Monday PM September 27th, 2010

The Baker Institute is looking at how an emerging carbon management policy could affect the energy market. With climate policies accelerating the pace of technology and calls for alternative energy, questions are raised about future demand for fossil fuels. ConocoPhillips Chairman and CEO James Mulva says bring on the green jobs, but oil and gas are here to stay.

“At ConocoPhillips, we believe that all energy sources will be needed for the future—including renewable sources. We’re researching them, and have produced them. We also acknowledge that greenhouse gas emissions and their link to climate change raise genuine concern. But our business focus is on oil and gas, because these are the sources most readily available, at reasonable cost, to consumers today. We further believe there are three key points to remember about gas. First, it’s an energy game-changer. Second, gas can help drive economic recovery, and job creation. Third, the U.S. needs a balanced energy policy.”

Mulva believes natural gas is part of the solution because of its abundance and an existing gas infrastructure. The two-day conference also heard from Diezani Alison-Madueke, the Minister of Petroleum Resources in Nigeria. She says Nigeria’s president has had success in stemming attacks on Nigeria’s oil and gas infrastructure with an amnesty initiative.

“This initiative has disengaged militant youths from criminal activity. Attention is now on reorientation and reintegration within the productive economic activity of the sector. At this time we are seeing unprecedented peace and calm, significantly reduced attacks on our oil infrastructure, and consequently, much-reduced environmental degradation, increased crude oil production and less contribution to spikes in the global crude oil crisis.”

Diezani Alison Madueke

The Baker Institute conference continues tomorrow, examining energy market consequences of potential greenhouse gas emissions regulations, such as the adoption of a national carbon management initiative.

Southwest Airlines is buying Airtran for about $1.4 billion as it seeks entry into a number of smaller markets. The announcement comes about a week after Continental Airlines and UAL combined amid an industry-wide consolidation. The companies say that the new Southwest-Airtran operation would operate from more than 100 different airports and serve more than 100 million customers. The deal is worth approximately $3.4 billion including Airtran's debt. It will pay about $670 million with available cash. Southwest Airlines gets more exposure to existing markets like New York and Boston and it can get into smaller markets it doesn't already serve.

Vollmer Public Relations is merging with Edelman to create a Houston-based southwest regional office for Edelman. Richard Edelman and Helen Vollmer say there will be no layoffs with the acquisition. The deal finally combines Houston’s largest public relations firm with New York’s largest independent PR firm.

“Well, it’s funny. My dad approached Helen 20 years ago, and... (Helen: “It’s a long courtship!”) You know, one thing about the Edelman family is we’re persistent, if we find someone really talented, and so here we are today. And it was very sweet last night. My dad—now 90 years old—welcomed Helen to the family, and said, you know, she could have done this 20 years ago, but you know, you had to wait for my son!”

Vollmer has been in business since 1981, and CEO Helen Vollmer will lead the hub as president of Edelman Southwest.

The federal official running the BP oil spill response is proposing a third party to represent polluters to correct the perception that the company is in charge of cleaning up its own mess. Incident Commander Thad Allen told the National Oil Spill Commission that BP in no way tried to short-change costs, even though the public and politicians thought the company did. He proposed that someone from the oil industry could represent the polluter in future spills, instead of the company at fault, and eliminate the possible conflict of interest. Twice Billy Nungesser--president of Plaquemines Parish, one of the Louisiana parishes affected by the spill--told the commission that he still doesn't know who is in charge.

Gulf Coast residents overcome by stress and worry are having a hard time dealing with the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion. A survey shows 13 percent of coastal adults from Louisiana to Florida have suffered probable serious mental illnesses after the spill, although it's not clear exactly how many problems are directly related to oil. Officials worry that many of the hardest-hit groups--shrimpers, Asian seafood workers and low-wage tourism employees--won't seek help for mental problems because of cultural taboos. The level of probable mental illness is similar to that seen six months after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The study was conducted over the summer in 13 counties and parishes covering 1.9 million people.

Fannie Mae plans to give military families a break on their home loan payments if they are struggling because of the death or injury of a service member. The Washington-based company says it will reduce or suspend borrowers' monthly payments up to six months. Fannie Mae is the largest buyer and backer of U.S. home mortgages, owning or guaranteeing about $3.2 trillion in home loans. Fannie Mae also says it would suspend reporting to credit bureaus for up to six months to minimize the impact on the borrower's credit score. To determine whether they are eligible, military members or their surviving spouses should contact their mortgage company. Or, they can call a special military phone number: 1-877-mil-4566.

As the economy tanked during the past two years, a debate has raged over whether immigrants are taking jobs that Americans want. Amid the sweltering vineyards of the nation's largest farm state, the answer is no. Most Americans simply don't apply for jobs harvesting fruits and vegetables in California, where one of every eight people is out of work, according to government data for a federal seasonal farm worker program analyzed by the Associated Press. And the few unemployed Americans who apply through official channels usually don't stay on in the fields. Since January, California farmers have posted ads for 1,160 farm worker positions open to U.S. citizens and legal residents seeking work. Only 233 people applied. One grower brought on 36 people. No one else hired any.

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