Resources for the Future

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Resources for the Future

In 1952 President Harry S. Truman's Materials Policy Commission, headed by William Paley of the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), released its final report. The commission had been asked to examine the status of the nation's material resources, such as fuels, metals, and minerals. It concluded that the country's material base was in quite good condition, but the report maintained that further research was necessary to insure the continued use of these resources. Paley established Resources for the Future (RFF) as a nonprofit corporation to carry out this research, especially the updating of resource statistics .

At the same time, the Ford Foundation had created a fund to support resource conservation issues and to organize a national conference on the issue. Paley allowed this fund to use the name and facilities of his new corporation, and RFF hosted the Mid-Century Conference on Resources for the Future in Washington, D.C. with Ford Foundation funding.

Perhaps the major result of the conference was organizational. The Ford Foundation decided that RFF should become the base of its resource research program as an independent foundation. These organizations began in 1954 with a five-year grant to RFF of $3.4 million "aimed primarily at the economics of the nation's resource base." This has been the goal of research at RFF ever since. Most of the staff and most of the visiting scholars, as well as most of the beneficiaries of their small grants program have been economists, analyzing the importance of material resources to the United States economy, and examining a wide range of intertwined economic, resource, conservation, and environmental issues.

Resources for the Future is now organized into two divisions, the Energy and Natural Resources Division, and the Quality of the Environment Division. There are also two centers, the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy, and the Center for Risk Management. Well-known experts on resource and environmental issues such as Marion Clawson, Hans Landsberg, John Krutilla, and Allen Kneese are long-time staff members or "fellows" of RFF. The organization also supports resource and environmental research by non-staff scholars through visiting fellowships and its small grants program, and the range of these activities exceeds RFF's original mandate. RFF publishes an annual report and a quarterly journal called Resources. The annual report lists the year's publications by resident staff, making it a good reference source for up-to-date materials on a wide range of resource and environmental issues. Resources publishes short articles, mostly by staff members or visiting fellows, and a quarterly report entitled "Inside RFF."

A scan of these two documents on any given date reveals the range of RFF interests. A recent annual report included staff publications on energy on different aspects of agriculture and agricultural policy, on various aspects connecting economics and public forest management , on climatic change, on risk management, cost analysis, and regulations and regulatory activities affecting resources and the environment.

[Gerald L. Young Ph.D. ]



Resources for the Future, 1616 P Street NW, Washington, DC USA 20036-1400 (202) 328-5000, Fax: (202) 939-3460, <>