Tuesday December 6th, 2005

DOE signs agreement with Future Gen Industrial Alliance to build prototype of zero-emissions fossil-fueled electric power plant...Deloitte 2005 Oil & Gas Conference allows oil and gas executives to discuss industry issues...Westin Hotels to ban smoking...

The Department of Energy has signed an agreement with the FutureGen Industrial Alliance to build a prototype fossil-fueled power plant that will produce electricity and hydrogen with zero emissions. The nearly $1 billion government-industry initiative is a response to President Bush's directive to develop a hydrogen economy to address global climate change. Site selection, design and environmental analyses will be undertaken over the next year for final project design, construction and operation. The FutureGen Industrial Alliance will contribute $250 million to the project. Final site selection is set for mid to late 2007, and operations are expected to begin around 2012. Coal-gasification technologies will be utilized to eliminate sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, converting them to useable by-products such as fertilizers and soil enhancers. Coal will also be turned into a highly enriched hydrogen gas, which can be burned more cleanly than directly burning the coal itself. Hydrogen can be used in a fuel cell to produce electricity.


The day-long Deloitte 2005 Oil & Gas Conference is set for Wednesday at the Hilton Americas, allowing oil and gas industry executives, industry analysts and commentators to share their views on issues facing the industry. Conference Chairman Richard Woodward says a recent survey of individual investors, for example, reveals high interest in green investing.

Richard Woodward audio 1

There is no shortage of topics for a conference like this.

Richard Woodward audio 2

Woodward says the energy industry is still concerned about an aging workforce.

Richard Woodward audio 3

Woodward says this is a dramatic time for the energy industry because of changes within the industry and in the nation's economy.

Richard Woodward audio 4

Around 450 to 500 participants are taking part in this fourth annual Deloitte conference.


Orders to U.S. factories posted a strong showing in October. The Commerce Department says demand for manufactured goods rose 2.2 percent, more than erasing a decline in the previous month. The report is further evidence of the rebound for the economy after the Gulf Coast hurricanes and related spike in energy prices. Excluding volatile transportation orders, factory orders were up six-tenths of one percent. The rise for durable goods is the best showing since August.


Starting next month, Westin Hotels and Resorts is banning smoking indoors and poolside at all 77 of its properties in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean. And a spokesman says $200 will be added to the bill of anyone who violates the policy. Smokers will have to go to a designated outdoor area. The American Hotel and Lodging Association says Westin is the first major American chain to go smoke-free and predicts many of the other hotel chains will probably wait to see how it works out before following suit.


Lawyers for former Enron executives Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling and Rick Causey have asked that sealed statements ex-Enron CFO Andrew Fastow made to support his wife during her criminal case be unsealed, according to the Houston Chronicle. The attorneys want statements about exculpatory information for possible use in cross-examining Fastow in their clients' upcoming January 17th trial.


A widow says her husband was "a big, strong, healthy guy'' when he died in 2001 of a heart attack after taking Vioxx. The plaintiffs rested after Evelyn Irvin Plunkett testified in her federal trial in Houston against Merck. Merck argues its drug wasn't responsible for the 53-year-old man's death. The woman says "Dicky'' Irvin was never sick and got lots of exercise lifting boxes at the St. Augustine, Florida, seafood distributor he managed. Merck began its defense by calling Dr. David Silver of Los Angeles, who's done about 100 clinical trials of drugs, including Vioxx. Dr. Silver cited a recent Food and Drug Administration report. The FDA review said there's no conclusive evidence that someone taking Vioxx is at greater risk of a heart attack than someone taking other painkillers. Silver, who's received research grants from Merck, says because of FDA document and several clinical studies--he doesn't believe Vioxx causes heart attacks. Plunkett's attorneys also withdrew two of their five lawsuit claims: fraud and breach of warranty.


The state has obtained indictments against a Houston-area couple in an alleged diploma forgery scheme. Thirty-three-year-old Randal Shane Dodson and his 35-year-old wife, Wendi Bailes Dodson, are free on bail after their indictments on charges of tampering with a government document. That's a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said today the Spring couple turned themselves in to authorities immediately after the Harris County Grand Jury returned the indictments Thursday. A statement from Abbott's office says the Dodsons forged facsimiles of university diplomas and transcripts and sold them on the World Wide Web. According to the statement, more than 300 Texans bought the fake documents from diplomasforless.com. Abbott says the web site was shut down in August.


A Houston-based oil company is donating $1 million for Texas hurricane relief. Governor Rick Perry today announced the contribution from ConocoPhillips. Perry, who was in Tyler to host a small business summit, says the funds will go to the Texas Disaster Relief Fund. Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on August 29th, forcing tens of thousands of Louisiana evacuees to head for Texas. Rita came ashore September 24th near Sabine Pass. The relief fund provides grants to families in need of the basics--including home repairs, medical care and furnishings.


Houston-based Olshan Foundation Repair & Waterproofing is acquiring Florida-based Foundation Technologies, expanding Olshan's national reach to 49 U.S. markets. Foundation Technologies will continue to operate under its current name to provide solutions for sinkhole-related foundation problems, but it will add Olshan's Cable Lock process for non-sinkhole-related projects. Olshan began in Houston in 1933.


Kroger has reached a four-year agreement with 6,800 union workers in the Dallas area, according to the Houston Chronicle. Union members ratified a new contract. The accord with the United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 1000 covers workers in 88 stores.


Brook Mays Music will appeal a jury's nearly $21 million verdict for a musical instrument maker. Boston-based First Act claimed its products were falsely disparaged by Dallas-based Brook Mays. First Act, which makes bargain-priced instruments found at mass retailers, sued the Brook Mays chain in 2003. A jury in Boston on Friday ruled unanimously in favor of First Act. Brook Mays Chief Executive William Everitt today said the verdict wasn't justified and the company will ask the judge to set aside the decision.


Little Rock-based Information Technology firm Intellimark Holdings has purchased Dallas-based Impact Innovations Group. Financial terms of the merger haven't been disclosed. Intellimark says it'll take on the name Technisource for the merged companies, and it plans to consolidate offices in Dallas and Atlanta. The merger adds about 400 employees to the Arkansas company. The new company will have about 3,100 workers in 34 offices across the country. The company plans to expand from consulting by expanding into outsourcing and technical staffing. Both companies are privately held.


Cinemark will open a 12-screen, all stadium-seating movie theater December 16th in Cypress on the Northwest Freeway. The new facility features a 16-inch height difference between each row. Cinemark operates 339 theaters and 3,339 screens in 33 states and 13 countries.


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