Author: Tom Mast
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group, 2005.
The following interview was conducted by: John Walsh & CLICK TO VIEW John Walsh's Reviews
To read John's review of the book CLICK HERE
Tom Mast’s book Over a Barrel is a cogent and lucid look at the world of oil and what will happen when supplies start to run out. I interviewed him by email about his ideas and his
plans for the future. Here is what he had to say.
JW: Your book is largely about the increasing demand for oil, which is a resource of finite supply. What differences do you think this will have on the lives of ordinary people?
TM: The increasing demand and tight supply of oil and the threat of shortages is already affecting the lives of ordinary people. The price of gasoline is up substantially. To the extent that people have not or won't change their driving habits, they are using money for gasoline that formerly was available for other things - clothes, vacations, restaurants, etc. Reduced purchases of these things will be slowing down our economy, reducing available jobs, etc. Higher prices of heating oil this winter due to the price of oil will have similar effects on people who heat with oil.
JW: Do you think it is feasible that nuclear power can replace oil in the future?
TM: I think it is very possible that nuclear power plants could produce vast amounts of energy in the future. This is particularly true if we can harness the power of nuclear fusion. Fusion does have tough technical issues, but who would have ever thought at the time I was born in 1937 that we would have been using nuclear fission to generate 20% of our electrical power? Completely replacing oil with nuclear does have other issues. How do we use nuclear energy in automobiles? Do we generate electricity and run automobiles on batteries? Also, what will replace oil (and natural gas) as the feedstock for the petrochemical industries?
JW: What can ordinary people do to reduce demand for energy and make positive changes in society?
TM: Ordinary people can do a lot to reduce the demand for energy. Regarding transportation, they can drive hybrids, diesel cars, or small efficient cars. They can carpool, use public transportation, work from home, live closer to work, and combine errands into one trip. Regarding their homes, they can set the thermostat back, wear different clothing, plug the leaks around doors and windows, use double pane windows, install more efficient heating, air conditioning, and appliance equipment, close off unused rooms, buy an automatic thermostat, and insulate attics and walls. Most of us know many ways to same energy, but it has been so cheap that we haven't had the motivation to do so.
JW: We used to be told in the 70s that by now we'd all by flying around thanks to personal jet packs. That hasn't happened and it seems more likely that we will need to reduce personal transportation rather than increase it. How do you see personal mobility changing in the future?
TM: I can't imagine people flying around in individual jet packs. First, they are quite inefficient, using a lot of energy just to fight gravity and keep someone aloft, let along move him from one place to another. Second, it is hard to imagine how we would keep from killing one another.
One often hears that mass transit is the answer to efficient ground transportation. Unfortunately, we have built the vast majority of this country around the personal automobile. We just can't afford to scrap all the towns, homes, schools, and businesses that aren't in a high-rise city. We must come up with an alternative form of energy to power personal vehicles. Admittedly, these vehicles could be very different from what we have now. They could be much smaller and more efficient. Yesterday, I was sitting in heavy traffic at a stop light and watching the endless stream of cars and light trucks pass in front of me, carrying people to work. About 95% of the vehicles only held one person, and the average weight was something near 5,000 pounds. We can do better!
JW: What are you working on now?
TM: I have been musing some ideas for another book, but am still far from a decision. It has to be something about which I am passionate and think I can make a difference.
JW: Thanks Tom, I look forward to hearing about whatever you decide to do next.