Monday PM April 16th, 2007

ConocoPhillips partners with Tyson to make diesel from animal fat...Wal-Mart reclaims position as largest U.S. corporation among Fortune 500...IRS procrastinators: deadline is midnight, Tuesday night...

Houston-based ConocoPhillips has a new pact with meat producer Tyson Foods to make diesel fuel from animal fat. The two companies will use beef, pork and poultry by-product fat to manufacture the fuel. ConocoPhillips chairman and CEO Jim Mulva says they plan to make as much as 175 million gallons per year of renewable diesel.

"We're announcing today that we formed a strategic alliance to produce the next generation diesel fuel for U.S. consumers. We'll initially produce this new fuel at the ConocoPhillips refinery at Borger, Texas, and at several other domestic refineries as we go through this in several other years to follow, and will come from renewable sources--specifically beef, pork and poultry by-product fat recovered during food processing. And it's good news for U.S. consumers because it addresses their concerns with respect to energy supply, security and good environmental stewardship."

Tyson president and CEO Dick Bond says he never dreamed that a food company would partner with a major energy company to produce fuel.

"Since the by-products generated by the meat processing industry are an excellent feedstock for fuel, we believe it makes since for Tyson Foods to take the leadership in this area. In recent years, a cross-functional Tyson team has been exploring ways to commercialize our vast supply of animal fat into biofuels."

ConocoPhillips says Tyson will make capital improvements this summer so that it can start preprocessing animal fat from some of its North American rendering facilities later in the year. ConocoPhillips itself will also invest in facilities so that it can produce the fuel in several of its refineries. Production is slated to begin late this year.

It is the world's largest retailer. And Wal-Mart has reclaimed its position as the largest corporation in the U.S. among the Fortune 500, pushing ExxonMobil down to number two. With more than $351 billion in revenue, the magazine ranks Wal-Mart slightly ahead of the energy giant. Wal-Mart is on top for the fifth time in six years. Oil companies have three of the top five spots. Fortune says Google is among the biggest movers. The online search leader has moved up more than 100 spots to 241.

The state's prison units have more than 3,000 unfilled correctional officer jobs, leading one lawmaker to question whether the general public is safe. Senator John Whitmire--the chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee--says there's a public safety issue with the shortage. More than 30 percent of correctional officer jobs are unfilled at four prison units in the state: Dalhart, Smith, Coffield and Beto. The Ferguson unit has 28 percent of its correctional officer jobs unstaffed. The reasons for the shortages cited most frequently by experts are low salaries and the location of prisons in rural areas far from big-city labor pools. Experts say the turnover rate has risen from 20 percent in 2002 to 24 percent in 2006. A Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman said the prisons are secure despite the shortage of officers.

NASA confirms it paid settlements to the families of the astronauts killed in the 2003 Columbia tragedy. A NASA spokesman says the space agency used a 2004 Congressional appropriation. Allard Beutel tells the Associated Press NASA had never before discussed the payments because it wanted to protect the families' privacy. Beutel says while the shuttle tragedy was a very public event, it was "very personal to them.'' A Florida newspaper first reported the settlement of $26.6 million. The Orlando Sentinel says it got the figure from documents obtained though the Freedom of Information Act. All seven Columbia astronauts died when the shuttle disintegrated over Texas upon re-entry. Investigators determined the orbiter had been damaged by a piece of foam that had broken off during take-off.

No need to panic if you didn't get your federal tax return in the mail by Sunday night at midnight. You actually have until midnight, Tuesday night. The IRS says the deadline is changed for a couple of reasons: first--the 15th fell on a Sunday; second, Monday is a holiday in Washington, D.C, and that affects the whole nation. Thus, you have until midnight Tuesday. The tax folks say you may want to consider filing electronically if you've put it off this long. And they say any requests for an extension have to be made by midnight Tuesday.

It's not just the later-than-usual tax-deadline day that will make the post offices look a little emptier than usual when the deadline arrives. A new poll finds that most people are now filing electronically, although that doesn't mean they're completely comfortable with the idea. Half of the people in the AP-AOL Money and Finance Poll said they use a professional tax preparer to file their returns. A quarter use a software program, while 15 percent do the returns the old-fashioned way with pen and paper. Most of those who file electronically say it's ''very convenient,'' but people responding to the poll conducted by Ipsos say they're less convinced that it's ''very safe.''

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