Why Fossil Fuels Are Still Important (& What We Use Them For)

There may be significant attention drawn to the potential drawbacks of fossil fuels

However, what might not be emphasised as strongly is how much we still rely on fossil fuels across society, and the potential benefits they might provide

Below, we list some of the main reasons fossil fuels are still important across society, and what some of the main uses for them might be


Summary – Why Fossil Fuels Are Still Important, & What We Use Them For

Why Fossil Fuels Are Still Important

Fossil fuels might be important for:

– The number of uses they have across society

Not only are fossil fuels used across essentially every industry and sector, but, they are also used in the production of thousands of everyday products and items we use


An interesting stat from iagc.org about the prevalence of fossil fuels being used in everyday life is:

‘Fossil fuels are found in 96% of the items we use each day’


– The types of uses they have across society

The types of uses for fossil fuel might be critical to our economies and the functioning of society

There’s also economic and social benefits that flow on from this, such as employment, income, improved quality of life, and so on


The potential benefits some fossil fuels may still have compared to some renewables energy sources


What We Use Fossil Fuels For

Different fossil fuels have different uses

A few of the key shared uses of the different fossil fuels are for energy in the form of electricity generation, and also as a vehicle fuel

But, these are not the only uses

We list the different uses for each of the main fossil fuels below


Importance Of Fossil Fuels, & Uses For Fossil Fuels

Above, we identified that the importance of fossil fuels relates to the number of things that fossil fuels are used for across society, and also how critical those things are to the functioning of society (and the benefits those things provide us with).

Some of the general uses for fossil fuels across society are:

– Primary energy 

Fossil fuels still provide most of the world’s primary energy, and, the % share of total energy provided by fossil fuels worldwide may not have changed much in the last few decades i.e. other energy sources like renewables and nuclear haven’t increased their % share by any significant amount


– For electricity generation

Many major countries in the world still use fossil fuels as major energy sources in their energy mix

Even cities that have renewable energy as a part of their power grid might have fossil fuels as a backup or complementary energy source in their electricity mix.


– In industry 

Coking coal is used for steel production, and steel obviously has many key uses across society

worldcoal.org mentions that ‘Over 71% of the steel produced today uses coal … in the steel making process’

Coal is also used in cement manufacturing.

Thousands of materials and products are also derived from fossil fuels, where it can be used as a feedstock

As one example, petroleum and natural gas have an important role as a feedstock for plastic 

In the US specifically, plastic uses natural gas as a feedstock in production.

Plastic is used for many key uses across society, to the point we may not be able to live without it in the short to medium term

As plastic production grows in the future, fossil fuels may only become more important as a feedstock for this increased production


wwf.org.au mentions this about petroleum use in plastic:

Currently, 4% of the world’s annual petroleum production is diverted to making plastic, and another 4% gets burned in the refining process 


thegef.org also outlines the importance of natural gas and oil in producing plastic:

Conventional plastic production is highly dependent on virgin fossil feedstocks (mainly natural gas and oil) … [to the point that …] Plastics production [currently] consumes up to 6% of global oil production …


thegef.org mentions this about the projected future of plastic production:

Plastics production … is projected to [consume up to 20% of global oil production] by 2050 if current consumption patterns persist


weforum.org makes similar comments about how oil could play in the future of plastic production:

[Plastic production] is expected to triple by 2050, when it would account for 20% of global annual oil consumption 


– For heating

Fossil fuels are used for heating (such as space heating, water heating, and so on) across the industrial, commercial and residential sectors

As one example, we might still primarily use oil and natural gas boilers in buildings for heating (and even electric heating might primarily use a fossil fuel source).


– As a fuel for transport

Petroleum based fuels are still the predominant fuel sources in the transport sector (with gasoline being the major one)


– For refrigeration and cooling


– For 1000’s of different products

A partial list of 6000 items that use petroleum can be found at whgbetc.com


iagc.org also lists items that use fossil fuels across cosmetics and personal care, the automotive industry, and home


What We Use Coal For

One of the primary uses for coal is for electricity generation

We outline the range of other uses for coal in this guide


What We Use Oil For

One of the primary uses for oil is for petroleum based fuels for transport and the propulsion of vehicles (like cars, trucks, planes, ships, and so on)

We outline the range of other uses for oil in this guide


What We Use Natural Gas For

Two of the primary uses for natural gas are electricity generation, and also for industrial use

We outline the range of other uses for natural gas in this guide


Potential Benefits & Drawbacks Of Fossil Fuels

We’ve put together separate guides outlining the potential pros and cons of fossil fuels in general, and also the individual fossil fuels:

Fossil Fuels (In General)

Pros & Cons Of Fossil Fuels



Pros and Cons Of Coal Energy

Pros and Cons Of Clean Coal Technology



Pros and Cons Of Oil Energy


Natural Gas

Pros and Cons Of Natural Gas Energy





1. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/pros-cons-of-fossil-fuel-energy-now-into-the-future/

2. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/energy-sources-energy-mix-by-country-where-major-countries-in-the-world-get-their-energy-from/

3. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/can-renewable-energy-replace-fossil-fuels-meet-demand-power-the-world-moving-towards-100-renewable-energy/

4. https://www.wwf.org.au/news/blogs/plastic-waste-and-climate-change-whats-the-connection#gs.3b2972

5. http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_The_New_Plastics_Economy.pdf

6. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/potentially-harmful-effects-of-plastic-on-the-environment-wildlife-humans-health-the-economy/

7. https://www.worldcoal.org/coal/uses-coal/how-steel-produced

8. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/the-pros-cons-of-plastic/

9. https://whgbetc.com/petro-products.pdf

10. https://www.iagc.org/importance-of-fossil-fuels.html

11. https://www.thegef.org/sites/default/files/council-meeting-documents/EN_GEF.STAP_.C.54.Inf_.05_Plastics.pdf

12. https://www.worldcoal.org/coal/uses-coal


' ); } ?>

Leave a Comment