Is carbon in fossil fuels organic or inorganic?

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While carbon can exist in many organic forms, when it is part of a fossil fuel, it is inorganic. This may seem confusing because most carbon-based compounds that we are familiar with are considered organic. Indeed, fossil fuels are derived from compounds that were once organic since they are derived...

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While carbon can exist in many organic forms, when it is part of a fossil fuel, it is inorganic. This may seem confusing because most carbon-based compounds that we are familiar with are considered organic. Indeed, fossil fuels are derived from compounds that were once organic since they are derived from once-living matter. However, in their state as fossil fuels, they have lost the characteristics that define them as organic.

Organic matter is able to easily form strong bonds with oxygen. This is largely what causes organic matter to decay. However, the molecular structure of fossil fuels forms weak bonds with oxygen, if it forms any at all.

Furthermore, organic compounds are defined by the presence of molecular and atomic structures associated with living things. This includes nucleic acids, proteins, fatty acids, and enzymes. These are all essential parts of living organisms. Once organic material has been converted into fossil fuels, it has lost these features.

When the carbon in fossil fuels is released, usually through combustion, it will often end up in the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide. This gas is inorganic. However, it is important for the respiration of plants. If it enters a plant, carbon atoms from fossil fuels will once again become part of an organic structure.

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