Friday PM November 30th, 2007

NRC accepts application to build two new nuclear units at South Texas Project...ConocoPhillips proposes Alaskan natural gas pipeline...Texas mayors endorse compact fluorescent light bulbs...

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has accepted a New Jersey energy company's application to build two new nuclear power plant units in southeast Texas. NRG Energy of Princeton, New Jersey, says the application is the first the NRC's accepted in 29 years. It says its license application—a 42-month review process--could be approved in time to start building in 2010 at the South Texas Project nuclear power station site. It adds that the plants could be ready to operate in 2014 and 2015. The site is in Matagorda County near Bay City, southwest of Houston. The NRC says the application was submitted in September. It's seeking more information and plans to establish a technical review schedule with public input. The plan calls for building two advanced boiling-water reactors, a type used in other countries.

ConocoPhillips has submitted a proposal to develop an Alaskan pipeline to carry about four billion cubic feet of natural gas per day to the United States and Canada. The Houston-based oil exploration and production company says it's "prepared to make significant investments, without state matching funds, to advance this project.'' ConocoPhillips says it's already gathering data in the area to support the pipeline permit application. In a statement, ConocoPhillips Chairman and Chief Executive Jim Mulva said the company hopes to work directly with the state to advance the project as quickly as possible. Specifically, Rowton says Irving-based ExxonMobil and London-based BP would be logical participants as the project moves forward. Partnering with a pipeline company also is a possibility. ConocoPhillips spokesman Charlie Rowton said the company's best estimate for the entire project, including the pipeline from Alaska's North Slope to Chicago, is between $25 billion and $42 billion. Bechtel Oil, Gas and Chemicals will provide construction and design support during the initial phase of the project. The pipeline would provide an important avenue for bringing Alaska's massive stores of natural gas to U.S. markets that rely on it for heating homes and other uses. It would move about four billion cubic feet of natural gas per day.

The Alaska subsidiary of BP pleaded guilty to a federal environmental crime in a 2006 spill. It's part of a settlement with the government over a 200,000-gallon pipeline spill at Prudhoe Bay. BP agreed last month to a sentence of $20 million in fines.

The average price of regular, self-serve gasoline held steady in Texas this week. The weekly AAA Texas survey finds regular averaging $2.96 per gallon in 11 Texas cities surveyed, the same as last week. Houston's average is up about a half-cent to $2.90 a gallon. Nationally, the average rose almost a penny to $3.10 per gallon. The Texas average is 84 cents per gallon more than the same point last year. The most expensive gasoline in Texas is in Amarillo, where it rose almost two cents to $3.03 per gallon. The cheapest is in Galveston-Texas City, where regular remained virtually unchanged at $2.90 per gallon.

How many mayors does it take sell Texans on a light bulb? Well, five are trying. The mayors of Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, El Paso and Austin held a news conference today to push the use of compact fluorescent light bulbs. The leaders say such bulbs will save residents money and reduce the need for new power plants. The squiggly bulbs use 80 percent less energy than regular incandescent bulbs and can last up to a decade. San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger says replacing eight million incandescent bulbs would have the same effect on pollution reduction as removing 55,000 cars from the road. Although the bulbs cost about 20 percent more, the mayors say electric savings easily offset the cost, he said. Hardberger earlier in the day met privately with Mayor Bill White, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, El Paso Mayor John Cook and Austin Mayor Will Wynn to talk about conservation.

More fallout from the slumping housing market and a credit crunch. The Commerce Department reports consumer spending inched up a tiny two-tenths of a percent in last month--the weakest showing since a similar increase in June. In addition, individual incomes grew by just two-tenths percent--the poorest showing in six months. Analysts say the slowdown in growth is likely to raise new worries about spreading economic weakness. His remarks last night were similar to comments from Fed Vice Chairman Donald Kohn, who raised hopes that the fed will reduce rates when it meets next month.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is hinting there may be another interest rate cut on the horizon to help ease consumer concerns. In a speech in Charlotte, North Carolina, Bernanke says the worsening credit crunch, a deepening housing slump and rising energy prices probably will create what he terms some "headwinds for the consumer in the months ahead.'' Bernanke also says he expects consumer spending to continue growing, and that the country could withstand the current problems without falling into a recession. But he hints that consumers could turn more cautious as they try to cope with all the stresses. His remarks last night were similar to comments from Fed Vice Chairman Donald Kohn, who raised hopes that the fed will reduce rates when it meets next month. The Fed has already trimmed rates twice this year in the wake of the housing collapse and a mounting credit crunch. A decision on whether to lower interest rates could come at the Fed's final meeting of the year on December 11th.

Tags: News


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