As more Americans realize the need to transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy, there's a need to plan those changes carefully or environmentalists say we're just trading one problem for another.
Joe Kiesecker, the lead scientist for the Nature Conservancy's Global Lands Program, says land-use needs are going to grow because another 9 billion people will be on Earth by 2050, and the amount of energy needed to meet everyone's needs also is increasing rapidly.
He urges policymakers to consider the amount of land needed because he says even a renewable-energy future is not necessarily a green one.
"The harsh reality is that renewable energy has a much larger land footprint," he says. "And so if we're not careful, if we don't plan, we might change one conflict for another, that's climate change for land-use conflict."
The Illinois General Assembly passed The Future Energy Jobs bill late last year. It includes updating the state's renewable portfolio standard, expanding efficiency programs, and preserving net metering for rooftop solar projects. It also allowed Exelon's Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear power plants to remain in operation.
Kiesecker says, for example, rooftop solar makes more sense than setting aside fields to hold panels. He adds that the key to success is identifying the right energy mix and where to place it.
"We need to go big and we need to go early. So we need to be planning for energy at larger spatial scales, more regional scales, instead of looking and planning for a single wind turbine or a wind farm or a single oil and gas well."
Kiesecker says the point is, we need to be proactive, not reactive. He details that in his book called "Energy Sprawl Solutions: Balancing Global Development and Conservation."