Ms. Rox stood at the front of her classroom and announced: "Did you know that "approximately 80 percent of the total amount of energy used globally each year comes from fossil fuels?"

A GIF that shows an oil rig.

Bobby looked up at his teacher and asked "Ms. Rox, what are fossil fuels?"

Ms. Rox looked excitedly at her students. "Great question, Bobby! Today, we are going to learn about the 4 non-renewable sources of energy and discover why they matter!"

Non-renewable Sources of Energy vs. Renewable

Ms. Rox drew a line on the middle of her whiteboard: "What's the difference between non-renewable sources of energy vs. renewable ones?"

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She then explained that energy consists of 2 major sources:

Non-renewable Sources of Energy

  • Fixed amount available

  • "Energy-rich and relatively cheap to process"

An oil rig in motion.

Renewable Sources of Energy

  • Unlimited amount available

  • Includes hydropower, wind, solar, biomass, geothermal

A series of wind turbines on a hill.

4 Main Non-renewable Sources of Energy

Ms. Rox explains to her students that there are 4 main sources of non-renewable energy:

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1. Coal

  • Used to generate energy in power plants and heat homes

  • Dug from the ground

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2. Natural Gas

  • Methane gas source used for home cooking and heating

  • Pumped through underground wells

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3. Oil (Petroleum)

  • Liquid fuel source used to power vehicles

  • Used in plastic production

  • Pumped through underground wells

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4. Nuclear Energy

  • Fuel source produced from radioactive elements in mined ore

Impacts on Environment

Ms. Rox asks her students if she has ever heard of the phrases "global warming" or "climate change".

Flaticon Icon She explains that these 4 non-renewable sources of energy have major impacts on our environment:

  • Burning oil, natural gas, and coal "releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Rising levels of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the main cause of global warming."

  • Pollution (air, water, plastic) & oil spills

  • Rising sea levels & drastic weather changes

  • Health effects, including asthma and premature death

An animation that shows how heat gets trapped in the atmosphere.


With all of this information, Ms. Rox decided to give the class an exit ticket that asks, "After discovering these non-renewable energy sources and their impact on the environment, what are two things that we can do to help combat global warming?"

Take Action

A montage that shows fossil fuels, global warming, solar energy, and climate change.

"Global warming" and "climate change" are well-known phrases that you'll definitely come across again in the future. Here are some additional tips and resources:


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