Wednesday PM February 6th, 2008

Worker productivity slowed in fourth quarter...Houston Technology Center stages event to discuss energy economy...White House budget chief defends president's $3 trillion budget on Capitol Hill...

As the U.S. economy cooled, growth in worker productivity slowed in the final three months of 2007. The Labor Department says productivity, or the amount of output per hour of work, increased at an annual rate of 1.8 percent in the fourth quarter. That's a sharp slowdown from a six percent rise in the July-September period. Labor costs rose by 2.1 percent in the final three months of the year, after having dropped 1.9 percent in the third quarter. For the year, productivity rose by 1.6 percent, a slight rebound from a one percent gain in 2006. Both years were well below the average annual increases of 3.2 percent seen from 2000 through 2004. Productivity determines whether living standards can rise because it allows businesses to pay their workers more because of increased output without having to raise prices of their products, which increases inflation pressure.

The Houston Technology Center has been staging energy-related events to discuss challenges of an increasingly renewable energy economy. HTC partnered with the Western Australia Trade & Investment Office to stage a recent interactive workshop. HTC President and CEO Walter Ulrich says topics included worker shortages and the challenges of commercialization.

"You know, there's not only an active discussion of need for alternate sources of energy, but there's also an active discussion of how it gets commercialized—both what are the opportunities and the barriers to commercialization." Ed: "Also it was in conjunction with the ‘Focus: the Nation's Teach-In Day'." "There's an enormous amount of institutional knowledge in baby boomers that are now retiring from the energy industry. So one of the main topics is how can we encourage people to pursue careers in the energy industry broadly."

The Houston Technology Center is a business accelerator that assists Houston-based emerging technology companies. HTC plans an Energy Technology Venture Capital Conference on March 6th and 7th in Houston.

Gregory Price has been named chairman of the Houston Technology Center's advisory board. Price is director of consulting solutions and information technology at Pannel Kerr Foster of Texas.

A Bush administration official is defending the president's more than $3 trillion budget on Capitol Hill. White House Budget Chief Jim Nussle responded to criticism from members of the Senate Budget Committee by attacking lawmakers for not fully funding Bush's long-pending Iraq war request. He challenged them to join Bush in cutting off the rapid growth of federal benefit programs. Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad slammed the budget, saying the government's debt has done nothing but skyrocket under Bush. He says the proposed 2009 budget adds almost $800 billion to the U.S. debt.

University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston researchers have received a four-year, $3.4 million grant for development of drugs to help beat cocaine addiction. The program is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and may lead to therapies benefiting overeaters. UTMB scientists say chemicals that increase or block serotonin receptors can reduce cocaine-induced behavior in rats. Changes in serotonin are linked to depression, anxiety and anorexia.

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...