Friday AM November 30th, 2007
by: Ed Mayberry, November 30, 2007 5:11:00 am
Mayor Bill White today joins with the four mayors of the state's largest cities to call on Texans to switch to compact florescent lights to reduce energy use. Mayor White is officially introducing what's being called the "state bulb of Texas" from the front steps of San Antonio City Hall as part of the statewide "Lighten Up Texas" campaign. He's joined by San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, Austin Mayor Will Wynn and El Paso Mayor John Cook.
Mexico's state oil company says it could take months to fix an oil platform leak that's spilled thousands of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. A drilling rig slammed into the production platform last month, killing at least 21 workers. Pemex says more than 11,000 barrels of oil have since seeped into the Gulf. A raging fire at the damaged well has continued to burn. The company says a new valve assembly is being installed on the damaged well, but if that doesn't stop the leak, another procedure to block it off could take four or five months. A Pemex official the spill has damaged at least two beaches. The full extent of the damage hasn't been determined but the accident is affecting only a tiny fraction of Mexico's oil production.
Governor Rick Perry named 29 industry leaders, public and higher education officials and representatives of state regulatory agencies to the Governor's Competitiveness Council. They will identify impediments to the state's ability to remain competitive in a global marketplace and make recommendations for improving the state's economic footing. Council members include Gayle Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, as well as representatives of several Texas-based corporations. Texas Secretary of State Phil Wilson will serve as chairman of the council.
Recognizing fallout from the housing slump and credit crisis, the White House is lowering its forecast for the economy next year. It says unemployment will likely be on the rise, with tight credit restraining business activity. The new forecast puts growth in GDP at 2.7 percent next year. The previous forecast had growth at 3.1 percent next year. It also is cutting the forecast for inflation, looking for consumer prices to surge 2.1 percent next year, down from 2.5 percent. The White House's economic forecasts are issued twice a year.
The United States and China have struck a deal to eliminate trade subsidies that harm the U.S. and other foreign companies. U.S. trade representative Susan Schwab says Beijing has agreed to eliminate WTO-illegal tax breaks that encouraged Chinese companies to export more goods. China also will scrap tax and tariff penalties against nations trying to sell their goods in China. The agreement, which officials say represents a major breakthrough in the tense trade relations between the two countries, came after lengthy negotiations. Schwab calls it "a victory for U.S. manufacturers, producers and their workers."
Texas regulators have approved plans for a $60 million transmission-line project in south Texas. It's a victory for two proposed wind farms. The Public Utility Commission on Tuesday okayed the application of AEP Texas to build a 21-mile transmission line and switching stations. Those would interconnect the two wind farms in Kenedy County. AEP filed the application in June to build the line on the sprawling Kenedy Ranch, which has given its go-ahead. But the prospect of hundreds of turbines and their massive blades--structures that can stand 400 feet tall--doesn't sit well with Kenedy's even-larger neighbor, the storied King Ranch. King Ranch officials say the turbines will interfere with migratory bird flight patterns, threaten other wildlife and create an eyesore. King Ranch and other opponents plan to sue the PUC for not allowing it to intervene in the case.
Houston-based Gulf Ethanol has acquired exclusive rights to a cellulose feedstock processing technology from Dallas-based Meridian BioRefining, according to the Houston Business Journal. The process converts cellulose feedstock into ethanol more efficiently. Cellulose-based substances can include wood chips, grasses, sorghum, corn stalks and straw, allowing the industry to convert current production from corn to cellulose.
Webster-based Spacehab approved a one-for-ten reverse stock split, as the company's stock starts trading on the Nasdaq under the symbol "SPABD" for 20 days. On December 28th, Spacehab will resume trading under the symbol "SPAB." Shareholders approved the reverse split earlier this month after Nasdaq notified the company that it was failing to meet the exchange's minimum stock price of $1 per share.
The parent of American Airlines has announced plans to sell or spin off its American Eagle regional airline next year. Investors have been pressing Fort Worth-based AMR to sell Eagle and other assets--moves they believe could raise money and lift AMR's stock price. American Airlines is the nation's largest carrier. American Eagle operates regional jets that connect American Airlines hubs such as Dallas-Fort Worth with smaller cities. AMR says it's still studying whether to spin off eagle to AMR shareholders, sell to a third party or divest the carrier in some other way. The company says the timing of the divestiture could be affected by the economic, industry and financial-market conditions.
Dallas-based American Consolidated Media is buying five daily newspapers in Ohio and Maryland and 28 other publications in two separate deals. American Consolidated's parent, MacQuarie Media Group of Australia, valued the deals at $159.5 million. The company says it's agreed to buy 22 publications in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware, including two Maryland dailies—the Star Democrat in Easton and the Cecil Whig in Elkton. The seller is Whitcom Partners of New York, which represents the families of Edward Barlow and Robert Blank. The sale is expected to close in early January. American Consolidated also says it agreed to buy 11 newspapers in southeastern Ohio from Brown Publishing Company. Those include dailies in Athens, Circleville and Logan. That deal's expected to close in mid-December. Brown Publishing is a privately held company based in Blue Ash, Ohio. After the sale, it'll continue to publish 16 daily and 60 weekly and niche publications in Ohio. American Consolidated will have 15 daily newspapers and 89 weekly and shopper publications in ten states after the deals close.