In the first quarter of 2012, the U.S. has felt a bit “stuck”: the troubled economy isn’t turning around as decisively as some had hoped, and Congress is paralyzed by polarization. But the bedrock is shifting fast. Here at Frontier Group, we’re seeing change happening across a swath of issues we’re working on, with major implications for the future. This spring we’ve been working to document emerging trends and unpack their meaning to help set a course forward in a world that is going to look very different, sooner than we might think.
Rethinking America’s Transportation Policy
Frontier Group broke new ground with Transportation and the New Generation which highlighted the trend away from driving by young Americans. The report, released in a national webinar and by U.S. PIRG Education Fund affiliates in 10 states, calls for a reconsideration of the assumption that driving will continue to rapidly and steadily increase. The report received widespread coverage in outlets including the Denver Post, Baltimore Sun, Financial Times (registration required), U.S. News & World Report, NPR, ABC, and MSNBC.
Government Transparency and Accountability
For the third consecutive year, Frontier Group and U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s Following the Money report graded states on the amount of government spending data made available to the public on the Internet. Since our first release in 2010, government agencies have worked hard to improve the grades we gave them, and this year, 47 states participated in the survey, with some agencies arguing strenuously for higher grades based on innovations they had adopted. Several of those which improved measurably celebrated in public. (Click here to see Kentucky Governor Beshear’s response to our report.)
In light of new scientific findings that link global warming to severe weather, we documented how hurricanes, floods, snowstorms, droughts and other phenomena harm people’s lives, the economy and the environment in In the Path of the Storm, a co-release with Environment America Research & Policy Center. State and federal decision makers across the country paid attention. In Illinois – where a recent flood killed seven people along the Mississippi and heavy snowfall caused over a billion dollars of damage in Chicago – Senator Dick Durbin used the report to call for programs to reduce global warming pollution.
Although climate legislation has foundered in Congress, states are seeking ways to reduce their global warming pollution. Frontier Group worked closely with Environment Maryland Research & Policy Center to write and release What Offshore Wind Means for Maryland, which showed how developing offshore wind generating capacity is one of the biggest steps Maryland can take to reduce global warming emissions.
Thanks to our strategic partnerships with organizations working on the ground in the states, we’ve participated in a number of state debates about clean energy. In Benefits of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, released with Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center, we documented how an existing cap on global warming pollution has reduced New Jersey’s carbon footprint, lowered consumers’ electricity bills, and created jobs.
In Ohio’s Clean Energy Report Card, Year 2, part of a series we’ve produced with Environment Ohio Research & Policy Center, we documented how Ohio’s Clean Energy Law has saved residents energy and spurred the growth of solar energy and wind farms.
In California Solar Cities 2012, released with Environment California Research & Policy Center, we documented the state’s thriving solar markets. The Wall Street Journal recently cited the report in a piece about the San Francisco Bay Area’s solar achievements.
Looking Forward . . .
In the next few months, we’ll be keeping an eye on these trends and others. We will update our 2007 report When It Rains It Pours, documenting the increase in extreme rainstorms and snowstorms in recent decades. We’ll release a study of disparities in health care costs in California, another enumerating the benefits of solar energy in Oregon, and a white paper on “best practices” to increase transparency and accountability in Arizona’s economic development agency. We’re also working on research and policy development related to healthy food, another issue area where change is happening fast.
Thanks for your interest and support.
Susan Rakov, Director
Tony Dutzik, Senior Policy Analyst
Travis Madsen, Elizabeth Ridlington, Ben Davis and Jordan Schneider, Policy Analysts