NON-RENEWABLE RESOURCES: what they are and examples - Summary

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We know that nature provides us with innumerable resources, thanks to which vital needs are satisfied or the well-being of living beings is contributed. We have sunlight, water, soil, vegetation, also coal, minerals and a long etcetera; They are all resources that nature gives us, that is, they are natural resources. And what are the non-renewable resources? It is interesting to know first that the classification of natural resources can be done based on different criteria. For example, they can be classified into biotic resources and abiotic resources according to their biological origin or not. Also in energy and non-energy resources depending on whether or not they serve us as an energy source. However, if what interests us most is to know if we and future generations will be able to continue making use of them and how we can manage them, the most functional classification is the one that distinguishes between renewable resources and non-renewable resources.

If you are interested in knowing what are non-renewable resources and examples of these, as well as differentiating them from renewables, in this short article by Ecologist Verde, we explain it to you in a simple way and we give you some examples so that you can learn it easily.

What are non-renewable resources

We start with the definition of non-renewable resources. Non-renewable resources (also called exhaustible resources) are those natural resources that cannot be cultivated, produced, reused or regenerated to a level that can support their rate of consumption. In other words, the consumption of non-renewable resources (used mainly as sources of energy and raw materials) is greater than the time it takes nature to recreate or replace them, or they exist in fixed quantities.

The difference between renewable and non-renewable resources It is therefore that, on the contrary, renewable resources do restore their stocks by natural processes at a speed greater than that of consumption by human beings and, consequently, they are not depleted. We recommend that you also read this other post to expand the information on What are renewable resources and examples.

Examples of non-renewable resources

Let's see, below, some examples of non-renewable resources that illustrate what has been seen so far. As we already said, non-renewable resources are used as energy sources and as raw materials. The most widely used as energy sources are fossil fuels (oil, coal, natural gas) and radioactive elements that produce nuclear energy, which makes them non-renewable energy. As raw materials we have, for example, minerals and limestone. Let's take a closer look at these examples:

  • The oil originated from the massive death of marine plankton. These organisms fell to the bottom and were covered by marine sediments for millions of years and were subjected to conditions of high pressure and temperatures. Thus, organic matter was transformed into hydrocarbons. It is transported by pipelines and tankers, which present a high risk of accidents that can be large (as happened with the Prestige). Among the main uses of oil we could mention liquefied gases, gasoline, kerosene, diesel, fuel, etc. We advise you to read this other article on How oil is formed.
  • Charcoal It was formed by the accumulation of plant remains at the bottom of swamps, lagoons or deltas. It is one of the most abundant fuels, but it is also the most polluting (it emits twice as much CO2 as oil), and is also the main cause of acid rain. The main use is its combustion in thermal power plants. Here you can learn more about how coal is formed.
  • Natural gas it also comes from the fermentation of organic matter accumulated between the sediments. It is transported through gas pipelines and used directly in homes (heating, kitchens, etc.), in industry and in thermal power plants. It pollutes less than other fossil fuels. Here we tell you what natural gas is and what it is for.
  • The nuclear energy It comes from materials of mineral origin that have the property of having unstable nuclei that lose energy. Nuclear energy is seen by some as an ideal energy source to use until the transition to other energy sources occurs, seen by others as the most dangerous and inappropriate method of producing energy. To learn more about this non-renewable resource, we encourage you to read this other article on Advantages and disadvantages of nuclear energy.
  • The minerals they were formed in the same process of formation of the planet. From the era of metals to the present, they have been given infinite uses, transforming them into indispensable resources. Some of the most valued minerals are gold, silver, copper, zinc, etc. Here we explain how mineral extraction affects the environment.
  • Limestone It has its origin in the remains of shells of marine animals subjected to high pressures and temperatures. It can also be formed by dissolving calcium carbonate in water with CO2. There are many other rocks that are used as raw materials.

Overexploitation and depletion of non-renewable resources

The immediate conclusion is that it is inevitable that these non-renewable resources will run out at some point, that their sustained use is not possible over a prolonged period of time. By extracting, for example, fossil fuels from underground deposits, these they are running out. There is no renewal process or it lasts millions of years and this inordinate amount of time, compared to that of human existence, means that we cannot have access to these resources once they are exhausted.

Thus, the most convenient is make the least possible use of non-renewable resources and replace them with those that are, especially with regard to the nonrenewable energy, since, in addition, they bring negative consequences for the environment.

In this sense, the most relevant thing is that the global economy is being decarbonized, in fact, in Spain all the mines have already been closed. There is also an increasing advocate for an energy transition to other renewable energy sources or clean energy (such as hydrogen, wind, solar, hydroelectric or biomass energy). However, there are still difficulties in replacing oil associated with its ease of extraction and the fact that the world economy is still heavily dependent on it. All this despite fluctuations in its price and despite experts saying that, at the current rate of extraction, reserves can run out in half a century.

Finally, comment that some in principle renewable resources can become non-renewable. This is the case of underground aquifers, since overexploitation it generates a series of processes that prevent its renewal. Likewise, forests, biodiversity, river water, clean air, etc., could also exceed their regeneration speed if we make massive use of them. Here we tell you more about the Overexploitation of natural resources, its causes and consequences and in the video below you can also learn more about it.

If you want to read more articles similar to Non-renewable resources: what they are and examples, we recommend that you enter our category of non-renewable energies.

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