<< Back to Lessons Index

6th Grade Science / Lesson 5 - Fossil Fuels #2

Fossil Fuels 2
What will we be learning today?

  • In this lesson, we are going to learn why fossil fuels are called fossil fuels.

  • Why Are Fossil Fuels Called Fossil Fuels?

      The scene is a swamp far back in Earth's history. Scientists believe that the plants in such swamps became buried as they died. Over time the plants' remains were covered by sand or other mineral matter. Eventually heat and pressure converted the plant remains into a mineral called coal.

    Bituminous, or "soft," coal

    In a similar manner, the remains of tiny ocean-dwelling plants and animals became buried under mud and sand on the ocean bottom millions of years ago. As time passed, the organisms' remains were squeezed by the weight of the mineral layers over them into a thick liquid called crude oil. In many cases part of the remains was also changed into a gas called natural gas.
    This well pumps crude oil out of the ground. The oil is thick, like syrup.

    Coal, oil, and natural gas all give off large amounts of heat when burned, so they are very good fuels. Because these materials all formed from ancient plants and animals, we call them fossil fuels. Fossils are the remains of ancient plants and animals.

    Because fossil fuels take millions of years to form, they are examples of nonrenewable resources. Nonrenewable means that once we use the resources, we can't get them back.