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Fossil fuels, deriving their name from the ancient remains of organic matter from which they are formed, represent the major energy source in the world today. A nonrenewable resource, fossil fuels exist in finite amounts in the earth's crust. The most widely extracted and economically viable fossil fuels are coal, petroleum (crude oil), and natural gas. All fossil fuels began as living plants and cellular animals; petroleum as microscopic plants and bacteria, natural gas as plankton and algae, and coal as more dense and fibrous trees and ferns. When these living organisms died, they settled to the bottom of the seas (in the case of oil and natural gas) and swamps (in the case of coal). Over many millions of years, layers of sedimentary ...

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