Monday AM May 21st, 2007

KPMG Global Energy Conference set for this week; SEC chairman to speak…Congressmen to tour nation’s first power plant run completely on biodiesel… Some 600 or 700 financial executives in the energy industry are attending 5th annual KPMG’s 2007 Global Energy Conference this week. Speakers will include the 27th chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission […]

KPMG Global Energy Conference set for this week; SEC chairman to speak…Congressmen to tour nation’s first power plant run completely on biodiesel…

Some 600 or 700 financial executives in the energy industry are attending 5th annual KPMG’s 2007 Global Energy Conference this week. Speakers will include the 27th chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the president and CEO of NRG Energy, according to KPMG’s Bill Kimble.

“The general sessions, where we have William Donaldson, our chairman of the SEC, and then we have David Crane, the president and CEO of NRG, you’re going to have real, real in-depth perspective from both of those, one from the SEC perspective of the world and one from a power producer. Then the other general sessions, the CEO panel, you will hear from gentlemen that run global energy companies. We also have an alternative energy panel. So we’ve got the president of a solar company, we’ve got a founder of a biofuel company and a founder of an ocean technology company. And then on the prior day we have three CEOs from multinational oil and gas companies.”

Kimble says there will be some discussion about alternative energy.

“You know, it’s interesting, Ed. When commodity prices get up to a certain area, alternative energy is always something that comes up. So you have that as part of a trend, but I think it’s a longer trend as the companies are looking and saying that, you know, whether global warming is CO-induced, or is it a natural weather cycle, there are things that companies can do—energy companies—to help on demand-side management and on the supply side and alternative energy, I think we’re now in the minority of a company that would say that there isn’t something they can do to help global warming, even if they think it’s a weather cycle.”

Participants can create their own curriculum from all the breakout sessions—smaller group sessions that allow interaction with the panels. The KPMG Global Energy Conference is set for tomorrow and Wednesday at the InterContinental Hotel.

Former President Bill Clinton has unveiled a $5 billion effort to fight global warming by retrofitting buildings with more energy-efficient products, according to the Houston Business Journal. Clinton spoke at the C40 Large Cities Climate Summit in New York. Houston is one of 15 cities around the world that will be part of the program coordinated by major banks and energy service companies that could produce a 20 to 50 percent reduction in energy use. Other cities include New York, Chicago, Toronto, Mexico City, London, Berlin, Tokyo and Rome. Buildings will replace heating, cooling and lighting systems with energy-efficient networks. Windows will be better-sealed and new models will let in more light while keeping the elements out. Several banks have committed $1 billion to finance the upgrades.

Congressmen Nick Lampson and Kevin Brady this morning will tour the first power plant in the nation whose generators run completely on biodiesel. Representatives from the Safe Renewables Corporation and Biofuels Power will show the refinery and generators in The Woodlands that produce renewable energy.

CenterPoint Energy and Spectra Energy have won preliminary federal approval for a 270-mile natural gas pipeline between Perryville, Louisiana and Mobile County, Alabama, according to the Houston Chronicle. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the ownership structure of the pipeline and proposed rates. The $700 to $800 million project must still undergo an environmental review.

The Port Commission of the Port of Houston Authority will consider more than $2 million in contract amendments and bids and proposals for Bayport Terminal projects on Tuesday. The changes are for work on Phase 1 of the project, including wharf and dredging, building construction and gate control.

Chevron will invest 20 percent of its total outlays this year in Asia–mostly for petroleum exploration and production. A top company official says the $4 billion will be used for projects that include developing the Gorgon Liquefied Natural Gas project off the shores of Australia, building petroleum production in Indonesia and Thailand, and exploring for oil and gas in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Vietnam. Asia accounts for a quarter of Chevron’s 62 billion barrels-of-oil-equivalent in global reserves. Chevron hopes to increase its global production by an average of three percent a year from now to 2010.

J.C. Penney shareholders voted to require that the company seek their approval before awarding any more generous severance packages. The vote came after the Plano-based retailer awarded $10.2 million in severance to an executive who’d been on the job only six months. It was unclear whether the company will heed the shareholders’ sentiment. The board opposed the measure, and its chairman repeated his opposition after the vote. The proposal by a labor union pension fund would have required shareholder approval of severance deals that exceed about three times the sum of an executive’s base salary and bonus. J.C. Penney chairman and chief executive Myron E. Ullman said the measure would hurt Penney’s ability to hire talented executives.

The Department of Defense officially has approved plans to renovate and expand facilities at Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis. The updates will help accommodate personnel being transferred to the San Antonio area. The Base Closure and Realignment Commission in 2005 recommended that scores of military functions be moved and consolidated to save money and improve operations. So Fort Sam–the headquarters of army medicine–will add about 2,600 military personnel, 1,600 civilians and 5,000 students. Authorities say construction will include a $107 million research facility for battlefield and trauma care. In all, DOD expects to spend about $800 million on new construction at Fort Sam and Camp Bullis.

Omega Protein Incorporated has agreed to pay a $12,600 fine to Virginia environmental regulators. The Houston-based company was fined for allowing too much ammonia to escape from a wastewater treatment plant into a small creek just off Chesapeake Bay. The proposed settlement with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is expected to be ratified next month. It marks the sixth time in eight years that omega has run afoul of state regulators. Omega operates the east coast’s largest menhaden processing plant. It converts millions of pounds of the silver bait fish into fish oil, meal and health supplements. In its proposed settlement, Omega admits to high ammonia discharges in part because of a power outage last summer and a lack of spare parts and a backup generator. Company spokesman Toby Gascon says the problems were minor and complained that state regulators are being too tough on the Reedville, Virginia, plant.

The new owners of the Killington Ski Resort in Vermont have notified hundreds of owners of free lifetime passes that those tickets will soon no longer be honored. The Killington and Pico resorts were sold to Salt Lake City-based Powdr Corporation and Dallas-based SP Land Company. Days later, the pass holders were notified by mail that their unlimited access to the slopes will come to an end within two years. The passes belong to people who bought stocks or bonds issued by the Sherburne Corporation, which sold stock in 1960 and 1961 to help get the resort off the ground. In exchange for their investment, the stock and bond holders were issued lifetime season passes. The commitment to the lifelong passes continued when Sherburne was sold to Killington Limited. But the company’s new owners say the manner in which they bought the resort freed them from the legal commitment to honor the passes. They say they’ll honor the passes for two years as a good-faith gesture.

A little piece of computer history is getting some federal recognition. Hewlett-Packard says the National Park Service is designating as a national historic landmark the home and garage where the company’s founders did their early work. It was in 1938 that Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard set up their shop in the house in Palo Aalto, California, in an area that would go on to become known as the Silicon Valley. The property consists of a house, a garage and a shed. The first product Hewlett and Packard designed there was an audio oscillator. Walt Disney used it in 1940 to improve the sound on his groundbreaking, feature-length animated movie “Fantasia.” Even with the landmark designation, the house will be open to the public only rarely, out of deference to the neighbors.

The number of rigs actively exploring for oil and natural gas in the United States increased by four this week to1,744. Houston-based Baker Hughes reports that of the rigs running nationwide, 1,466 were exploring for natural gas and 276 for oil. Two were listed as miscellaneous. A year ago, the rig count stood at 1,639. Texas gained 11 rigs. Baker Hughes has tracked rig counts since 1944. The tally peaked at 4,530 in 1981, during the height of the oil boom. The industry posted several record lows in 1999, bottoming out at 488.