Thursday AM January 10th, 2008

ExxonMobil begins production from oil project offshore Angola...Kingwood company makes appearance at International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas...Goldman Sachs forecasts economic contraction likely to last two to three quarters...

ExxonMobil says it's begun oil production from a multibillion-dollar project off the West African coast. The Irving-based oil company says it plans to drill more wells there than any of its other offshore sites. The world's largest publicly traded oil company operates and owns a 40 percent share in the Kizomba C Development. That's located in about 2,400 feet of water roughly 90 miles off the coast of Angola. Analysts say the startup is the latest in a series of successful developments for ExxonMobil in that part of the world. ExxonMobil's total investment will be about $2 billion. The other equity participants are BP Exploration, ENI Angola Exploration and Statoil-Hydro Angola. Exxon says the project is now producing about 80,000 barrels of oil a day and is expected to reach peak production of 200,000 barrels a day by the third quarter of this year. Angola is the second-largest sub-Saharan oil producer after Nigeria. It produces about 1.4 million barrels a day and is expected to reach two million barrels a day in 2007.


Kingwood-based Phonecasting.com is showing its package of services at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, as we hear from Houston Public Radio's Charles Bronstein.

Michael Sharp: "Half the world has cell phones—3.25 billion people actually are cell phone subscribers, and this service basically allows any of those folks, and any of the landline subscribers as well call up at any time and listen to programming." "That's Phonecasting.com CEO Michael Sharp. He's says his company's goal is to untether podcasting by taking the computer out of the equation. The Phonecasting.com Web site features a directory of about 2,500 providers which can be heard over the telephone, ranging from individuals to large media outlets like this one…" Sharp: "Here's the CNN podcast, and you just dial up (sounds from CNN podcast) and there you go. I just hit the speed dial (podcast sounds), there's the ad revenue…(more sounds)…and so that's the CNN podcast over the phone." "Phonecasting.com service is free, it's solely supported by advertising revenue. Users can get an account by signing up at the company's Web site. From Las Vegas, Charles Bornstein, Houston Public Radio News."

Report Number Two:

"The idea behind Phonecasting.com is to let people listen to podcasts over the phone. Now, in additional to providing a channel for listening to content, the service will also make it easier to create podcasts." Michael Sharp: "What we're doing here to make it revolutionary at the show as far as I'm concerned is allowing anyone to call up and create a podcast. They register at Phonecasting.com and create a channel. They can then start calling in and creating podcasts. Then they can assign a phone number and anyone can call in and listen to the latest episode." "That's Phonecasting.com CEO Michael Sharp. He strongly believes that this development will open up podcasting to many new voices." Sharp: "We start with the phone itself. Most people would agree that it's the greatest social networking tool of all time. Then what you can do is you can look at what people can do with a tool like this. They can create content. They can become a user-generated content creator—a publisher—and then disseminate that content over this vast network." "Phonecasting.com's service is free and supported solely by advertising revenue. Users can get an account by signing up at the company's Web site. From Las Vegas, Charles Bornstein, Houston Public Radio News."


Sempra Energy plans to construct a marine petroleum terminal and storage facility in Port Arthur, according to the Houston Chronicle. The company is holding an open season to gauge customer interest in the terminal , which would handle imports and exports of crude oil, liquid petroleum gas and related products.


Governor Rick Perry has announced a $750,000 award from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund to StarVision Technologies to help in the development of a new altitude-determination sensor system that improves satellite performance. StarVision is an aerospace research and development company focused on developing technology for unmanned vehicles, government and commercial satellites and advanced missile system markets in the aerospace industry.


Get ready for the recession. That's the advice from Goldman Sachs. The economic team at the world's most profitable security firm is forecasting a contraction in economic activity likely to last two to three quarters. It would be the first recession in six years. Goldman expects consumer spending will fall as slumping housing markets continue to make it hard for people to tap into their home equity and as banks tighten credit lending. The firm also is forecasting a rise in the unemployment rate to about 6.25 percent by late this year from a five percent rate last month. One positive effect, according to Goldman, is that the downturn will prompt the Federal Reserve to cut rates to 2.50 percent.


Radio station operators--already suffering from a deteriorating listener base and softening advertising trends--could be hurt even more if the economy heads south. With the likelihood of a recession increasing due to the housing market slump, credit crunch and rising fuel costs, analysts say radio operators are highly vulnerable because of their strong ties to local advertising. Lehman Brothers analyst Anthony DiClemente, local advertising accounts for about 80 percent of radio broadcasters' revenue. At the same time, radio audiences have been eroding as Internet radio becomes more popular, satellite radio expands and listeners increasingly use digital music players like iPods in their cars.


The Houston Police Department Truck Enforcement Unit will conduct a truck safety operation at 7200 Southwest Freeway northbound service road—Highway 59 South—in the former Target parking lot. HPD Truck Enforcement Unit officers will be inspecting commercial vehicles to ensure loads are properly secured and are complying with required regulations.


The Houston Independent School District is hosting its 2008 Career and Technical Education Expo through Saturday at the Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center on West 18th street and the adjacent Delmar Stadium. The CTE Expo will feature health and science exhibits, auto technology demonstrations, tax preparation and financial planning competitions retail merchandising, a fashion show, a robotics obstacle course, petrochemical activities, computer maintenance competitions and displays, child study and small engine displays, culinary contests and presentations, drafting and computer-aided technology competitions, criminal justice activities, livestock judging and an agriculture auction. CTE programs in HISD reach more than 37,000 high school students each year.


Hedge fund Harbinger Capital Partners is trying to shoot down Lehman Brothers Holdings' bid to get paid in Asarco's bankruptcy case, the latest instance in which Lehman's work for the mining company has come under fire. Harbinger, an Asarco bondholder, said in court papers filed with the U.S. bankruptcy court in Corpus Christi, that Lehman "has failed to effectively perform its duties.'' The fund, which was joined in its objection by Citigroup Global Markets, said the Wall Street firm isn't "consistently and meaningfully'' communicating with bondholders. Asarco is based in Arizona. It has a closed plant in El Paso.


A pollution expert says owners of a railroad ties factory didn't provide safety equipment for workers handling toxic chemicals. Chemical engineer Nicholas P. Cheremisinoff's testimony came in Fort Worth during the opening of a lawsuit. In the suit, Somerville resident Linda Faust blames BNSF for her stomach cancer. She is seeking at least $6 million in damages. Her husband has worked at the plant for more than 30 years. The railroad's lawyer points out Linda Faust never worked at the plant. BNSF's attorney also says there is no scientific evidence linking Linda Faust's cancer to the chemicals used at the plant. BNSF is a unit of Fort-Worth based Burlington Northern Santa Fe, which sold the plant to Pittsburgh-based Koppers in 1995 but remains its largest customer. The trial in state district court is expected to last four weeks and is being watched closely as a bellwether for up to 200 similar lawsuits filed by Somerville residents.


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...