Tuesday PM May 15th, 2007

Energy Information Administration briefed on summer gasoline outlook...UH's Bauer College graduates first class of Chinese MBA students: senior executives in China's three largest energy companies...Chevron restoring Nigerian production...

Officials have told Congress that they expect to see the price of gas come down slightly this summer--but you shouldn't think you've seen the last of the $3-a-gallon prices. The head of the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration told a Senate panel that he thinks the price of a gallon of gas will average $2.95 this summer. But he says there will be peak monthly averages of more than $3 this month and again during August's peak driving season. The EIA says the average retail price of regular gas jumped almost a nickel a gallon this past week, moving above $3.10 a gallon. That's more than four cents higher than the record that was set in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Prices are already above four dollars a gallon in some parts of the country. Gas prices have risen more than 93 cents a gallon since hitting their low point this year in January. Analysts say prices are higher because of reduced refinery operations lower-than-usual gas inventories.


The U.S. House has voted to delay a Bush administration plan to allow Mexican trucks full access to American highways. The trucks would have to be declared safe first--and Mexico would have to give U.S. truckers the same access south of the border. The House approved a three-year Department of Transportation pilot program that would restrict opening the border to 100 carriers based in Mexico. The Bush administration wanted to start a pilot program in 2007 that would run for one year before fully opening the border to Mexican trucks. But the House bill specifies criteria for the pilot program before it can start--including setting up an independent panel to evaluate the test program, and getting certification from the inspector general that safety and inspection requirements have been met.


The University of Houston's Bauer College has graduated its first class of Chinese MBA students. They are senior executives in China's three largest energy companies, according to Associate Dean Latha Ramchand.

"Being the energy capital, we are developing a talent here that can be used not just the community here, but it can be used anywhere, you know, in the world. And as a result of that we were approached by the authorities in China for putting together a program in energy that has an energy focus for their executives. It's also different in that the students are being trained in Beijing. Every course that the students are taking, we have our faculty from the College of Business actually going there to teach in that program."

The 31 graduates and another 70 students are spending this week visiting various Houston sites. Tonight, they're taking in an Astros game, and tomorrow they'll be visiting the trading floor of Merrill Lynch. They plan a trip to Grant Prideco on Thursday and to NASA and Galveston on Friday.


Reuters Group and Thomson Corporation have agreed on terms for a merger to create one of the world's largest financial news providers. The cash and shares transaction values Reuters at $17.2 billion. Thomson would control about 70 percent of the shares in the new company, which will be called Thomson-Reuters. The company will be headed by Tom Glocer who is now chief executive of Reuters. Reuters trustees, who could have vetoed any takeover, endorsed the deal. Reuters competes with Thomson and Bloomberg in the lucrative field of providing data terminals to the world's major banks and brokerages. Reuters was the market leader for years before steadily losing ground to Bloomberg. Thomson-Reuters will have roughly the same market share as Bloomberg.


Chevron is restoring much of its recently shut Nigerian production. A Chevron spokesman says the company will be able to restore production of the 42,000 barrels a day of crude lost at an export terminal in "several days.'' In addition, talk about slowing gasoline demand in the face of record prices and led to some profit-taking.


Flying isn't as enjoyable as it used to be. That's the take-home message from a customer survey released by the University of Michigan. United Airlines and Delta, both of which restructured under Chapter 11 in recent years, ranked last and next-to-last, respectively, in the view of those polled. American Airlines, which was on the verge of bankruptcy before winning employee concessions in 2003, and Northwest Airlines which is currently in bankruptcy, were only slightly better. There were some bright spots for a few airlines. Southwest Airlines ranked first, and was one of only two airlines mentioned by name in the survey that improved in terms of customer satisfaction. Houston-based Continental Airlines was the other. Overall, airline industry satisfaction fell as a whole last year.


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