Resources for the Future (RFF)

November 7, 2011

Resources For the Future (RFF) is a nonprofit organization which conducts independent research into environmental, energy, and natural resource issues, primarily via economics and other social sciences. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., RFF performs research around the world.

RFF was the outgrowth of President Harry S. Truman’s 1951 request that William S. Paley, who was the chairman of the board of Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), to form a Materials Policy Commission to study the country’s natural resource needs. The Commission’s report, “Resources for Freedom: Foundations for Growth and Security”, recommended that an independent organization to analyze the supply of the country’s natural resources be formed. In 1952, using initial grants from the Ford Foundation [1], RFF became the first “think tank” devoted exclusively to natural resource and environmental issues was founded. In its early years, RFF focused on the scarcity natural resource and the U.S. dependence on imports [2].

Since its founding, RFF has pioneered the application of economics as a tool to develop more effective policy about the use and conservation of natural resources. Its scholars continue to analyze critical issues concerning pollution control, energy and transportation policy, land and water use, hazardous waste, climate change, biodiversity, ecosystem management, health, and the environmental challenges of developing countries.

Most RFF researchers hold doctorates in economics, but others hold advanced degrees in engineering, law, ecology, city and regional planning, American government, and public policy and management, among other disciplines. In addition to the research staff, RFF has a development office, a communications office, and various research support functions, including a specialized library.

As of 2011, RFF’s staff encompasses some 40 researchers working to improve environmental and natural resource policymaking worldwide through objective social science of the highest caliber. In order to increase its ability to deliver on its mission, RFF has identified five core research focus areas [3]:

Energy and Climate: RFF scholars are engaged with the linked issues of energy and climate policy on numerous fronts. These include strategies to cost-effectively constrain greenhouse gas emissions, limit cost uncertainties, promote developing country engagement, reduce emissions through averted deforestation and afforestation, and adapt to a changing climate. Additionally, RFF researchers are tackling the question of U.S. energy security by examining options for reducing U.S. dependence on oil.

Regulating Risks: RFF believes that through the use of regulations, remarkable gains have been made in environmental quality and safety in developed countries over the past 40 years. Although, in some cases however, at a high cost. Lingering and emerging challenges have heightened the need for more effective and efficient regulatory strategies. The research agenda at RFF responds to this demand by developing improved techniques for regulatory analyses, analyzing the performance of environmental regulations and programs, and evaluating alternative regulatory approaches.

Transportation and Urban Land: RFF research is informing policies for dealing with the intertwined issues of transportation and spatial development. Special attention is given to the interactions between the transportation system, land use, and the economy. Research themes include policies to reduce congestion, air pollution from cars, fuel use, and urban sprawl.

The Natural World: Resource issues remain at the heart of RFF’s research agenda, including how to value and measure the benefits from nature and effectively manage forests, fisheries, water, agricultural resources, and even outer space in an interconnected world. Pioneering contributions by RFF scholars laid the foundation for current research efforts on ecosystem services and valuation.

Health and Environment: RFF has a long tradition of innovative research on health issues, opening up new avenues for cross-disciplinary research and policy solutions. Current research pursuits include employing creative approaches to a host of health-related policy challenges, including valuing disparate health outcomes, and setting disease control priorities and health policy in developing countries [3].

In addition, specialized centers, programs, and initiatives at RFF focus on specific areas of research and operate collaboratively across disciplines. These include the Center for Climate and Electricity Policy; the Center for the Management of Ecological Wealth; the Center for Energy Economics and Policy; the Center for Forest Economics and Policy; and the Environment for Development. RFF also established and is closely affiliated with the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics, and Policy, which is now an independent unit.

Although RFF scholars are free to express professional opinions in their research, the organization itself does not take institutional positions on legislation or regulatory policy. RFF characterizes itself as nonpartisan, objective, and independent, “acting as a neutral broker of sound information and data.”

RFF publishes Resources magazine, as well as discussion papers, issue briefs, and peer-reviewed reports. Its book publishing operation, RFF Press, an imprint of Routledge, publishes book-length works by RFF staff and outside researchers, academics, and journalists.

In June 2010, RFF was awarded the FEEM 20th Anniversary Prize in Environmental Economics by the European-based Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei. The award recognized RFF as a “key driver of market-based environmental policy.”

The Board of Directors of Resources for the Future is comprised of men and woman representing the business community, environmental advocacy organizations, and former policymakers, including federal and state environmental officials as well as elected representatives, and pre-eminent scholars. The board provides overall direction for the organization and meets twice annually. Members are eligible to serve for three three-year terms.

RFF is deeply committed to bringing to the board, in ever-greater numbers, leading figures from outside the United States as well as representatives of minority populations from North America (Author’s Note: If the reader goes to reference site, you will notice that there in only one Afro-American present in photograph, even the persons not present there are no Afro-Americans). [4]

Board Leadership

W. Bowman Cutter: Chair, a Senior Fellow and Director Economic Policy Initiative at the Roosevelt Institute. He served as the Deputy Assistant to the President for Economic Policy (National Economic Council) [5]. He also is presently serving as the chair of CARE [6] and is a senior advisor for the Podesta Group [7].

John M. Deutch: Vice Chair and is presently Institute Professor, Department of Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Prior to joining MIT, he served as Deputy Secretary of Defense from 1994 to 1995 and Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) from May 10, 1995 until December 15, 1996 [8].

Frank E. Loy: Vice Chair and former Chair, served as Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs from 1998 to 2001. He was responsible for, among other things, US international policy and negotiations regarding the environment, human rights, the promotion of democracy, refugees and humanitarian affairs, counter-narcotics and international law enforcement. Besides serving as a Vice Chair of RFF, he also serves on Environmental Defense Fund (former chair)*1, The Pew Center on Global Climate Change, The Nature Conservancy [9]*1, ecoAmerica (vice chair), Population Services International (chair), Institute for International Economics (founding director), The American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, The Arthur F. Burns Journalism Fellowship Program (chair), The Washington Ballet (former chair) and the Friends of Global Crop Diversity, Ltd [10]. (*1 Organizations funded by Ford Foundation)

Lawrence H. Linden: Treasurer, who is the Founder and Trustee of the Linden Trust For Conservation. Whose mission is to help stabilize Earth’s biodiversity and ecological processes for the benefit of humanity, by raising the quantity and improving the effectiveness of financial resources – public and private. Specifically, we seek to advance the use of conservation finance and environmental markets in ways that address major environmental challenges [11]. In the recent years they have funded four organizations in support of their objectives: the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, Environmental Defense Fund (previously mentioned and cited), the Union of Concerned Scientists [12], and Woods Hole Research Center [13].

Philip R. Sharp: President of Resources for the Future, served in the United States House of Representatives as a Democratic representative from Indiana from 1975 to 1995. While in Congress, He participated in the passage of major energy legislation. As chairman of the Energy and Power Subcommittee, he played key roles in the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments and the 1992 Energy Policy Act. He was also a member of the National Research Council Committee on Effectiveness and Impact of Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards, which issued its major report in 2001. He also chaired the Secretary of Energy’s Electric Systems Reliability Task Force, which issued its major report in 1998 [14].


RFF’s is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, whose success is made possible by the financial support of individuals and organizations that have the vision to see the role research plays in formulating sound public policies. More than 70 percent of the money raised from individuals, corporations, private foundations, and government agencies goes directly to our research and public education activities. In fiscal year 2010, RFF’s operating revenue was $11.04 million, most of which came from individual and corporate contributions, foundation and government grants, and investment income. In 2009, RFF’s top five donors were the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the George Kaiser Family Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation [15], the David and Lucile Packard Foundation [16], and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation [17]. The organization’s research programs make up the bulk of its expenses, amounting to 76.8 percent in 2010.


Semper Fi
Beckah (Editor)
Topsshot (Editor)
Old Marine (Research & Writer)

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