By DAVID M. JOHNSON
WASHINGTON (Nov. 14, 2009) - The world economy has reached a dangerous twilight at the end of the fossil fuel era, and urgently needs to change its energy sources, said Jeremy Rifkin, president of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Bethesda.
Businesses, however, can turn that impending disaster into opportunity by investing in green energy solutions.
In his speech Wednesday at the Green Business Summit in Washington, Rifkin spoke about the need to arrive at a renewable energy solution before oil production reaches maximum capacity.
"Right now we're using three barrels of oil for every one barrel discovered," Rifkin said. "The situation is much worse than we are being told in public policy. We continue to underestimate the acceleration of climate change."
Jeffrey Krasney, chief executive of IV Capital in Fallston, understood the seriousness of Rifkin's speech and took away some practical advice for his company.
"It seems like he's part-economist, part-pope," Krasney said. "I'm looking for opportunities in this economy for alternative investments for me and my clients."
The way to slow down climate change and reduce dependence on fossil fuels is to radically shift the way we produce energy, Rifkin said. He calls his solution the third industrial revolution and includes four pillars to be implemented at the same time.
"Every square foot of this planet has the potential to produce energy in some proportion," Rifkin said. "The sun, wind, heat from the ground and coastal tides can all be harnessed."
Besides relying on non-carbon producing technology, Rifkin is also in favor of making each building a producer of clean energy, storing excess energy in hydrogen fuel cells for later use and building a smarter power grid to increase efficiency.
"We're talking about power to the people, distributed capitalism," Rifkin said.
As president of the Foundation on Economic Trends, Rifkin has served as an adviser to heads of state including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and most recently served as an informal adviser to Romano Prodi, the former president of the European Commission.
Maryland businessmen looking for investment opportunities like Krasney and Sandeep Thakrar, managing director of Skada Capital in Columbia, can look to Europe for examples of Rifkin's energy ideas in use.
"(Rifkin) is an incredible source in terms of industry status and credibility," Thakrar said. "From an investing perspective I would put money in responsible companies and advise small business owners to do the same."
Capital News Service contributed to this report.