Fossil fuels include natural gas and coal, as well as the more familiar fuels refined from crude oil including gasoline, diesel, and fuel oils. The burning, or combustion, of fossil fuels is a major source of pollutants which contribute to smog, acid rain, climate change, and other health, environmental and economic concerns.
Pollutants that come from the combustion of fossil fuels include sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), ground-level ozone, particulate matter (PM), carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), volatile organic compounds (VOC) including benzene, some heavy metals and a number of other pollutants. These pollutants are a result of the use of air, which is composed of nitrogen (78%) and oxygen (21%), in the combustion process, as well as the presence of complex hydrocarbons, additives, and impurities such as sulphur within the fuel. Many more pollutants are released when engines are not tuned or working properly.
Efforts to Reduce Air Pollution from Fuels
Canadian governments and industry are working together and with other nations to ensure that cleaner vehicles and fuels are available. Regulations play an important role in ensuring Canadians have clean fuels. For more information on energy and transportation regulations, click here.
Additional information on fuels issues can be found in fuels reports by Environment Canada.
Other technological advances include the development of cleaner fuels, improved engine design, and being able to capitalize on new and renewable energy sources. The attraction of all these new technologies is a reduction in the amount of pollutants being produced and a freedom from limited resources supplies.
There are so many actions that we can do to reduce pollution coming from the combustion of fuels. Making sure that our vehicles are well-tuned and running properly, purchasing hybrid vehicles and alternative fuels, and supporting our governments and industry in their development of clean air regulations. Most importantly, we can help by using less fuel and energy, riding our bikes, carpooling, taking public transit, or just walking.
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