Blog

A New Transportation Future, The Perils of Fracking and Solar Energy's Promise: 2016 in Review

Posted by: Alana Miller on

Happy New Year!

Whether you are a new friend or a long-time ally, we at Frontier Group are grateful for your partnership in our work to provide information and ideas for a cleaner, healthier, fairer and more democratic America.

Here are a few highlights from the past year.

Envisioning a New Transportation Future

In 2016, transportation became the nation's number one source of the carbon pollution that is warming the planet. There is no silver-bullet solution to our dependence on fossil fuel-powered cars for transportation, and no set of cookie-cutter strategies that works equally well everywhere. With support from the Hewlett Foundation, Frontier Group led a year-long effort to envision pathways and policies to move toward zero-carbon transportation. Our May report, A New Way Forward, showed that there are multiple paths to a clean transportation future, available to every American city. Our research tapped into the latest transportation scholarship, the insights of more than 100 national and local transportation leaders, and the power of scenario modeling tools to light the way. In October, we followed up with 50 Steps Toward Carbon-Free Transportation, which explained how current U.S. transportation policy sets us back in the fight against global warming and provided a comprehensive, pragmatic agenda for reform. Our work built new bridges among people working on diverse strategies to promote sustainable transportation, and earned attention from Politico, The Hill, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Streetsblog and other outlets.

Meanwhile, Frontier Group worked with the Transportation for Massachusetts coalition to wrap up a year-long effort to explore the impacts of "innovative mobility" solutions such as shared mobility and autonomous vehicles on communities across the Commonwealth. The resulting report, Fast Forward, included contributions from a diverse array of organizations, informed by feedback from a series of stakeholder conversations involving representatives from business, nonprofits, academia and government. The report, which included a series of recommendations for policy-makers, was released at a half-day conference in October keynoted by Zipcar co-founder Robin Chase.

 

Highlighting the Promise of Solar Energy

America can address its toughest environmental challenges by shifting to 100 percent renewable energy, as documented in our April report, We Have the Power. Using National Renewable Energy Laboratory data, the report showed that we could meet current electricity needs more than 100 times over with solar power and 10 times over with wind energy. Many cities and states are already embracing clean energy: Lighting the Way 4 and Shining Cities 2016 identified the top states and cities that are leading the way with solar development. Not everyone is excited about solar power, however, with electric utility and fossil fuel interests pushing policies that make it harder for Americans to "go solar." Our 2016 edition of Blocking the Sun put a spotlight on those efforts to slam the brakes on the solar energy revolution. The report was highlighted by Politico, Curbed, the Miami Herald and other outlets.

America's technical potential for renewable energy far exceeds current electricity consumption, as illustrated in our report, We Have the Power. Data: NREL

 

Exposing the Dangers of Fracking 

Fracking threatens the environment and human health, but few Americans are aware of the breadth and severity of the problems it causes. Our April report, Fracking by the Numbers, produced with Environment America Research & Policy Center, found that the nation's 137,000 fracking wells were responsible for the disruption of 679,000 acres of land, the consumption of 239 billion gallons of water, and the use of millions of pounds of toxic chemicals. The report was featured in Vice, ThinkProgress and The Huffington Post, among other outlets. In October, we released Dangerous and Close, which showed that 650,000 children nationwide attend school within one mile of a fracking well - putting their health, along with that of other vulnerable Americans living near fracking wells, at risk. And, together with Environment America Research & Policy Center and Toxics Action Center, we issued a white paper summarizing the growing concern about climate-altering methane emissions from natural gas, and we co-authored an opinion piece in the Dallas Morning News on fracking-induced earthquakes.

 

Encouraging Government Transparency

Our seventh annual evaluation of state spending transparency websites, Following the Money 2016, produced with U.S. PIRG Education Fund, found that state government "checkbook" websites continue to make progress toward comprehensive transparency and user-friendly budget accountability. CNBC spoke with report author, policy analyst Elizabeth Ridlington, about the report. 

 

In Other News

Senior Policy Analyst Tony Dutzik joined with Environment Texas' Luke Metzger to celebrate new federal action to protect the climate in the Houston Chronicle, wrote about the role cycling can play in fighting global warming for the League of American Bicyclists, and wrote about the urgent need for policy to guide autonomous vehicles for Meeting of the Minds. Tony also spoke at the National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C., the National Shared Mobility Summit in Chicago, and a June forum on autonomous vehicles in Boston.

 

Senior policy analyst Tony Dutzik spoke about driverless cars at a June forum at MIT.

On the Frontier Group blog, our staff of analysts took a fresh look at America at the end of the Obama era in our blog series, The Road Ahead, highlighted the need to move beyond nostalgia in the ongoing debate over infrastructure, and argued that many of our nation's policy problems are solvable with a little common sense. We also continued our in-depth analysis of reform efforts at Boston's MBTA, shifting trends in driving, and the emerging crisis in auto lending.

 

Looking Ahead

In 2017, Frontier Group will work with U.S. PIRG Education Fund to highlight wasteful and climate-damaging highway expansion projects around the country, and with Environment America Research & Policy Center on an in-depth analysis of drinking water threats in the Delaware River Basin. We also look forward to harnessing our research and expertise to help those seeking to defend the nation's key environmental, public health and consumer protections.

Like you, we are also working to make sense of the 2016 election. Our take: the presidential campaign failed to address the central challenges facing America and the world in the 21st century -- global warming, the implications of automation and technological change, and the need to heal our fraying democracy. There are no easy solutions to those challenges, and we need the best ideas from all people of good faith, from all ideological backgrounds, to make progress.

For 20 years, Frontier Group has combined rigorous analysis, bold thinking, and an approach to problems that transcends traditional issue silos and partisan boundaries to forward solutions to our nation's most pressing problems. At this critical moment in our nation's history, we look forward to doing the same in the year ahead and to continuing to partner with you in the work of building a better America.

Please keep in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter and Medium, and by following our latest blogs and reports at www.frontiergroup.org.

 

Wishing you a joyous new year full of meaning and consequence.

Susan Rakov, Director
Tony Dutzik, Senior Policy Analyst
Elizabeth Ridlington, Gideon Weissman and Alana Miller, Policy Analysts
Rachel Cross, Elizabeth Berg and Abi Bradford, Policy Associates