Tuesday PM May 6th, 2008
by: Ed Mayberry, May 6, 2008 3:05:00 pm
The Offshore Technology Conference continues at Reliant Park. One presenting company is Quantapoint, which uses lasers to scan offshore drilling rigs and production platforms. Data is assembled into three-dimensional images that can help engineers solve problems, according to the company's John Rothermel.
"We're able to take that offshore platform and we can deliver that facility to work stations anywhere in the world, so engineers can literally route pipe through that facility without ever having to go out and visit it. We achieve that through the use of photo-realistic 3D laser models. Whether we capture one image or a thousand images, it's all networked together into a data network through a registration process that we use. Each one of those objects has a XYZ coordinate associated with it. So we can literally snap the pipe and tell you where that pipe exists on the platform. I can snap from one pipe to another pipe and tell you what the distance is on a center-line basis between those two objects."
The conference theme this year is "Waves of Change." OTC Chairman Don Vardeman says that includes sustainable large projects, technological upgrades, conducting business in the face of geopolitical strife and drawing new talent into the workforce. Breakfast forums focus on emerging aspects of the energy business.
A former Dynegy executive who's appealing his convictions over an accounting scheme--wants a different judge. Lawyers for Jamie Olis filed documents asking that U.S. District Judge Sim Lake in Houston be removed. The defense says Lake can't be impartial because he was friends with the former federal prosecutor in charge of the case. The prosecutor, Michael Shelby, killed himself in 2006 after suffering from cancer. Lake last week said he would not decide whether to remove himself until after prosecutors filed a response to the Olis request. The U.S. Attorney's Office didn't immediately comment. Olis in 2003 was convicted of six counts of conspiracy and wire, securities and mail fraud. He was sentenced to 24 years, but an appeals court reduced the term to six years. Olis was scheduled for release in August 2009.
The Federal Reserve has auctioned another $75 billion in loans to squeezed banks. It's part of an ongoing effort to relieve stressed credit markets. Counting the latest results, the central bank has provided a total of $435 billion in short-term loans to commercial banks through 11 auctions conducted since December. The latest auction was held Monday, with the results announced Tuesday.
A rising tide of late mortgage payments and home foreclosures poses considerable dangers to the national economy. That's according to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. During a dinner speech to Columbia Business School in New York, he urged Congress to take additional steps to alleviate the problems. Bernanke said some 1.5 million U.S. homes entered into the foreclosure process last year, up 53 percent from 2006. And, he said the rate of new foreclosures looks likely to be even higher this year. To provide more relief, Bernanke again called on Congress to give the Federal Housing Administration, which insures mortgages, more flexibility to help distressed borrowers at risk of losing their homes. He also again urged lawmakers to move ahead on legislation revamping Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which finance mortgages. And, he called on the two mortgage giants to quickly raise new capital.
According to a new study, home values in the first quarter of this year were down 7.7 percent from a year earlier. The Web site zillow.com, which tracks home prices, says more than half of homeowners who purchased during the market peak in 2006 owe more on their mortgages than the home is worth. Zillow says the rates of negative equity run much higher in the once-hot housing markets of California, Florida, Phoenix and Las Vegas.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon says he is moving "at full speed'' pushing efforts to tackle the world food crisis. Ban says he will hold the first meeting of a U.N. task force on the issue next Monday. He also said Monday that he is sending invitations to all world leaders to join him at a high-level meeting to work out a strategy for addressing food shortages and soaring prices. The conference will be June 3-5 in Rome. The Secretary-General says the food crisis grew out of more than a decade of neglect and ineffective development policies. Ban says he has urged government leaders not to adopt measures that distort trade and push up prices. He also is calling for immediate action to get seeds and fertilizer to small farmers.