Hydrocarbons

In This Section:
How Do Cars Work
Hydrocarbons
The Global Environmental Crisis

What are hydrocarbons?


Hydrocarbons are organic compounds that only have carbon and hydrogen molecules. Examples of some well-known hydrocarbons are methane, propane and butane, to name just a few—which we also call fossil fuels. And it just so happens that they store a lot of energy, so when you burn them, they produce a lot too.

Therefore, in grossly oversimplified terms, we drill into the ground and find an oil well, extract these fuels, process and refine them, then send them through the appropriate infrastructure (utility, gasoline, natural gas, etc), where, in the case of cars, they emerge from pumps at gas stations.


What exactly are fossil fuels?


The US Environmental Protection Agency defines fossil fuels as “buried combustible geologic deposits of organic materials, formed from decayed plants and animals that have been converted to crude oil, coal, natural gas, or heavy oils by exposure to heat and pressure in the earth's crust over hundreds of millions of years,” a definition which succinctly brings us to the current environmental crisis involving gasoline cars.

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