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Frank Ackerman

The late Frank Ackerman was a Senior Economist at Synapse Energy Economics.

Dr. Ackerman was an economist with extensive experience in analyzing the economics of waste, pollution, and energy. He wrote extensively about the economics of climate change, critiques of cost-benefit analysis, and other environmental issues.  He was a founder and member of the steering committee of Economists for Equity and Environment (the E3 Network). He passed away in 2019.

He received his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University, and taught economics at Tufts University and at the University of Massachusetts.

As a senior researcher at the Tellus Institute in Boston (1985-95), Ackerman worked as an expert witness and consultant for numerous state agencies involved in energy regulation, the development of solid waste policies, and other issues. He  worked extensively with EPA's Office of Solid Waste; at their request, he wrote the first draft of the interagency statement, "Recycling...for the Future: Consider the Benefits." The statement was published by the White House Task Force on Recycling, and distributed by the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive until 2001. He co-authored three reports (lead author on two) to the North American Commission on Environmental Cooperation, on environmental impacts of economic integration under NAFTA. He also directed a  study for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, analyzing the data submitted by national agencies on greenhouse gas emissions from waste management activities.

Ackerman  worked closely with environmental advocates on a number of issues, including: detailed comments on arsenic regulation, and on stormwater runoff regulation, developed with the Natural Resources Defense Council; analysis of Clean Water Act 316(b) regulations (governing power plant cooling water intake systems) developed with Riverkeeper; work on the economics of replacing toxic chemicals, with Coming Clean, the national anti-PVC coalition, and with the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow, a Massachusetts anti-toxics coalition; and critiques of the environmental impacts of current and proposed free trade treaties, in cooperation with groups concerned about the impacts of globalization.

After receiving a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University, Dr. Ackerman began his career as a founder and editor of Dollars & Sense magazine, writing monthly commentaries on the state of the U.S. economy. He subsequently taught economics at the University of Massachusetts. At Tellus Institute from 1985 to 1995, he was frequently an expert witness on energy regulation; he was also one of the developers of a Third World energy planning model, which he used in Brazil and Zambia. Other work at Tellus included economic analysis of solid waste planning options for state agencies, for New York City and other municipalities, and for international agencies. Dr. Ackerman was the principal investigator for Tellus Institute's widely cited life cycle analysis of the comparative environmental impacts of packaging materials.

Since 1995, at Tufts University's Global Development and Environment Institute (GDAE), Ackerman served as director and lead editor for several volumes of the institute's Frontier Issues in Economic Thought series; he taught statistics, introductory economics, and environmental economics in the Tufts graduate program in public policy; and he  launched GDAE's Research and Policy program, applying the institute's alternative, socially and environmentally engaged perspective on economics to practical policy issues.

His books include “Priceless: On Knowing the Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing,” a critique of cost-benefit analysis and its abuse in US environmental policy, and  “Poisoned for Pennies: The Economics of Toxics and Precaution” (Island Press), and “Can We Afford the Future? Economics for a Warming World” (Zed Books). He wrote numerous academic and popular articles, and  directed policy reports for clients ranging from Greenpeace to the European Parliament. He worked jointly with two institutes at Tufts University, the Global Development and Environment Institute (GDAE) and the Stockholm Environment Institute US Center (SEI-US), leading their joint research on climate economics.

Ackerman’s publications include extensive research on modeling the economic issues associated with climate change, in articles such as Inside the Integrated Assessment Models: Four Issues in Climate Economics, in Climate and Development, with Elizabeth Stanton and Sivan Kartha, and Limitations of Integrated Assessment Models of Climate Change, in Climactic Change, with Stephen DeCanio, Richard Howarth, and Kristen Sheeran.

Ackerman's concerns and commitments extended beyond his professional focus on the environment. His public speaking in the Boston area included remarks in opposition to the war in Iraq, and in support of the (successful) Tufts University "Justice for Janitors" campaign. He was the father of two daughters, and he played the trumpet in the Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band, an amateur New Orleans-style band in the Boston area.

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