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‘Sustainability Issues’

Meridian Consulting Group announces they have become a B Corp

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Meridian Consulting Group wishes to announce they recently converted to B Corp status. We are committed to the principles of positive change that underlie this pioneering direction in corporate life and personal life.

B Corporations are a new type of corporation which uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.  B Corporations are unlike traditional responsible businesses because they:

  • Meet comprehensive and transparent social and environmental performance standards.
  • Institutionalize stakeholder interests.
  • Build collective voice through the power of a unifying brand.

For more information on B corporations see the annual report released October 1st, 2009.


Meridian is a highly dynamic specialized insurance consulting group and broker  with offices in Boston, MA, Newport, RI and Brookfield, CT.  We are a hard-driving group with an entrepreneurial spirit who will work tirelessly for clients. Our Mission is simple.  We seek to help our clients make the best risk and risk transfer decisions possible.
We bring market-leading service to the most creative solutions in the risk management field to ensure that each Meridian client achieves their risk objectives.

Feedback on Slow Money Alliance National Gathering

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Just wanted to share some of the momentum that continues to build after the event.

A few terrific press hits from last week:

Some of the things we’ve heard from all of you:

“For an event focused on the ground, the Slow Money Conference was surprisingly uplifting. The room was filled with positive energy and the sense that something important was going on. Woody’s idea of tackling the funding of sustainable agriculture directly and creatively couldn’t be more timely. Slow Money could kick sustainable agriculture to the next level…which for the sake of the soil and earth can’t happen fast enough. I don’t see how venture capitalists can resist. I think people are going to look back on Santa Fe as a turning point for sustainable agriculture. I’m glad I was there to be a part of it.”
- Mardi Mellon, Union of Concerned Scientists, Washington, DC

“I’ve been involved with a lot of movements over the last 40 years and this one has a real chance to make a difference. I can’t tell you how excited I am to be part of it.”
- Michael Kanter, Cambridge Naturals, Cambridge, MA

“A refreshing attitude towards meeting real investment needs”
- Wayne Silby, Calvert Funds, Bethesda, MD

“Excellent event. Honored to be a part of this co-creative process of a new paradigm in supporting local food systems. I kept meeting amazing people to interact with around subjects that I hold dear.  From Soil that grows our Food, to Food that sustains our Lives, to Money that is our society’s currency connection for the interplay of these natural resources. I was grateful to be included in the inaugural event.  I think what struck me most was the diversity and quality of attendees that arrived intent on being part of the process to ‘co-create a new paradigm’ .. around local food systems and authenticity empowering money. The agenda was perfect for telling the story and setting the stage for the next evolutionary leap forward in our relationship with Food and Money.  I got tears in my eyes coming home and explaining it to people. I truly appreciate you ‘holding  the space” and facilitating  the process. It was so good meeting others around the country with similar mindsets. I’m ready to help in the Pacific Northwest.”
- Jim Baird, Baird Orchards, Royal City, WA

“I think I’ve been waiting for Slow Money my entire life. The message instantly resonated with me and I felt grateful that someone had put a voice to things I had been feeling for years. Woody Tasch is a hero for our times.”
– Kathleen Slattery-Moschkau, The Kathleen Show, Madison, WI

“After attending the Santa Fe event, there is no doubt in my mind that Slow Money will play a significant role in creating a more sustainable, conscious and compassionate world.  It is a privilege to participate in this necessary shift and I encourage all those who are interested in making a vital contribution to the world to support Slow Money in any way they can.”
– Janie Hoffman, Bonsall, CA

“I returned filled with hope, inspiration and beautiful connections from the Slow Money Alliance National Gathering. My most profound gratitude to Woody Tasch and all the participants for providing the opening to engage the most critical life affirming conversation that is Slow Money and to explore greater possibilities for our future. The abundance of consciousness, knowledge and intelligence present in Santa Fe was absolutely amazing, encouraging, inspiring and simply beautiful.”
- Cecile Desire, Khroma Yoga, Boulder, CO

“The gathering was life changing. Welcome to a revolution.”
- Paul Tryba, THE FARM, Long Beach, CA

“Thanks and congratulations. I thought what you pulled together was amazing and was so pleased to be there.”
- Joan Briggs, Betsy and Jesse Fink Foundation, Norwalk, CT

“The cultural shift made possible by the work of Slow Money is critical to the success of efforts to change the system to support small and midsized farms.”
- Dorothy Suput, The Carrot Project, Somerville, MA

“I came to the Slow Money Alliance Gathering in Santa Fe full of hope that finally we could develop a working model of sustainable investing on a local and national level that would start to redirect the billions of dollars of invested funds that erode communities all over the USA and that we could finally start to build and nurture the soils of local communities that would enrich us all into the future. I left knowing that first steps have been made to fulfill this dream.”
- Wesley Roe, Permaculture Credit Union, Santa Barbara, CA

“The recent Slow Money conference in Santa Fe was the inauguration of a national movement of unprecedented magnitude, sending exactly the right message at the right time – creation of a sustainable world through the relocalization of economies, food and energy.”
- Chip Comins, American Renewable Energy Day, Aspen, CO

“The Slow Money conference was great!  I met people there interested in helping me by doing the most simple and pro-active thing a consumer can do to help a CSA farmer; Buy a share in my farm!”
- Melinda Bateman, Morning Star Farm, Taos, NM

Slow Money is the only real hope that sustainable agriculture has today. The importance of what Slow Money is doing will hopefully help save this planet. I know that sounds a bit over the top, but if we can’t finance small farm enterprises across the globe our food system will collapse and bring down with it our entire environment. I hope to play a role in helping change this both on my own farm and by participating in Slow Money‘s efforts regionally and nationally.”

- Dante Hesse, Milk Thistle Farm,  Ghent, NY

Stay tuned for more updates.

Meridian is a highly dynamic specialized insurance consulting group and broker  with offices in Boston, MA, Newport, RI and Brookfield, CT. We promote sustainable practices and are members of the Sustainable Business Network and Slow Money Alliance. Our Mission is simple.  We seek to help our clients make the best risk and risk transfer decisions possible.
We bring market-leading service to the most creative solutions in the risk management field to ensure that each Meridian client achieves their risk objectives.

Forget Conventional 401(k)s; Think Goat Cheese and Fennel

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

The national convention of Slow Money Alliance last week drew 400 people to Santa Fe and caught the attention of the Wall Street Journal Sept 16th.

An excerpt notes “If all goes well, investors will see a modest 3% profit, maybe 6% over many years. But Mr. Tasch  the founder, has a broader balance sheet in mind. The real dividend, he says, is diversity: In an era of industrial agriculture, where millions of acres are planted with the same variety of corn and millions of pigs are bred to be genetically similar, small local farms are the ultimate hedge fund. They preserve heirloom seeds and quirky breeds; strengthen the soil with organic nutrients; create local markets that connect producer directly to consumer.”

For the full article see this link http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125305092106313571.html

We think it is a start and while it is not clear exactly where the alliance will go it is one to watch and to roll up sleeves and get involved if so inclined.

Meridian is a highly dynamic specialized insurance consulting group and broker  with offices in Boston, MA, Newport, RI and Brookfield, CT. We promote sustainable practices and are members of the Sustainable Business Network and Slow Money Alliance. Our Mission is simple.  We seek to help our clients make the best risk and risk transfer decisions possible.
We bring market-leading service to the most creative solutions in the risk management field to ensure that each Meridian client achieves their risk objectives.

Investors Circle Fall Conference 2009

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

2009 Fall Conference & Venture Fair

by Kelsi Boyle last modified 2009-09-15 18:41

November 15-17, 2009 | Washington D.C. | The Willard

Investors’ Circle (www.investorscircle.net)  is the premier meeting place for social entrepreneurs, investors, business professionals, foundations, non-profits, and those passionate about creating a sustainable economy.

Investors’ Circle has been identifying pioneers of the mission-based sector for close to 20 years. Are you ready to join the movement?


Link to online registration here.

Conference Rates

Rates can be found here.

Conference Schedule

To view the conference schedule click here.

Interested in Sponsoring Fall 2009?

View our Sponsorship Presentation or email Deb Parsons for more information.


Slow Money Alliance

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Slow Money is a concept focused on healing the bifurcation of finance and social purpose.  This article is meant to give you more of a feel for this process which, while it grew out of businesses involved in “local” food system proliferation is having an impact on business in general as new organization forms develop which meld non-profit and for-profit business.  We hope you find this article, an interview with the chairman and president, Woody Tasch, to be of help.  Please call us with your questions.

Tad Brundage is President of Meridian Consulting Group, a boutique firm whose experience crosses the global breadth of the energy business including alternative energy,  and whose passion is to help sustainable businesses grow by managing and transferring risks. To find out more about Slow Money: www.slowmoneyalliance.org.

Putting the Brakes on Fast Money

An Interview with Woody Tasch

by Carl Frankel and illustrations by Jason Cring, April 27, 2009

Woody Tasch is all about the money.

But not in an evil, greedy-bastid way. For two decades, he’s been pioneering the integration of financial investing with social responsibility. It’s an enormously important undertaking. When investment dollars go to conventional businesses—and the great bulk of funding still does—orthodox business practices are endorsed and sustained. The result: more social injustice and environment decline. When dollars stay local, on the other hand, environmental costs are reduced because there are lower shipping costs, jobs are created that aren’t subjected to the vagaries of global corporate decision-making, and the money circulates in the community, making for a much more robust local economy.

In the 1990s Tasch served as treasurer of the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation and was the founding chairman of the Community Development Venture Capital Alliance. Subsequently he was chairman of Investors’ Circle, a network of angel investors, family offices, and social-purpose funds and foundations that since 1992 has invested $133 million in sustainability-promoting ventures and venture funds.

Tasch’s latest venture is the Slow Money Alliance, which aims to bring investment dollars to the emerging alternative culture centered around “slow food,” a growing global movement that celebrates community life through locally grown food and eco-gastronomy. The Slow Money Alliance’s mission, offered here in an abbreviated form, is to “support small food enterprises, catalyze increases in foundation grantmaking and mission-related investing in support of sustainable and local economies, and incubate next-generation socially responsible investment strategies.”
In addition to being a leading expert on socially responsible investing, Tasch is an integral thinker with a poetic sensibility. These qualities are on vivid display in his recent book, Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered, which combines an indictment of our mainstream money culture with a passionate call for a slower, more humanistic approach to investing.

For Tasch, slow food and slow money go together like, well, grass-fed beef and a fine microbrew. I caught up with him before a talk he gave at Time and Space Limited in Hudson on April 24 on Slow Money/Slow Food.

What’s the essence of your vision?
We live in a culture that’s all about speed, quantity, and growth. It’s a culture that’s profoundly out of balance. We need to slow down, focus more on quality, and reject growth for growth’s sake as the sole benchmark of business success.

Over the years, the socially responsible investing movement has taken a step in this direction. “Patient capital” is the term that’s emerged to describe investors who don’t require companies to maximize returns as quickly as possible. But there’s a tension here. Socially responsible investing is under constant pressure to get more adherents—in other words,to become more mainstream—and this comes with a price. Its core values get diluted.

We need to build a culture that stands as a radiant counterpoint to our dominant hurry-up culture. We need to bring our culture down to earth—and I mean this literally. We need to replenish the soil; we need to remember our connection to the soil; we need to support our local food system; we need to participate in and celebrate the authentic local culture that emerges from these many connections and awarenesses; and we also need to build the financial infrastructure that will enable all this to thrive.

At a founding retreat of the Slow Money Alliance, Peter Kinder, one of the pioneers of the socially responsible investing movement, used the term “deracinated.” It’s a great word that means cut off from our roots. Slow food and slow money are concepts that, together, help us find our roots again.

“Slow money” is an intriguing term.
In my book, I define it as “patient capital on the opposite of steroids.”

And then there’s “slow business”—
That’s an important piece of the puzzle too. The entrepreneurs are the real heroes. While the focus of the Slow Money Alliance is on businesses that are part of the local food system, there’s a growing parallel movement that focuses on supporting businesses that are rooted in place, value quality, and are mission-driven.

This is about changes in organizational structure as well as values. New organizational forms such as social enterprises and so-called B Corporations, which combine for-profit and nonprofit purposes, are emerging.
We’re experimenting with new enterprise structures on the financing side, too. In Santa Fe, for example, there are efforts underway to develop what’s being called a Sustainable Business Investment Cooperative. They want to use the co-op model as a new way to aggregate capital, which would then be deployed locally.

The core wound we’re trying to heal is the bifurcation of finance and social purpose. For a century or more, the two have been totally separated. At the end of the day, this is a design challenge. We need to design new types of corporations and shareholder arrangements that integrate finance and social purpose. We need to design new forms of financial intermediation that allow investors to direct dollars to slow businesses.

What are some of the more interesting slow money structures that you see emerging?
One possibility we’re looking at is “slow munis.” Why not invent a new kind of municipal bond that would let people invest in local and regional food systems? We’re in exploratory discussions with a municipality about this.

And how about a fund that was dedicated to expanding community-supported agriculture [CSA] in the US? Currently, about 100,000 Americans get their food from CSAs. In Copenhagen alone, about 55,000 people do so. Talk about a huge opportunity!

We’d also like to see the creation of regional slow money funds that would support everything from small organic farms to local food processors to slow food restaurants. We’re currently conducting workshops in various regions around the country to identify what a truly healthy food system would look like and what is needed, including capital requirements, to make it a reality.

Here’s a quote from your book: “Entrepreneurs and farmers are the poets of the economy. They are holders of ambiguity and risk. They cultivate interstitial spaces, where demand and need and aspiration coexist in a mildly turbulent state of chaotic possibility. They continuously test the boundaries of quality and quantity, as a poet tests the boundaries of denotation and connotation. Ideas in a business plan; seeds in potting soil; rhymes in search of new reasons.” I ask you: Is this any way to write a book about finance?
It is the only way to write a book about finance. This wasn’t the case 50 or even 25 years ago, but it is today. With soil depletion and climate change hard upon us, we’re heading toward an irreversible and possibly apocalyptic problem. We need to respond by being daring. This means going beyond our left brains and engaging our whole brain and our heart.

The paragraph you quoted links poets, farmers, and entrepreneurs. The entrepreneur takes an idea that isn’t real and turns it into something real. Sounds pretty poetic, doesn’t it? And what’s a farmer? He’s an entrepreneur whose material is land. Like poets, farmers need to balance all kinds of imponderables. They beautify the landscape and enrich the life of the community. There’s an essentially poetic aspect to that, don’t you think? If we think of poetry as a crucible that brings together meaning and music, it’s fair to say that entrepreneurs and farmers do the same thing.

As currently understood, economics is all about speed and going hell-bent for growth. This isn’t the right tool for addressing our current problems. Genuine economic prosperity requires more than a set of rote calculations and activities. Meaning and music have to be included if we’re going to have a shot at surviving long-term.

As a poet, you understand the importance of language and how it shapes people’s perceptions. Take the word “economics,” for instance. It’s come to mean quantitative analysis with all qualitative assessments stripped out. This is one example of how we’ve culturally been imprisoned by our language. How can we possibly address a challenge as deep and pervasive as this?
How do we deal with the problem of language? With poetry. Poetry is a way of slowing down language to a place that gives meaning a chance to come out in different ways.

Would it be fair to characterize Slow Money as a poetic polemic in favor of nonviolence?
Nonviolence is certainly a core organizing principle. If you start from the perspective of an investor who is trying to find socially responsible businesses to invest in, and if you follow those enterprises back to first principles, you will find that there’s almost nothing nonviolent for that person to invest in. Consumerism is intrinsically violent. A world in which families are organized around job and career opportunities does violence. A food system that is arranged around creating the cheapest, longest-shelf-life food possible does violence.

In a world as violent as ours—indeed, in a world that celebrates violence as much as ours—how do you steer people toward nonviolence?
My answer to this daunting and profound question is: organic carrots. Eliot Coleman is an organic farmer who lives in Maine. He has a great way of recognizing the power of food to change behavior. Kids who live within 15 miles of his farm ask for his carrots for their lunchbox; they’re that special. His philosophy is, “Make good easy.”

We’ll never get everyone to become saints overnight, but we can entice and inspire people to move in the right direction by linking the healthy and the pleasurable to the nonviolent. This is one reason organic food can be so powerful. It’s fun to put your hands in the dirt. We’re inviting people to relax their obsession with dollar-defined well-being and to engage in activities that are immediately rewarding.

Slow food isn’t only about food; it’s a social change movement that uses food as a tool for connecting people to each other and the earth. Many Americans slot slow food into the pigeonhole of white-tablecloth restaurants and the like. They’re missing—or at least reducing—the point. There’s something in the coming together of people around food that can drive social change.

What else is the Slow Money Alliance doing to support the emergence of this vision?
We’re creating a national alliance of stakeholders that will create social capital at a national level. These are nationally known people like Greg Steltenpohl, who founded [juice drink giant] Odwalla. We’ve signed up 58 members so far, every one of whom has contributed $1,000 or more. We’ve also gotten foundation support. The Charlottesville, Virginia–based Blue Moon Fund has made a significant seed funding commitment.

In parallel we’re building a grassroots network. We will soon announce a set of principles—the Slow Money Principles—and invite people to publicly endorse the principles and contribute $50.

One of the things we’re stressing is the need for social capital—the bonds of real connection among people. In mainstream financial circles, that’s viewed as largely irrelevant. There are no enduring social relationships in the venture-capital world. We’re turning things on their head. We’re starting with the social relationships and using them to identify and build financial intermediation structures.

Meanwhile we’ll be continuing to refine our design ideas. We’ll also raise capital so we can test them.

What sort of progress do you hope for over the next decade or so?
A positive scenario for 2020 would include tens of thousands more small and midsized organic farms, one or two million American families getting their food from CSAs, and a robust capital market supporting many thousands of entrepreneurs who share the concerns and values I’ve been describing here.

There are tremendous opportunities embedded in this vision. Take Hawthorne Valley Farm, for instance, which is a great local yogurt producer. What if we could help bring into being a whole generation of similarly-sized regional yogurt companies to complement the Stonyfield Farms of the world? It would be great if we could successfully nurture the emergence of a large number of regional food producers.

Another enormous opportunity is associated with carbon sequestration. The science suggests that because organic soil is so rich in organic matter, it can play a significant role in capturing carbon and alleviating climate change. Some people even believe that if organic farming became sufficiently widespread, it could reverse global warming! Whether or not you believe that, the notion that organic farming can play a significant role in addressing climate change is very exciting. It also opens up all kinds of entrepreneurial opportunities involving soil amendments, ways to measure carbon sequestration, and so on.

I’d like to see a form of financial intermediation that links organic farming to carbon-sequestration payments. It’s a tremendously pleasing idea, both practically and emotionally. And such a poetic concept!

What impact do you expect the Obama Administration to have on the shifts you’re espousing?
Although some people complain that he’s not doing enough, Obama keeps coming back to the need for fundamental structural fixes. He’s not satisfied with superficial solutions and wants to get to the bottom of things. This is our mindset, too. It’s wonderful to see that a serious high-level articulation of a fundamentally new direction is emerging from this crisis.

And the economic meltdown?
It’s created an environment in which the deleterious effects of fast money have become painfully obvious to everyone. It’s allowing us to jump to the next level of the conversation much more quickly.

Earlier, you talked about “having a shot at surviving long-term.” Are you really that pessimistic?
Realistically, I think the odds of our working our way through all our monumental problems are one percent or less.

That said, I wake up every day in that hopeful one percent, knowing there’s no shortage of things to do. It won’t be easy to get out of the corner we’ve painted ourselves into, but it’s not impossible, either. We can’t let ourselves be paralyzed because if we put one foot in front of another and head in the right direction, you never know what we’ll find.

I think about this in terms of money. We need to get it flowing in a qualitatively different way. We need to slow it down. If we can accomplish this, even with small amounts of capital, who knows what changes will follow?

I live on one acre of land in northern New Mexico at 8,300 feet. It’s famous for its communally-managed irrigation systems, called acequias. When you watch the first water coming onto your land, it’s an amazing and inspiring experience. It’s also a metaphor for slow money. We need money to percolate instead of circulate. We need money, like water, to seep into the culture in a way that makes life possible.
Watching the water come onto the land is a profound source of hope for me.

Energy Usage at Three Cubic Miles of Oil and Growing

Friday, August 21st, 2009

As a boy I learned to “thumbnail” some things.  Whether it was calculating a volume of liquid, a distance, how much something might cost to build, or just trying to get a sense of how much time to dedicate to a project I found it a useful habit.  I like the following for it’s “thumbnail” of what is happening in energy use in the world today. It helps to put it all in some perspective.  It is a sobering fact of life in the 21st century.  I hope you enjoy Jeff St. John’s news article in GreenTech Media.  Let me know what you think.

Tom Bryant is a partner in Meridian Consulting . His 35 year work career began in a farming community in Alberta and encompasses years in the onshore/offshore oilfield industry, penitentiary and parole supervision of violent offenders in the Correctional Service of Canada, and more recently risk management for corporate clientele primarily in the energy industry.

Energy Usage at Three Cubic Miles of Oil and Growing

SRI International’s Ripudaman Malhotra says the world’s energy usage equals burning three cubic miles of oil every year, and that will grow to nine cubic miles of oil by 2050 if current trends continue.

Imagine the island of Manhattan covered with 150 feet of crude oil – almost enough to drown the Statue of Liberty – or 1,000 football stadiums filled to the brim with black gold.

That’s a cubic mile of oil, or the amount of oil alone the world now consumes in a year, Ripudaman Malhotra told an audience Monday at Greentech Media’s Greentech Innovations: End-to-End Electricity conference in New York.

And Malhotra, associate director of SRI International’s Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory in Menlo Park, Calif., wants people to think of all the world’s energy usage in terms of cubic miles of oil, or CMOs, because “That exercise will bring us face to face with the enormity of the challenge we are facing” in moving to a renewable energy future.

Including electricity generation, which takes up about 40 percent of the world’s energy usage, and all other forms of energy, the world uses the equivalent of three cubic miles of oil per year, he said.

But renewable energy makes up only a tiny portion of that measure of world energy supply, he said – about two-tenths of a cubic mile including large hydropower projects, and a mere 0.005 cubic miles of oil for all the solar and wind power now in place today.

It will be very difficult for renewable sources to grow to meet the world’s projected demand growth to somewhere between six to nine cubic miles of oil by 2050, he said. (see IEA Paints Dire Picture of Energy Supply and Demand).

While the sun provides an equivalent of 22,000 cubic miles of oil in energy to the earth, capturing that energy will take new technologies deployed on a scale that is hard to fathom, he said.

“If we are at .005 CMO [for solar and wind power] and want to get to 5 CMO, that’s a thousand-fold increase” over the next 40 years, Malhotra said by way of example. And current technologies are not effective enough to make up for “a big part of that gap, so I’m looking to see some new things,” he said.

The first problem is the sheer scale of the expected growth in energy demand, he said. Second is the disadvantages that solar and wind power have in terms of intermittency – not producing power consistently throughout the day and year – which will require new forms of energy storage to capture the power for use when it’s needed most, he said.

In terms of cubic miles of oil, Malhotra laid out some daunting figures for how much solar and wind would be needed to meet demand.

Getting just one CMO-equivalent of photovoltaic solar power in the next 50 years would require 4.2 billion 2-kilowatt solar rooftop systems, or 250,000 installed every single day over that timeframe, he said.

Looking at concentrated solar-thermal power, which produces power using the sun’s heat at lower cost than photovoltaic solar systems, Malhotra said it would take 7,700 solar-thermal parks of 900-megawatts capacity – or three built per week over the next 50 years – to add up to one cubic mile of oil equivalent.

As for wind power, getting to that one CMO-equivalent within 50 years would require putting up 1,200 1.6-megawatt wind turbines every week over that time, he said.

Using solar-thermal and wind power effectively will also require a massive investment in transmission to bring the power from the remote areas where it’s best produced to the cities that need it most, he said. (See NREL Hunts for Solar-Thermal Hot Spots and National Grid: Dream or Reality?)

Biofuels – which have the advantage of being the only form of renewable energy that can be easily stored – offer other problems, such as the energy that’s required to make them and the potential environmental and greenhouse-gas emission costs of clearing land or cutting down forests to make room for planting the crops to make them, he said.

Creating one CMO-equivalent of biodiesel, for example, would require an 85-fold increase in the current amount of land now dedicated to growing soybeans around the world, he said.

As for nuclear power, which Malhotra said must be a part of the world’s energy future, getting to the equivalent of one cubic mile of oil would require the building of 2,500 nuclear plants, or one every week for the next 50 years.

And fossil fuels, which now account for the vast majority of the world’s energy supplies, will have to increase in use as well, even as the world tackles how to keep their use from increasing greenhouse-gas emissions and thus the threat of global warming, he said (see Can You Spare $45T to Curb Global Warming?).

Given these massive challenges, “The operative conjunction is ‘and,’ because it will take nuclear and solar and wind and whatever” to meet the world’s energy needs, he said.

And the solution won’t just lie in increasing energy supplies, Malhotra said. Efficiency – doing more with less energy – and conservation, or foregoing the use of energy, will play an equally important role, he said.

Efficiency has “historically never reduced net consumption,” since people tend to increase their energy use as efficiency improvements make it cheaper, he said. Still, doing things like replacing one billion incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs, could save the world an equivalent of one cubic mile of oil per year, he said.

Making more energy-efficient buildings, which now account for about half the world’s use of energy, could also have a big impact – if such improvements in lighting, heating and air conditioning systems, as well as more efficient building materials, can meet the price demands of developing countries like China and India, he said.

Bringing a host of efficiencies to the United States’ roughly $500-billion-per-year building renovation market could yield a savings of about one-tenth of a CMO, he said.

Bringing the same innovations to India and China, where several trillion dollars of buildings are built and renovated each year, would raise that energy savings to as much as two CMOs, he said. But right now “we really need major innovations to produce cost-effective solutions” for those markets, he said.

“Conservation, or avoiding [energy use], is tougher,” he said. But, given the enormous challenges in increasing energy supplies and improving energy efficiency, it will have to be part of the equation, he said.

Conservation and efficiency together could reduce the world’s energy demand by three cubic miles of oil equivalent, he said.

“The question is, what about the rest? Those solutions will have to come form the supply side now – and as we’ve seen, we have absolutely nothing on the supply side to meet this right now.”

Jeff St. John for Greentech Media  Nov 17th 2008