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Friday AM November 3rd, 2006

Women’s Global Leadership Conference in Energy and Technology spotlights women energy leaders and government officials…Reliant Energy and TXU criticized for not passing on current lower natural gas costs…Survey says Houston residents dine out more frequently than any other U.S. city… The Women’s Global Leadership Conference in Energy and Technology at the Hilton Americas on Thursday […]

Women’s Global Leadership Conference in Energy and Technology spotlights women energy leaders and government officials…Reliant Energy and TXU criticized for not passing on current lower natural gas costs…Survey says Houston residents dine out more frequently than any other U.S. city…

The Women’s Global Leadership Conference in Energy and Technology at the Hilton Americas on Thursday included speakers from major energy companies and government officials. The day-long event was organized by World Oil. Publisher Alexandra Pruner says there were 280 attendees last year, but more than 780 registered for this year’s event.

“The mission of the Women’s Global Leadership Conference in Energy and Technology is to create a forum to provide an opportunity for women leaders from throughout the globe to address issues of leadership pertaining to management of their own corporations, communities, the environment and our globe’s natural resources. We’re just thrilled to have them here. We had heard from Secretary (Karen) Harbert (from) the Department of Energy, the Angolan ambassador to the U.S., top executives from Exxon Mobil, Shell, Schlumberger, PriceWaterhouseCoopers.”

Pruner says there are a couple of reasons women attend conferences like the Women’s Global Leadership Conference in Energy and Technology.

“I think there are two different issues as to why people are attending today. One is recognition that we need more people in the energy industry, and today statistically approximately ten percent or fewer are women in the overall workforce, and that’s significantly less than comparable industries. Second, women are rising through the ranks and I think they need the insights and tools to gain greater understanding (about) how they can better manage their organizations. What is responsible stewardship and what is the best way forward, and how do you instill innovation, how do you achieve the best and the brightest?”

Topics included balancing work and family life and managing a dual-career marriage, gaining seats on boards, methods for attracting and retaining seasoned women executives and discussion about how to rise to the top quickly.

Public Citizen’s Texas office says if Houston-based Reliant Energy and Dallas-based TXU had adjusted their rates to reflect current lower natural gas rates, customers would have paid $700 million less over the past ten months for electricity. The one million “Price-to-Beat” customers of Reliant would have saved $40.30 this month alone. Both companies dispute the report. Reliant says the formula used by Public Citizen only takes into account natural gas prices, and not other factors that result in power company costs to get the energy to market. And Reliant says it has around 600,000 on the “price-to-beat” plan–not the one million reported by Public Citizen.

Reliant Energy has selected AT&T to provide services for Reliant’s call center. The company’s three customer call centers are in El Paso, San Angelo and Houston. Reliant primarily serves customers in Texas, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

More than 900 North Sea divers and support staff are striking over wages, threatening output from one of the world’s largest oil-producing regions outside of OPEC—around five percent of global supply. The National Union of Rail, Maritime & Transport Workers general secretary says the action is 100 percent solid, with no diving support vessels operating in the North Sea. Oil majors say that oil and natural gas output has yet to be affected, according to Reuters.

Bearns Stearns subsidiary Arroyo Energy of Houston is acquiring Delta Power Company of New Jersey for an undisclosed amount, according to the Houston Business Journal. That includes interests in 19 power projects with a total generating capacity of 1,380 megawatts. Delta is a mid-sized owner, developer and manager of primarily natural gas-fired U.S. electric power projects.

An educational roundtable for academic and business leaders was held at the United Way Community Resource Center on Thursday to encourage more student interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The CSTEM Teacher and Support Services event covered promising practices to inspire student interest in those fields. Future roundtables are set for December 6th, January 10th and February 1st at the United Way Community Resources Center on Waugh.

Houston residents dine out in restaurants more frequently than people in any other U.S. city, according to a study released by Zagat Survey. Houstonians eat away from home an average of 4.2 times a week, while residents of Austin and Dallas/Fort Worth are tied for second place at four times weekly. The national average is 3.3 times a week. The average cost of a dinner nationwide among 1,400 restaurants surveyed was $32.86. New York topped the list with an average meal price of $39.43. Houston’s average is at $27.06.

The Commerce Department says orders to factories for manufactured products rose 2.1 percent in September. It is the biggest increase in six months. Most of the strength was in orders for commercial aircraft. Excluding airplanes and other transportation products, factory orders would have dropped 2.4 percent. A decline in nondurable goods was attributed in part to lower prices for petroleum products. More recent data released this week from the Institute for Supply Management indicated that manufacturing was growing in October, but at a slower pace.

A disappointing sales showing by Wal-Mart is seen raising the possibility of steep discounting this holiday season. That’s good for consumers, not so good for the retail industry. The world’s largest retailer, with sales hurt by a failed fashion strategy that went too trendy and by disruptions from a store remodeling program, says it will be looking to mark down toys and electronics to drive holiday sales. The nation’s retailers reported mixed October sales, the result of consumers taking a breather after going on a buying spree in September. Slightly more retailers missed expectations than beat them. Department stores, which have benefited from consolidation and improved fashion offerings over the last several months, recorded robust gains again.

Slower-than-expected economic growth is pushing mortgage rates lower. Freddie Mac says the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 6.31 percent this week, compared with 6.4 last week. The 15-year loan, often used in refinancing, dipped from 6.1 percent last week–to 6.02. Freddie Mac chief economist Frank Nothaft says tepid growth in third-quarter gross domestic product helped put a damper on rising rates. He adds that because rates have slipped, there could be a spurt of refinancing by those who want to get out of adjustable-rate mortgages.

The Department of Defense will use a $1.4 million appropriation secured by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas to fund the formation of the Consortium for Nanomaterials for Aerospace Commerce and Technology. Technologies and nanomanufacturing platforms developed by the consortium could become part of the Air Force and Department of Defense systems.

Future geoscientists from the University of Houston are receiving new software. Seismic Micro-Technology has donated a three-year, $1.4 million grant for software to the Center for Applied Geosciences and Energy in the University of Houston’s geosciences department. The software suite is used in the oil and gas industry for the geophysical and geological interpretation and 3-D visualization of seismic and well data.

Blockbuster reports a narrower third-quarter loss compared with a year ago quarter. But the Dallas-based video rental chain says sales slipped due to a decline in rental revenue. Quarterly loss shrank to $24.7 million. That’s 95 percent less than the loss of $491.4 million during the same period last year. But the year-ago results included hefty charges. Adjusted loss–excluding items–narrowed to $11.5 million. That’s 5.6 percent narrower than last year’s quarter. Revenue fell three percent to $1.33 billion. Blockbuster says the results were hurt by a reduction in rental revenue caused by closing stores. Domestic same-store movie rental revenue grew 3.2 percent. But global same-store revenue fell 1.4 percent due in part to an “unfavorable” home video release schedule.

Fulbright & Jaworski is opening a new office in Beijing. The international law firm has had an office in Hong Kong since 1990. The firm’s China-related practice has grown rapidly in the past several years as that country’s economy grows and increases trade with Texas. According to the Texas business and Industry Data Center, Texas exports to China in 2005 totaled nearly $5 billion—a ten percent increase from $4.4 billion the previous year. Texas imported $12.3 billion in goods from China last year.

A dinosaur mega-attraction will open its doors in the summer of 2008 in Montgomery County, north of Houston. It’s the brainchild of “Dino” Don Lessem, author of 47 books, builder of traveling dinosaur exhibits and columnist for a children’s magazine. He expects the planned $50 million dinosaur city to attract at least 100,000 visitors its first year. Having advised people in both the entertainment industry and museums, Lessem said he wanted to create a hybrid of both. Lessem says the park will house the world’s largest dinosaur collection, a sand pit where children can “excavate” dinosaur bones, and forest trails dotted with dinosaur replicas. Indoors, visitors will see exhibits showing what the world would have looked like millions of years ago. And an animal park will display creatures that roamed during the dinosaurs’ era and remain on earth today, like emus and tuataras.

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