What would civilization look like if Earth never had any oil or coal reserves?

I'm not sure if you're serious here, but I'll bite.

You completely missed the point of what the previous commenter said. Your statement is factually incorrect in every particular. There is every barrier to electricity being adopted in the absence of coal.

(As a side note, why the hell is it that everyone gets so bound up in their HWI ideas being possible? I'm forever seeing threads asking 'what if this?' And people replying 'nothing, it's impossible' or 'nothing, it'd have no meaningful impact' and then the OP gets upset and starts arguing that it'd be huge and world-shaking. Wtf?)

Now, let's look at what the previous commenter said, properly:

Creating meaningful amounts of steady electricity required available, reasonably priced, reliably spec' copper and ferromagnetic metals.

Right. That makes sense. You can't have meaningful electricity generation without the proper wiring.

Without widespread metallurgy and machining the specialty components of a generator would have cost more than their weight in gold.

This is the important bit. Of course copper and ferrous metallurgy have been around since antiquity. If you seriously think that's a reasonable response to his argument, I invite you to explain why the Greeks weren't all driving electric cars. There's a distinction between having metallurgy and having the capability to produce huge amounts (ergo, cheap) of reliably spec'd (same uniform sizing etc) copper or ferromagnetic wire. What's that difference? *Machining. By **machines. What drives the machines? Coal.

He even nodded to the hypothetical possibility of what you're suggesting, in a world populated by time travellers. A generator and electricity probably could be produced. But the requisite bits would cost more than their weight in gold.

And this is where we have to remember we're dealing with real people. No one is going to invest a fortune into getting twiddly little wires and things for absolutely no reason—because until you had the twiddly wires and so on, there is no reason; you can't show that something works. As the previous commenter said, no one cared about electricity until the Chicago world fair, where light bulbs were showcased. And light bulbs came along years after Edison got the ability to mess around with generators. If one generator cost (literally) a fortune and took thousands of man hours to produce? Of course it would never happen. Suggesting otherwise is pure foolishness.

So, you can't have electricity without machining. You have no impetus toward machining unless you already have simple machines. You don't have machines unless you've had an Industrial Revolution driven by coal. We'd be perpetually stuck in an Early Industrial Era.

Your post didn't refute a single one of the previous commenter's points.

/r/HistoryWhatIf Thread Parent