Non-Renewable Energy Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

When you turn on the lights and ride in a car, you're most likely using a non-renewable energy source. Learn about the different types of non-renewable energy, where they come from and whether they are good or bad.

What Is Non-Renewable Energy?

Did you ever watch a sailboat moving through the water? Wind powers sailboats; as long as the wind blows the sailboat goes. We never run out of wind, so wind is a renewable source of energy. There are other forms of energy that can run out; they are referred to as non-renewable energy. Non-renewable energy sources can take millions of years to form, so once they are used, they can't be replaced in a lifetime.

Types of Non-Renewable Energy

There are four main types of non-renewable energy sources, which are oil, natural gas, coal and uranium.


Oil, which is also referred to as crude oil or petroleum, is a liquid that is pumped out of the ground. Crude oil can be purified and turned into gasoline or diesel fuel for vehicles, or heating oil to warm your home. Did you know there's oil in your crayons? Oil is a very useful substance and there are many everyday products made from crude oil, including plastic bags, paint and crayons!

An oil platform can pump oil from under the ocean floor.
oil platform

Natural Gas

Natural gas is a gas that can be pulled out of the ground; it can be used for cooking or heating or be converted to electricity to power your computer.

Coal and Uranium

Coal and uranium are mined from the ground. Coal is a black rock that can be burned to generate electricity. Uranium is a non-renewable element found in certain rocks. It's the energy source used in nuclear power plants to produce electricity.

A nuclear power plant uses non-renewable uranium to produce electricity.
nuclear power plant

Where Does Non-Renewable Energy Come From?

Oil, coal and natural gas are fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are the decomposed remains of plants and animals that were buried underground millions of years ago.

About 300 million years ago, Earth was covered by swampy forests and wetlands. Plants and organisms that lived in these swampy areas were full of energy that they absorbed from the sun. When they died, their remains settled to the wetland floor and got covered by layers of sand, dirt and rock, which trapped their energy. Over time, layers of rock and sediment piled on top of the decaying organisms, creating the heat and pressure needed to turn them into fossil fuels.

It takes millions of years for coal to form.

There is no way to make more uranium, even if we waited for millions of years. Scientists believe this element has been on the planet since the beginning of time, about 4.55 billion years ago!

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