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Research Topics 


  Air Quality
Current research at RFF assesses the costs and benefits of air quality regulations and examines the potential for innovative regulatory approaches, such as incentive-based mechanisms, to achieve reductions fairly and efficiently.
Key areas of current research at RFF include options for US domestic climate policy at the state and federal levels, international trade and competitiveness issues, options for international climate policy structures, approaches for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and climate adaptation policy.
Development and Environment
Recent RFF research in developing countries, in partnership with the Environmental Economics Unit at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, examines the performance of innovative policy approaches, including public disclosure, economic incentives, and voluntary programs for reducing pollution; the environmental impacts of the small firms and how to mitigate them; and the causes of deforestation and possible policy responses.
RFF researchers are developing innovative methods to measure and value the services provided by ecosystems, such as water purification, coastal storm and flood protection, and air pollution mitigation, while examining the effectiveness of conservation strategies for forests, fisheries, water, and other natural resources.
Experts in electricity research at RFF analyze how to meet growing demand while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and develop policy approaches to reduce the uncertainty and costs facing the electricity industry.
RFF research on energy focuses on key sectors, including electric power, transportation, and unconventional fuels, and evaluates options to promote new, efficient technologies and the sustainable development of energy resources.
Food and Agriculture
Current areas of research at RFF include options for strengthening risk management systems for food safety, water allocation between agriculture and urban use, the interaction between energy markets and agricultural production, and the impacts of agricultural land use.
RFF scholars are examining policies related to the role of plantation forests as a source of industrial wood, the size of the carbon footprint associated with biomass energy, public forest management, forest carbon offsets, deforestation and degradation, transgenic forestry, and forest monitoring.
RFF’s work is global in scale, addressing issues that range from coal electricity generation in India to cap-and-trade systems in Mexico, as well as negotiations and agreements on international climate policy frameworks.
Land Use
RFF research on the way land is used and managed spans natural, rural, and urban settings, including innovative policies to limit urban sprawl, the cost and effectiveness of “green” infrastructure, the costs and benefits of recreational land use, and the loss of open space and farmland on the urban fringe, among other topics.
Policy and Analysis
RFF experts research and analyze local, state, regional, and federal policy approaches for addressing environmental challenges by examining the effectiveness of various instruments—such as conducting evaluations of command-and-control and incentive-based mechanisms, comparative analyses of different regulatory strategies, and reviews of the performance of alternative policy instruments like voluntary measures and public disclosure programs.
Risk Management
Through methodological and policy research, RFF experts work to bridge the gap between theoretical advances in risk and uncertainty assessment and their effective application to real world policy.  
Research at RFF examines the uniqueness of outer space as a natural resource, looking at policies that address space debris and pollution, public and private roles and responsibilities in effective management of outer space, and the value of environmental information collected by satellites.  
RFF experts seek to understand consumer behavior in order to evaluate the costs, benefits, and distributional consequences of different policies for reducing congestion, accidents, and environmental problems caused by motor vehicles, as well as identify the effectiveness of alternatives like public transportation and alternative fuel vehicles.
Waste Management
Research at RFF looks at the full range of policy challenges related to hazardous and non-hazardous waste, from the costs and benefits of programs that encourage recycling to issues related to contaminated sites, including research on brownfields, the federal Superfund program, waste and water treatment, and nuclear facilities.
RFF scholars seek to analyze the performance of policy instruments for improving water quality both in the United States and in other countries, as well as examine solutions for inefficient marine and water management practices, analyze the links connecting  land use and energy policies with water quality, and derive a valuation of drinking water and freshwater.
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