Thursday PM December 13th, 2007

Hunton Energy to construct carbon dioxide-capturing power plant in Freeport...Singapore Airlines launching non-stop Houston to Moscow flights...Transport Workers Union making another bid to represent Continental baggage handlers and cargo agents...

A $2.8 billion power plant that will capture almost all its carbon dioxide emissions will be built in Freeport by Houston-based Hunton Energy. It will create gas for use in Dow Chemical's plants. The plant will run on petroleum coke, a refining byproduct that it will buy from Valero. The Dow Chemical facility in Freeport includes 75 individual plants. Hunton Energy says the plant will capture and sell the carbon dioxide for use in enhanced oil recovery. The project is scheduled to begin operating by 2012.

Singapore Airlines is launching four non-stop flights a week from Houston to Moscow, with continuing service to Singapore, starting March 20th. Boeing 777-300 extended-range aircraft with eight first-class, 42 business-class and 228 economy-class seats will be used. It's the latest international air service being launched from Bush Intercontinental Airport. Emirates began service between Houston and Dubai this month. Continental Airlines is launching two daily non-stop flights to London's Heathrow on March 29th as a result of the Open Skies Agreement between the United States and the European Union.

The Transport Workers Union is making another bid to represent about 7,900 baggage handlers and cargo agents at Houston-based Continental Airlines. The union lost close elections the past two years. The union is back after a mandatory 12-month waiting period between elections. Ballots went out Tuesday. Voting ends January 9th. The International Association of Machinists has positioned itself to step in if TWU loses again. Continental pressured all workers to take pay cuts in 2005, after the airline lost nearly $1 billion in five years. Ramp workers saw their wages cut nearly ten percent. They got two percent raises last year. Continental spokeswoman Julie King says ramp workers bore only their fare share of cost reductions in 2005. She says all Continental employees participated in cost reductions--up to and including the CEO.

U.S. and Chinese officials have ended two days of economic talks with a call for de-escalating the war of words over who's to blame for Beijing's massive trade surplus. In a closing statement at a resort outside China's capital, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson stressed the "importance of balanced growth'' in both countries. And he said the U.S. and China need to fight what he referred to as "economic nationalism.'' China's top negotiator calls the China-U.S. strategic economic dialogue a "complete success.'' She cites progress on food safety and environmental protection. Their comments came just hours after the U.S. Commerce Department said the U.S. trade deficit with China jumped by more than nine percent in October to 26 billion. That's a one-month record. The deficits have triggered a backlash in Congress, with dozens of bills seeking to penalize China for what are seen as unfair trade practices. Critics say China's actions have contributed to the loss of three million U.S. manufacturing jobs since 2000.

It's the biggest coordinated action by central banks since the 2001 terror attacks. The Federal Reserve has announced a new approach to injecting money into the banking system. The goal is to prevent a recession. The Fed will have two auctions next week where banks can bid for up to $40 billion in loans, money they can use to bolster their own reserves. The hope is that the extra funds will spur increased lending on the part of the banks and combat a serious credit crunch that has made loans harder to obtain for many businesses and consumers. The Fed is also extending a line of credit in dollars to the European central bank and the national bank of Switzerland so that those institutions could better deal with credit problems in Europe. The Fed said it was also coordinating with the central banks of England and Canada.

Dow Jones shareholders have given final approval to the $5 billion bid from Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation to buy the publisher of the Wall Street Journal. It's the final step before the media company actually changes hands. Controlling shareholders of Dow Jones, the Bancroft family, had initially rebuffed Murdoch's approach, but eventually enough of them agreed to accept his rich offer of $60 a share to ensure his bid would succeed. Dow Jones held the shareholder vote in a hotel in the financial district of lower Manhattan, near its headquarters. The formal closing of the deal is expected to occur before the weekend.

A federal judge has dismissed the bankruptcy case of Earth Biofuels. That's the Dallas-based company that distributes country music star Willie Nelson's biodiesel fuel. U.S. bankruptcy judge Christopher Sontchi dismissed the case in Wilmington, Delaware, on Monday. That's after the company agreed to an interim restructuring deal presented by a group of hedge funds. In July, a group of hedge funds that claimed Earth Biofuels hadn't been paying its debts on time filed an involuntary Chapter 7 petition against Earth Biofuels. Under the terms of that deal, more than a dozen Earth Biofuels affiliates and Chief Executive Dennis McLaughlin have agreed to guarantee the company's debt. Court papers show the company owes a group of eight hedge funds a total of $100 million on senior convertible notes it issued last year.

Bio photo of Ed Mayberry

Ed Mayberry

Local Anchor, All Things Considered

Ed Mayberry has worked in radio since 1971, with many of those years spent on the rock 'n' roll disc jockey side of the business...