Fossil fuels have powered human growth and ingenuity for centuries. Now that we’re reaching the end of cheap and abundant oil and coal supplies, we’re in for an exciting ride. While there’s a real risk that we’ll fall off a cliff, there’s still time to control our transition to a post-carbon future.

300 Years of FOSSIL FUELS in 300 Seconds (5:39) – talks about the history of the use of fossil fuels and the people and their innovations and engineering.

  • three major forms of fossil fuels: coal, oil and natural gas.
  • Oil drilling, 1859 – Fueled the modern economy, established its geopolitics, and changed the climate
  • Oil refining – from mid-19th century – an industrial process where crude oil is processed and refined into more useful petroleum products, such as gasoline, diesel fuel, asphalt base, heating oil, kerosine, and liquefied petroleum gas. Oil refineries are typically large sprawling industrial complexes with extensive piping running throughout, carrying streams of fluids between large chemical processing units.

Other products made from fossil fuels

  • synthetic rubber used to make tires

Replacing fossil fuels

  • Tires from Lettuce (podcast 2:00) – Lettuce produces milky substance that contains key ingredients to make natural rubber. Lettuce produces a tiny amount of very high quality natural rubber like that from the Brazilian rubber tree. The researchers are exploring other plants to make natural rubber.

That’s engineering

  • fossil – any preserved remains or imprint of a living organism embedded in the crust of the earth

Learn more…