Thursday PM October 26th, 2006

Exxon Mobil posts second-largest quarter profit ever recorded...Greater Houston Partnership initiative to encourage new jobs, capital investment and foreign trade...Eleven environmentalists stage hunger strike against 16 coal-fired electricity generating power plants...

Exxon Mobil today posted the second-largest quarterly profit ever recorded by a publicly traded U.S. company. The Irving-based oil company says it earned about $10.5 billion in the third quarter. The largest quarterly profit ever was Exxon Mobil's $10.71 billion profit in the fourth quarter of 2005. Revenues eased slightly to just under $100 billion. A Wall Street analyst says he expects Exxon's earnings for the year to be around $40 billion. That would put the company on track for the highest annual profit ever by a U.S. company. Exxon Mobil already holds that record with a 2005 profit of just over $36 billion.


Royal Dutch Shell says it will develop an offshore petroleum production project in the Gulf of Mexico--off Texas. The site is expected to be capable of producing 100,000 barrels of oil and 200 million cubic feet of natural gas daily. Officials with Shell Exploration and Production would not speculate today on how much oil and gas the project would actually produce, but they expect a production life of at least 20 years. Production at the site, about 200 miles south of Freeport, is expected to begin around 2010. The discovery, known as Great White, was made by Shell in 2002. Three fields named Great White, Tobago and Silvertip, will be tied together by a "spar'' platform that will be moored in about 8,000 feet of water. Oil and gas produced by the project will be transported by pipelines to the southern Texas coast.


Drayton McLane and other Greater Houston Parternship membersThe Greater Houston Partnership has begun a fundraising effort to expand the relocation or expansion of foreign and domestic companies in the region. Chaired by Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane, Opportunity Houston is a $40 million campaign that the Partnership hopes leads to 600,000 new jobs, attracts $60 billion in capital investment and generates $225 billion in foreign trade. Shell Oil announced a $4 million investment in the initiative. The company's John Hofmeister says his industry wants to ensure a future supply of high-tech workers.

"Well in the first instance we're heavily recruiting across the nation. So this year alone, Shell will be bringing hundreds of people to Houston from other parts of the country. Hundreds of new graduates, even more hundreds of experienced hires that will be moving to Houston, setting up their base of operations here, their families an so on. That, of course, has an economic multiplier effect. And we're not the only energy company that's hiring. I think virtually all of them are. And so we see this as a huge edition to the demographics, a huge economic boost for Houston, which is already doing very well economically, and, you know, we have very good academic institutions both in the city and around the area which help to further the education of these very curious high-tech people. So we're pretty pleased with how this whole thing could shape out."

The five-year marketing program for the ten-county region is to help Houston compete globally in aerospace and aviation, energy and petrochemicals, information technology, medical and biotechnology and nanotechnology.


As Texas homeowners receive their property tax bills this month, most will find they've gone up instead of down. What was supposed to be one of Governor Rick Perry's greatest campaign assets may have turned into one of his worst liabilities. Perry claims in a now-pulled ad that the last special session of the legislature would mean the "average homeowner will receive a $2,000 tax cut.'' Independent gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn says "don't go running to your mailbox because it's not going to be there. At best it's $50 but most people are seeing an increase.'' Perry's campaign contends that while some homeowners see an overall tax hike, property tax bills would have been even higher had the school rates not been reduced. The landmark tax overhaul approved by the legislature earlier this year is meant to reduce school property taxes by about a third over the next two years. But this year, complicating factors like increased property value, higher city and county taxes and bonds for school building construction will eat away the reduction in school maintenance and operation tax rates, leaving most homeowners with an overall tax hike. Still, without the new tax legislation, those factors would have left homeowners with an even higher bill.


Eleven environmental activists say they've begun a hunger strike to oppose 16 coal-fired electricity generating power plants proposed for Texas. They say they began their fast Wednesday and will continue it through Election Day, November 7th. Their announcement comes nearly a year after Governor Rick Perry signed an executive order to speed the permitting process for the plants. Karen Hadden is executive director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Coalition and organized the protest. She says Perry's order made Texans believe an energy crisis exists that requires the quick development for new plants. Hadden says no such crisis exists, and the announced fast aims to press state leaders consider cleaner technologies--like wind power and other renewable energies. Perry spokesman Robert Black has said that the new plants will be 80 percent cleaner than the current national average.


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