Fossil fuels are hydrocarbons, primarily coal, fuel oil or natural gas, formed from the remains of dead plants and animals.
In common dialogue, the term fossil fuel also includes hydrocarbon-containing natural resources that are not derived from animal or plant sources.
These are sometimes known instead as mineral fuels.
The utilization of fossil fuels has enabled large-scale industrial development and largely supplanted water-driven mills, as well as the combustion of wood or peat for heat.
Fossil fuel is a general term for 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.
The burning of fossil fuels by humans is the largest source of emissions of carbon dioxide, which is one of the greenhouse gases that allows radiative forcing and contributes to global warming.
A small portion of hydrocarbon-based fuels are biofuels derived from atmospheric carbon dioxide, and thus do not increase the net amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.