General Question

LostInParadise's avatar

Why don't coal and oil naturally decay?

Asked by LostInParadise (25477points) November 19th, 2008

They are made of organic material with high energy content. Although it is being done at too high a rate, the argument could be made that burning fossil fuels returns carbon to the natural world which otherwise would be permanently lost to it.

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12 Answers

EnzoX24's avatar

I’m pretty sure they don’t decay because they are the by-products of already decayed materials. It’s be like your shit taking a shit.

GREEN40's avatar

probably because they are fossilised.dont forget they are both fossil fuels.

asmonet's avatar

Yeah… that’s pretty far down towards the end of the road for them. We use them far faster than they can change. :/

Harp's avatar

There are microbes that metabolize hydrocarbons, but they usually require some oxygen to do so, and O2 is in short supply where most fossil fuels are deposited.

melly6708's avatar

i agree with what everyone else has said.. they are already decayed pretty much thats as far as they can decay.

azul's avatar

“the argument could be made that burning fossil fuels returns carbon to the natural world which otherwise would be permanently lost to it”

That’s why corn as biofuel is considered valuable – it simply releases the carbon it takes in. (However, the process to make it currently uses almost as much or even as much fossil fuel energy (also producing emissions) as it makes corn-fuel energy. Oops.) Fossil fuels are different – it’s not going to help anybody to shove all the carbon from the Earth’s history of life back into the atmosphere.

I would also like to point out that the natural world exists past the Earth’s crust, all the way down to the core.

LostInParadise's avatar

I am not sure what it means to say that the fuels are fossilized. It does not take much to get them to burn. In western Pennsylvania there are coal mines that have been on fire for quite some time. Maybe, as some have said, the problem is with the locations where the coal and oil are deposited. I contend that it is a deficiency of nature to have so much high energy material that it is unable to use.

EnzoX24's avatar

Fuels being fossilized has nothing to do with them burning. In fact, they aren’t really fossilized at all. The term fossil fuels comes from the fact they are produced from the decomposed materials of dead animals. In essence, fuels are fossils, because it is the remains of once living organisms.

As for the rest of your comment, I have no idea what the hell you are talking about.

chicadelplaya's avatar

Good question.

xxporkxsodaxx's avatar

Don’t just say good question, actually push the lurve link so he can be rewarded.

chicadelplaya's avatar

@pork- okay, so where’s your answer?

mea05key's avatar

They are the by product from the decay process that took place million million years ago inside the seabed

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