Steve Horn

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Steve Horn is an Indianapolis, IN-based Research Fellow for DeSmogBlog and a freelance investigative journalist. He previously was a reporter and researcher at the Center for Media and Democracy. In his free time, Steve is a competitive runner and marathoner, with a personal best time of 2:43:04. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, majoring in political science and legal studies, his writing has appeared in Al Jazeera America, The Guardian, Vice News, The Intercept, Vocativ, Wisconsin Watch, Truth-Out, AlterNet, NUVO, Isthmus and elsewhere.

How Climate Change Ensures Hotter Weather as New Normal for Boston Marathon

Crowd watching runners pass during the 2010 Boston Marathon

The 121st Boston Marathon has come and gone, and once again temperatures rose above normal, a perennial concern for runners hoping to hit fast times in this historic Patriot's Day race.

When the gun went off for the elite women's race at 9:30 a.m. ET, it was 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and by the time the winner crossed the finish line on Boylston Street 2 hours 21 minutes and 52 seconds later, the mercury had creeped into the low 70's. The average high for Boston in April is 56 degrees F.

Scientific studies have shown that ideal marathon racing conditions range between roughly 40 and 45 degrees F. Warmer weather and higher humidity makes it more physiologically difficult to maintain a consistent pace.

But this year was not an aberration. Last year's starting temperature was also high, hitting 71 degrees F. The 2012 race began at 65 degrees and 2015 at 61. And as scientists have pointed out, high temperatures could be the new normal for this famous race, meaning its days of breaking running records could become much rarer.

These Industry Titans Oppose Trump's Order to Build Pipelines with U.S. Steel

sections of steel pipe for a gas pipeline

The April 7 deadline has come and gone for public comments on President Donald Trump's executive order calling for U.S. pipelines to be made with U.S.-produced steel, and some of the most influential titans of industry have come out against it.

The list of heavy-hitters who have voiced their discontent includes the likes of Dakota Access pipeline-owner Energy Transfer Partners, Russian-owned pipe producers Evraz North America and TMK IPSCO, and pipeline giants Williams Companies and EQT Midstream. It also includes the oil and gas industry at-large through its trade association and lobbying groups, such as the American Petroleum Institute (API), Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), Association of Oil Pipelines, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), and others such as Magnolia LNG

Noticeably absent from the list is TransCanada, owner of the recently approved Keystone XL pipeline, which the Trump administration has said is exempt from the order. Both Keystone XL and Dakota Access will use steel made by Evraz North America, whose parent company is owned by a close political ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, as previously reported by DeSmog.

How the Koch Machine Quietly Pushed for the Dakota Access Pipeline and Stands to Profit

The Dakota Access pipeline being built in central Iowa

Quietly and behind the scenes, a front group funded by the Koch family fortune has lobbied and advocated for the soon-to-be-operating Dakota Access pipeline, a project in which a Koch subsidiary stands to profit.

A DeSmog investigation reveals that the group, the 60 Plus Association, pushed in recent months for Dakota Access both on the state and federal level. In Iowa, which the pipeline bisects, 60 Plus advocated on the project's behalf in front of the Iowa Utilities Board, which ultimately gave pipeline owner Energy Transfer Partners the permit it needed. And 60 Plus has lobbied for the pipeline nationally as well.

Ultimately, the profits from Dakota Access will be seen by Koch subsidiary Flint Hills Resources. The finding by DeSmog comes just days before Dakota Access will officially open for business.

Architect of Energy Secretary Rick Perry's Political Comeback Now Lobbies for Dakota Access Owner

Rick Perry

Federal lobbying disclosure forms for the first quarter of 2017 show that Jeff Miller, campaign manager for U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry's 2016 Republican presidential bid, now lobbies for the company which owns the Dakota Access pipeline.

The forms show that Miller is lobbying on behalf of Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) on “Issues associated with pipeline infrastructure development, midstream sector environmental compliance, and pipeline safety. Issues associated with partnership taxation.” Perry, after bowing out of the 2016 race, was named to ETP's Board of Directors. He stepped down from that role after being nominated by President Donald Trump as Energy Secretary.

Miller — formerly a lobbyist in California and adviser to both former California Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger and current Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — is credited as the architect of Perry's political comeback and foray into the national political scene. After serving as the longest-tenured governor of Texas from 2000–2014, Perry was indicted by a grand jury in August 2014 on corruptions charges in Travis County, Texas, for abuse of power. Those charges were dismissed by the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas in February 2016. 

Bakken Oil Now Flowing in Dakota Access Pipeline But Oil Trains to Remain on Tracks

Oil train cars

By Steve Horn and Justin Mikulka

One of the arguments often made for building more oil pipelines is that they will lead to fewer trains hauling oil, with proponents further positing that pipelines are safer than oil trains.

With oil now flowing through the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), some analysts and industry lobbyists have predicted that there will be a significant reduction in oil-by-rail traffic from the Bakken region in Montana and North Dakota. That prediction has come despite the fact that Dakota Access owner Energy Transfer Partners actually owns an oil-by-rail facility connecting to the pipeline in Patoka, Illinois, with major Bakken producers such as Hess Corporation saying 30 percent of their oil will still move via rail.

Carter Page, Trump Aide With Russia Ties, Is Also an Energy Scholar: Here's What He's Written

Carter Page

Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser for Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, has been mentioned repeatedly in news coverage about the ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign's alleged ties to Russia.  

Page owns the New York City firm Global Energy Capital LLC, located right next to Trump Tower, and lived and worked in Russia for a few years. Beyond that, however, he comes across as somewhat of an enigma, with little known about his past. Yet his own scholarly writings on the topics of geopolitics, energy, and climate, along with other career details, reviewed by DeSmog, may offer deeper insight into who Page is and how he came to assume the role of a Trump foreign policy adviser.

Page left the campaign in September 2016 after it was revealed he had visited Moscow, Russia in early July to give a speech at the New Economic School titled, “The Evolution of the World Economy: Trends and Potential,” just weeks before the Republican National Convention (RNC). Page eventually confirmed he had met with Russia's ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, at the RNC, but says it was a brief conversation and one among many he had with various ambassadors.

As Exxon Pushes Gulf Refinery During March Madness Ad Blitz, Facility Offered $1.4B Tax Break

ExxonMobil jobs commercial

ExxonMobil has engaged in a March advertising blitz, repeatedly airing a new commercial during national cable news channel breaks and prominently, during TV timeouts during the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I basketball tournament, better known as March Madness.

The commercial vaguely promotes what Exxon says is a new jobs initiative, which it claims will create 45,000 positions along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, without specifying details about the source of the jobs. Yet far from Madison Avenue advertising firms, a local battle has taken place the past several months in Gulf Coast communities over the prospective siting of and tax breaks for a proposed Exxon refinery co-owned by the Saudi Arabian state-owned company, SABIC (Saudi Basic Industries Corporation).

A mere three weeks into the ad blitz, two Texas entities voted to give tax subsidies to the proposed facility, dubbed Gulf Coast Growth Ventures. Both representing San Patricio County, Texas, the San Patricio County Board of Commissioners and the Gregory-Portland Independent School District offered Growth Ventures over $1.4 billion in tax breaks for the $9.4 billion Exxon-SABIC plant

Introducing Biochar: Climate Change Solution or Greenwash Nightmare?

Person holding biochar in hand

After years of investigating biochar, which promoters have touted as a potential climate change fix, DeSmog is releasing its findings on the science, claims, and controversy surrounding this approach to sequestering carbon. 

Biochar is the product of plant or animal products (biomass) undergoing pyrolysis, a high-heat chemical reaction, to convert the carbon-containing biomass to a stable, non-decomposing form of charcoal. Introduced to mainstream audiences in a Time Magazine article from December 2008, biochar as a climate geoengineering technology has hit a number of peaks and valleys since then. In that time, its best chances at reaching commercial scales so far have failed, according to a new DeSmog report, Biochar: Climate Change Solution or False Hope?

Biochar's failure to date is due to a number of reasons, such as the lack of scientific consensus surrounding its ability to sequester carbon indefinitely, the vast amounts of land needed to produce biochar at a large enough scale to affect the climate, and the lack of legislative or regulatory frameworks required for investment in commercial-level production. 

Study: Natural Gas Power Plants Emit up to 120 Times More Methane Than Previously Estimated

Natural gas power plant

Researchers at Purdue University and the Environmental Defense Fund have concluded in a recent study that natural gas power plants release 21–120 times more methane than earlier estimates. 

Published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, the study also found that for oil refineries, emission rates were 11–90 times more than initial estimates. Natural gas, long touted as a cleaner and more climate-friendly alternative to burning coal, is obtained in the U.S. mostly via the controversial horizontal drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).

The scientists measured air emissions at three natural gas-fired power plants and three refineries in Utah, Indiana, and Illinois using Purdue's flying chemistry lab, the Airborne Laboratory for Atmospheric Research (ALAR). They compared their results to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program.

Architect of Federal Fracking Loophole May Head Trump Environmental Council

Bill Cooper

Confidential sources have told Politico that Bill Cooper — current congressional staffer and former fossil fuel industry lobbyist and attorney — is under consideration to head President Donald Trump's White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).

CEQ works to coordinate various federal agencies dealing with environmental and energy public policy issues and oversees the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process for proposed infrastructure projects.

Cooper served as legal counsel for the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee on what is today known as the “Halliburton Loophole,” a clause which exempts hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforcement of the Safe Drinking Water Act. The Halliburton Loophole was slipped into the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and became law under President George W. Bush.

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