Giving Compass' Take:

• Dr. Michael Young explains the interconnected issues of energy sprawl using the example of rural west Texas. 

• How can funders work to address these issues? What are the top needs of rural communities in your area? 

• Learn how wind farms bring middle-class jobs to poor rural communities

We need to take an approach where multiple stakeholders and experts with different perspectives work in favor of a common, aligned effort—a centralized group whose role is to help stakeholders act in concert. An innovative, structured approach would cross over government, business, philanthropy, communities and other related parties to act on specific complex problems in order to achieve sustainable solutions.

A prime example is an increasingly complicated problem that is happening right now in West Texas, centered in the Trans-Pecos region. As the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation’s Marilu Hastings pointed out, this area of West Texas is the most energy-intensive geographic region in the United States, if not the world, according to the Bureau of Economic Geology at The University of Texas at Austin. At the same time, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature, this ecoregion may be the most biologically diverse desert in the world.

In the Trans-Pecos, we have a confluence of stakeholders, issues, and agendas.

On the one hand, tremendous discoveries and exploration efforts are underway for sources of energy, from fossil energy (oil and gas) tied up in shale and low-permeability sandstone and limestone formations, to renewable wind and solar energy that are being installed throughout the region. This diverse portfolio of energy generation in West Texas provides substantial flexibility in how the state is powered, and also provides significant energy generation and economic benefits to the United States.

On the other hand, this energy development requires a larger support (land) area, and this increased land need, sometimes called energy sprawl, could be more than two times larger than the land needed for urban and residential development over the last 50 years. At the national level, energy development—all types of energy development—could lead to the largest amount of land disturbance between now and 2040. It's clear that this energy renaissance requires natural resources, namely water and land, to be viable.

Read the full article about addressing the interconnected issues of energy sprawl by Dr. Michael Young at The Mitchell Foundation.