Assume there was an alternative earth that had biomass like trees or plants, but this earth had little/no coal, natural gas or oil. What would civilization have become had we not had endless trillions of exajoules of energy available to us in easy to access and highly dense concentrations like we have had with fossil fuels?
Would civilization have stopped growing and advancing around the 19th century (when the fossil fuel age started), or would science and technology have continued to advance and found alternative sources of energy to power those advances?
Grid electricity can be had from nuclear, geothermal, water, wind, solar, etc. Cars can be run on batteries, natural gas, biomass, hydrogen, compressed air, etc. But if not for the virtually free energy from fossil fuels I don’t know if we would’ve advanced to the point where we could discover and implement those alternatives on a large scale.
But people were using wind and water power long before the fossil fuel age, so would we have just made incremental advances in areas like those until they could power civilization, and eventually we would’ve ended up with roughly the same standards of living and level of science and technology that we have now anyway? Advances in biomass, wind and solar energy were possible in the 19th century. And there were cars that ran on batteries around 1900.
Plus there’d be far fewer plastics, so no idea how that would’ve affected our development.
I believe we would’ve found different sources of energy to power agriculture, transportation and electricity, but progress would be much slower because of it. So it might have been the 22nd century before we had a lifestyle approaching our current one.