Resources for the Future Announces CEO Transition Plans

Dr. Richard Newell plans to depart within a year after exceptional tenure as RFF President and CEO.


Sept. 6, 2023

News Type

Press Release

After seven successful years as the President and CEO of Resources for the Future (RFF), Dr. Richard Newell announces today his plans to transition to a new position outside of RFF at some point within the next year. RFF’s Board of Directors will conduct a national search for a new leader for the Washington, DC-based environmental think tank.

“RFF has been extremely fortunate to be led by one of the world’s top environmental and energy economists, a widely trusted thought leader and strategic thinker on public and private sector decisionmaking on climate change, the energy transition, and technology innovation,” said Susan F. Tierney, Chair of the RFF Board of Directors and Senior Advisor at Analysis Group.

“Richard has been a strategic and visionary leader whose tenure will be remembered as one of transformation and innovation,” said Richard Schmalensee, RFF Board Chair Emeritus and Howard W. Johnson Professor and Dean Emeritus, Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Today, RFF’s agenda of research and policy engagement has much greater clarity of attention to climate change and is laser focused on its mission due in large part to Richard’s leadership.”

Newell has led RFF by building and supporting its greatly enhanced capability to deliver timely advice and expert insight to decisionmakers through engagement in key policy processes and relationships built on trust. RFF’s impact on recent US energy and climate laws and regulations and its pathbreaking effort to modernize estimates of the social cost of greenhouse gases are just two of many examples.

“Richard has been a dedicated member of the RFF community for more than 25 years, with contributions too many to list, but it has been in these last seven years that he has demonstrated his gift as a strategic and transformative leader,” said Tierney. “We are so grateful for his leadership and know that he will continue to leave his mark on our field for years to come. We are grateful too for his thoughtfulness in giving us time for a smooth leadership transition.”

Under Newell’s leadership, RFF has also established its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, including through the launch of its Environmental Justice Initiative. RFF’s footprint is now global with the launch of the European Institute on Economics and the Environment, the Global Climate Policy Partnership, and the Global Energy Outlook—the definitive comparative analysis of global energy projections. RFF is also consistently ranked #1 globally among the top institutions in the fields of environmental and energy economics, reflecting its strong 70-year legacy of nonpartisan, impartial, and rigorous research and impact.

Prior to joining RFF, Newell served as the senate-confirmed Administrator of the US Energy Information Administration, as a tenured professor at Duke University and Founding Director of its Energy Initiative and Energy Data Analytics Lab, and as the Senior Economist for Energy and Environment on the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. His commitment to RFF also goes back a long way, previously serving as a senior fellow, university fellow, and then as a member of RFF’s Board of Directors.

“As I reflect on my incredible journey with Resources for the Future, I am filled with gratitude for the privilege of working with and leading such a remarkable team,” said Newell. “Together, we have forged new paths, informed decisionmakers in creating critical public policy with long-term impact, and navigated challenges in a growing climate crisis with unwavering determination. It is with a mix of deep reflection and anticipation that I share the news that I’m ready to take on a new challenge. While my decision to leave RFF is not an easy one, I am excited about the possibilities that new opportunities will present, for me and for my ability to contribute in new ways to advancing the energy transition and climate solutions at scale. I am confident that the seeds of excellence we’ve sown will continue to flourish under new leadership, and I am committed to helping ensure a successful transition.”

The RFF Board of Directors has established a search committee, led by Tierney, to oversee a national search for Newell’s successor, supported by an executive search firm of global stature. More information about the executive search firm and the position profile will be available in the coming weeks on the RFF website.

Resources for the Future (RFF) is an independent, nonprofit research institution in Washington, DC. Its mission is to improve environmental, energy, and natural resource decisions through impartial economic research and policy engagement. RFF is committed to being the most widely trusted source of research insights and policy solutions leading to a healthy environment and a thriving economy.

Unless otherwise stated, the views expressed here are those of the individual authors and may differ from those of other RFF experts, its officers, or its directors. RFF does not take positions on specific legislative proposals.

For more information, please see our media resources page or contact Media Relations and Communications Specialist Annie McDarris.

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