In our Supporter Spotlight magazine feature, we hear directly from donors about their commitment to issues in climate, energy, and the environment; how they make a difference; and why they support Resources for the Future (RFF)—all in their own words.
Resources magazine recently spoke with Ambassador C. Boyden Gray, a lawyer, diplomat, former White House counsel, and Resources for the Future (RFF) board member. Below are excerpts from the conversation, which covers his love of the outdoors, how nonpartisan analysis helps policymakers, and more.
Resources magazine: Why are you interested in climate, energy, and environmental policy?
In the early 1980s, when I served in the government during the Reagan regulatory reform era, the biggest problem we had was how to balance environmental goals with economic growth. It was an intensive indoctrination into the world of clean air and clean water, which I hadn’t had from my prior legal practice. I got to love the Clean Air Act and was a principal architect of the 1990 amendments.
That interest was supported by my upbringing—spending the summers of my childhood in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina, and then some of my adulthood on Mount Desert Island in Maine, where pollution was a major concern. The highest ozone readings on the East Coast tend to be taken on Mount Desert Island: in the old days, you’d fly in and see this ring of pollution around the perimeter. Now, that’s all disappeared. So, the Acid Rain Program was a special interest to me, mostly because of the Blue Ridge and Maine.
You’ve been an RFF board member for much of the past decade and a supporter of RFF for over two decades. What continues to keep you engaged?
In my view, RFF is the most open-minded, fair source of analysis of what can be done—and how it can be done with the greatest efficiency and productivity. That’s what attracted me, and that’s what keeps me engaged. Climate change is going to be a difficult challenge for everybody; RFF has the background, the structure, and the history of dealing more honestly with these issues than any other group I know of.
What do you see as the role of economics in achieving a healthy environment and a thriving economy?
Economics, fairly applied, is the best way to guarantee those twin objectives. To get the most bang for your buck, you’ve got to take the economics very seriously. If you look at emissions reductions from a cost-per-ton point of view, I think you can’t go wrong. But you have to know what the cost per ton is, just as you have to know what the cost of carbon is—that’s an example in which RFF has been a pioneer.
How can the nonpartisan analysis that RFF provides help decisionmakers in today’s polarized political climate?
RFF has an opportunity to walk the tightrope, if you will—to get in between and get the best out of both sides. I think RFF’s reputation as an honest broker is useful, and it’s sought by both Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives. The greatest calling card RFF has is its strict adherence to what the data show and not letting fashion or fad or passion dictate the result. That’s why I think RFF has a great role to play—and a great responsibility, actually.
Drawing from your background in government and the private sector, how would you describe RFF’s value to decisionmakers?
Regulatory agencies know that their ability to make progress depends on not overreaching, which creates a backlash. I think policymakers on both sides get comfort in knowing that, when they’re dealing with data and conclusions from RFF, they’re not likely to go wrong. The ability of RFF and the work it does to be evenhanded, nonpartisan, and nonideological—that’s something people value a great deal. In this period of grappling with the enormous challenge of climate change, we’ll greatly benefit if RFF can continue impartially presenting the facts that underlie where we should be going and how we can best get there.
Four ways you can support RFF
- Give on our website: Visit www.rff.org/donate to make a one-time donation with your credit card, or to set up a monthly recurring donation.
- Give by mail: Send your check to Resources for the Future | 1616 P Street NW, Suite 600 | Washington, DC 20036
- Give through a donor-advised fund: Donate through a DAF account at a community foundation or financial institution to support RFF while receiving favorable tax benefits.
- Give through a will, trust, or gift plan: Include RFF in your estate plans to provide meaningful, long-lasting support.
Find out about other ways to give at www.rff.org/donate/ways-giving.