Natural Resources on Earth: Nonrenewable

Contributor: Samantha Penna. Lesson ID: 11983

Have you ever run out of milk or soap or something else you use every day? Annoying, isn't it? What if we ran out of electricity? That would be tragic! Learn about energy sources that could run out!


Earth Science

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Why do we put gas in our cars and fuel in trains and airplanes? Where does that fuel come from? What if it runs out?

In the previous of the Related Lessons in the two-part Natural Resources on Earth series, found in the right-hand sidebar, you learned about renewable resources that are used to create energy.

Energy is a source of power, like electricity or heat. In this lesson, you will learn about nonrenewable resources.

Nonrenewable resources are natural resources that can be found on Earth. These natural resources cannot be replaced once they are used up. Natural resources come from the Earth, and manmade resources are created by people. This means once they are gone, they are gone forever!

Some of these nonrenewable resources are harmful to the environment. Many of these resources pollute the air, land, and water, and contribute to habitat destruction. You will learn about different types of nonrenewable resources and how they impact the environment.

oil field

Nonrenewable energy can come from fossil fuels. Coal, natural gas, crude oil, propane, and uranium are all fossil fuels that are used in different ways around the world. These fossil fuels can be found deep within the Earth. Most fossil fuels come from decaying plants and animals.

Drills are used to retrieve fossil fuels like crude oil and natural gas from beneath the ground. Some drills can even be used to find fossil fuels that are beneath the ocean floor!

Fossil fuels can be dangerous. They pollute the air, land, and water. If there is an oil spill in the ocean, it affects all the life in the ocean and kills off many plants and animals. When fossil fuels are burned, this pollutes the air and has a harmful effect on the ozone layer, the layer of the atmosphere that surrounds and protects the Earth.

oil spill

Coal can be mined and used to generate electricity and create steel and cement, and can be converted into a liquid fuel. Just like all the other fossil fuels, it is dangerous for the environment. Pollution from burning coal causes acid rain, creates hazardous waste, and pollutes the land and air. Acid rain is rain that is acidic and causes harm to forests and bodies of water.


Nuclear fuel is created by mined minerals that are radioactive. Radioactive materials are made up of tiny atoms that are unstable and give off radiation. When these radioactive minerals are joined together, they can be used to create electricity.

Like most nonrenewable resources, nuclear fuel is dangerous for the environment. When nuclear power is used, tons of radioactive waste are created from the process of creating nuclear fuel. On top of this, mining nuclear fuel harms the land and pollutes the air. To make things even worse, if a nuclear plant has a meltdown, radioactive steam enters the air, fires can occur, and anywhere where the nuclear meltdown happened is rendered unusable.

For example, Chernobyl in Russia had a nuclear meltdown, and now no one can live in this area safely. The radioactive materials enter the air, water, and the soil, and are unsafe for people to be around. Below, you can see pictures of Chernobyl. All the buildings you see have been abandoned. The good news is, many nuclear plants have specific safety regulations, and the chances of a nuclear meltdown are slim.



In this section, you learned about several types of nonrenewable resources. Tell your parent or teacher what the word "nonrenewable" means, and two examples of nonrenewable resources, then move on to the Got It? section.

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