burried deep into the earth, deep enough for the heating to break down the hydrocarbons into shorter chained ones that become liquids (crude oil).
  9. Nov 21, 2009 #8
    Aboitic oil is utter pseudoscience.

    We know how oil is formed, and rocks don't do it.

    Besides, all unrefined oil carries microscopic evidence of the organisms from which it was formed.
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