As our mission statement says, Frontier Group strives to provide information and ideas to help build a cleaner, healthier, fairer and more democratic America. In 2014, we brought timely, incisive analysis to bear on issues from global warming to government transparency, at a moment when the opportunities for change – and the obstacles standing in the way – have never been larger. Here are a few highlights:
Showing the Way to a Cleaner Energy Future
America is on the verge of a clean energy revolution – one that can slash the nation’s contribution to global warming and reduce the damage caused by our dependence on fossil fuels. Star Power, released in November with Environment America Research and Policy Center, underscored the transformative potential of that revolution by showing that America could obtain 10 percent of its electricity from solar energy by 2030. The report received coverage in almost 100 outlets, including USA Today and The Washington Post’s WonkBlog…. In More Wind, Less Warming, we showed that obtaining 30 percent of the nation’s electricity from wind – an ambitious but achievable goal – would put America well on the way to meeting the emission reduction targets of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan and President Obama’s climate agreement with China…. But a clean energy future won’t happen on its own; it requires support from policymakers. Our April report, Shining Cities, and our July report, Lighting the Way, documented the importance of supportive public policies for the emergence of solar energy in the nation’s top solar cities and states, respectively.
Moving Forward on Transportation Policy
Americans are driving less, transportation funding is drying up, our roads and bridges are in sad shape, and yet we continue to spend tens of billions of dollars per year on more and bigger highways. Our September report, Highway Boondoggles, challenged 11 highway expansion proposals across the U.S., most based on outdated forecasts of future driving, attracting attention from The Wall Street Journal and sparking debate on highway projects from Chicago to Dallas…. October’s Millennials in Motion report reviewed the economic, lifestyle, technological and other factors at play in the reduction in driving among young Americans…. Subsidizing Congestion, produced with the civic philanthropy TransitCenter, found that the $7.3 billion federal tax subsidy for commuter parking adds 820,000 cars to the road, making rush-hour commutes worse…. And in Wisconsin, our Fork in the Road report with the WISPIRG Foundation imagined how $2.8 billion earmarked for questionable highway building projects could instead be used for more pressing needs.
Highlighting Global Warming Solutions
In March, Frontier Group documented the meaningful steps states, cities and the federal government are taking to tackle global warming, providing models for future action…. In June, Driving Cleaner highlighted the environmental benefits of electric vehicles and laid out a policy roadmap for increasing their numbers on America’s roads…. America’s Dirtiest Power Plants reported on the disproportionate role the U.S. power sector plays in fueling global warming, emphasizing the importance of steps such as the proposed Clean Power Plan to curb emissions.
Providing Facts in the Ongoing Fight for Clean Water
Though the Clean Water Act is now more than 40 years old, our research this summer found that industrial polluters continue to release 206 million pounds of toxic chemicals into America’s waterways each year and called for policy reforms to stem the tide of pollution…. Among those reforms: closing loopholes in the Clean Water Act that put headwaters and intermittent waterways at risk of unchecked pollution. In Waterways Restored, we documented the tremendous power of the Clean Water Act – when it is properly enforced – to return once infamously polluted waterways to health, making them safe for swimming and fishing.
Shining a Light on Government Transparency and Accountability
Our fifth Following the Money report, produced alongside U.S. PIRG Education Fund, found that 38 states now report checkbook-level detail for economic development subsidies, as well as for traditional state spending – a big improvement from our first report in 2010. In the 2014 election cycle, media outlets nationwide cited our assessment of state transparency in endorsing candidates for state treasurer, auditor and comptroller positions.
Frontier Group collaborated with U.S. PIRG Education Fund to produce the 29th installment of its annual survey of toy safety, garnering media attention from The Chicago Tribune and CNN International…. Frontier Group partnered with Fair Share Education Fund to produce Childhood Hunger in America’s Suburbs, which tracked the increase in subsidized school lunch participation in suburban areas…. In August, we joined the growing conversation about antibiotic resistance with our report on the alarming use of antibiotics in factory farm operations…. And in July, we investigated Big Oil’s involvement in a ballot initiative to block the shipment of tar sands oil in South Portland, Maine.
Looking Forward to 2015
In the New Year, Frontier Group will continue to highlight changes in how Americans are getting around with a report on the potential of various cities to support car-free and car-light lifestyles…. We will issue a new ranking of U.S. cities for solar power adoption as well as our sixth annual scorecard of state budget transparency websites…. We will also partner with our allies at Environment America Research & Policy Center to analyze the effectiveness of U.S. policies designed to reduce carbon pollution and lay out a vision of policy reform that could lead to dramatic reductions in global warming pollution, all in the lead-up to the Paris global warming conference in December.
Lastly, we said goodbye this year to analysts Ben Davis and Jordan Schneider, who were a key part of the Frontier Group team in recent years. Ben has moved on to In the Public Interest, where he will deepen his work on the government transparency and accountability issues that were a key focus of his work with us. Jordan has returned to her native South after a Frontier Group career that included an influential report on offshore tax haven abuse and the revitalization of Frontier Group’s presence on social media. We wish them both the best.
Best wishes to you in the year ahead. Enjoy the holiday season!
Susan Rakov, Director
Tony Dutzik, Senior Policy Analyst
Judee Burr, Jeff Inglis, Elizabeth Ridlington, Tom Van Heeke and Gideon Weissman, Policy Analysts
Lindsey Hallock, Policy Associate