'Fossil fuels' do not exist
Despite the commonality of "fossil" being used in conjunction with "fuel," fossil fuels do not exist. Fossils have no energy to transfer, which means they cannot be used as a source of fuel.
In order to understand why it is impossible for fossils to be used for fuel, it is important to understand what fossils are.
From Discovering Fossils:
The modern use of the word 'fossil' refers to the physical evidence of former life from a period of time prior to recorded human history. This prehistoric evidence includes the fossilised [sic] remains of living organisms, impressions and moulds [sic] of their physical form, and marks/traces created in the sediment by their activities. There is no universally agreed age at which the evidence can be termed fossilised [sic], however it's broadly understood to encompass anything more than a few thousand years. Such a definition includes our prehistoric human ancestry and the ice age fauna (e.g. mammoths) as well as more ancient fossil groups such as the dinosaurs, ammonites and trilobites.
Fossils are, in essence, lifeless rocks with no stored energy of any kind.
A fundamental law of physics is that energy cannot be created or destroyed. It must be transferred from an already existing force — which cannot possibly be inanimate rocks. For fuel to be taken from fossils requires the discarding of a law that cannot be violated.
As longtime (and now retired) writer for Plastics Today, Claire Goldsberry, reported:
The term "fossil fuel" is really a misnomer that caught on and is still being used. For example, I received a notice for the Global Plastics Summit (June 4 to 6 in Houston, TX) sponsored by IHS Markit and the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS). One of the featured speakers is Steve Winberg, Assistant Secretary, Fossil Energy for the U.S. Department of Energy. The title of his presentation is, Fossil Energy Innovation and Opportunities. Winberg might be surprised that fossils have nothing to do with energy!
The term "fossil fuel" originated around 1759 with the brilliant chemist, Caspar Neumann, in The Chemical Works of Caspar Neumann. (Some of his work can be found at Earth Archives.)
A lot has been learned about petroleum and other sources of energy since 1759, but his term remains in use. With a better understanding, though, the phrase should have been changed to reflect the science.
Science is adaptable. As new information is gained, old theories are removed, and new words are brought in to describe what is discovered. "Static" was replaced by "Big Bang" for exactly that reason.
There are two reasons scientific theories and hypotheses are not adaptable as science demands. The first is that things can become dogmatic, like speciation. The second is due to scientific laziness, which is why the term "fossil fuels" is still in use.
Laziness and comfort do not make for good science, any more than dogmatic beliefs. The various forms of energy that fall under the category of "fossil fuels" that have nothing to do with fossils should not be called fossil fuels. Laziness serves as no excuse in science.
Energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be transferred. That is a fundamental law of physics, one that cannot be suspended in favor of a preference for old wording that has not fit in a very long time.
Fossils contain no energy. There is nothing to transfer any form of energy into some other form of energy. The laws of physics may not be jettisoned out of laziness.
It is scientifically impossible for fossil fuels to exist.
Bob Ryan is a writer who has an MBA and is a science fiction writer and mostly historical blogger. He has been a weekly blogger at the Times of Israel since 2019. He is an American Christian Zionist who staunchly supports Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.