Carbon Out, Carbon In
Plants take carbon out of the atmosphere. When those plants are burned – as plants or as fossil fuels – they put the carbon back into the atmosphere.
Why It Matters
- Fossil fuels formed more than 300 million years ago, from plants and animals that lived mainly during the Carboniferous period.
- The organisms were buried by thousands of feet of sediments. The dead plants decomposed into organic materials and formed fossil fuels.
- Underwater organisms long ago that were burried in river or ocean sediments created fossil fuels such as natural gas and oil that we use today.
- The fossil fuels we use were formed hundreds of millions of years ago. We are using up all of those resources in a few hundred years.
With the links below, learn more about fossil fuel formation. Then answer the following questions.
- Earth: The Operators’ Manual, Formation of Fossil Fuels: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8VqWKZIPrM
- U.S. Department of Energy, How Fossil Fuels were Formed: http://www.fossil.energy.gov/education/energylessons/coal/gen_howformed.html
- What were conditions like during the Carboniferous that led to the formation of fossil fuels?
- What three things affect what type of fossil fuel forms?
- Why is some coal dirty with sulfur and some is clean?
- When we burn fossil fuels, where did the carbon come from?