The weekly AAA Texas Gas Price Survey shows regular self-serve gasoline averaging $2.21 per gallon. That's down a penny from last week. Nationally, regular self-serve is averaging $2.32 per gallon--also down a penny. Houston's average is down about a half-cent to $2.18 per gallon. Auto club spokeswoman Rose Rougeau says the New Year's holiday is usually a down time for travelers, reducing gasoline prices. She says motorists planning trips to warm-weather areas should see stable gas prices for the next two weeks. The most expensive gasoline in Texas this week is found in the Austin area, where regular self-serve averaged $2.24 per gallon this week. That's down one cent from last week. The cheapest gasoline is in Corpus Christi, where the average retail price fell about three cents to $2.14 per gallon.
Houston will receive an additional $3.97 million for reimbursements of costs associated with housing evacuees of Hurricane Katrina. The funding comes through the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency. The money will be used for delivery and project management costs associated with housing evacuees in the Houston Rental Voucher Program through September 30th of last year.
Jackson, Michigan-based CMS Energy has agreed to a preliminary $200 million settlement of a shareholder lawsuit involving "round-trip" energy trades in 2000 and 2002, according to the Detroit Free Press. The class action claims that CMS Energy made false statements about its business by including the results of the trades made by one of its Houston-based operating units. Round-trip energy trades, made infamous by Enron, occurred when CMS bought electricity from other energy companies at a set price, then sold it back to them at the same price. The company's Houston subsidiary admitted to 13 bogus energy trades with Dynegy and Reliant Resources. The trades resulted in CMS recording $5.3 billion in false revenue.
NASA has selected Hernandez Engineering of Houston to provide safety and mission assurance services to the Marshall Space Flight Center. The indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity, cost-plus-award, fee-award term contract, which begins February 1st, has a maximum value of $376.2 million over ten years. Hernandez will provide support services in system safety engineering, industrial safety, reliability and maintainability engineering, safety and mission assurance management information, quality assurance/engineering, project assurance, risk management, independent assessment, and documentation and report elements.
The Labor Department notes a pickup in hiring, even as the unemployment rate remained steady at 4.5 percent in December. Some 167,000 jobs were added to payrolls, more than expected. Additionally, payrolls growth in the prior two months was revised higher. The report suggests that despite the retrenchment seen in the domestic automotive and housing industries, the broader economy has been holding up. Employers were more paying workers more. Average hourly earnings edged up one-half of one percent.
Leverkusen, Germany-based Bayer says it has repaired its Baytown chemical plant damaged in an explosion last year. The September 26th explosion hurt 22 people and damaged the plant. Bayer was excused from contract obligations because of the mishap. The facility makes toluene di-isocyanate, used to make foam for seat cushions and bedding.
Baker Hughes in Houston says the number of rigs actively exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. tumbled by 15 this week--to 1,695. One year ago the rig count stood at 1,464. Texas lost 17 rigs.