Monday AM June 11th, 2007

Texas Petrol Index increases for 56th straight month…TSA asks 22 air carriers to pay $219 million in back fees for U.S. airport security…San Antonio partnering with AT&T to build downtown wireless Internet network… The Texas petroleum economy and employment in that field have steadily increased, boosting the Texas Petro Index to a new high of […]

Texas Petrol Index increases for 56th straight month…TSA asks 22 air carriers to pay $219 million in back fees for U.S. airport security…San Antonio partnering with AT&T to build downtown wireless Internet network…

The Texas petroleum economy and employment in that field have steadily increased, boosting the Texas Petro Index to a new high of 225.8, according to economist Karr Ingham, who says increases have been steady for 56 months.

“Yeah, no, no real surprises there. What we’ve seen over the last number of months dating back to the fall of last year are continued increases in the overall condition of the Texas E&P economy, petroleum oil and crude, crude oil and natural gas exploration and production economy, but at slower rates of increase than we have seen over that period, that four-year period of time leading up to that. So really what we’re seeing now is certainly at least the maintaining of these high levels of activity. And of course that’s a direct result of continued favorable prices from a, from a production standpoint. So we continue to add rigs to the working total in Texas and we continue to add to the, to the industry’s payrolls.”

The Texas Petro Index is a snapshot of petroleum production in Texas, although Ingham says predicting the future can be a bit tricky.

“To the extent that we can make any assumptions at all about what prices is gonna do between now and the end of the year–with the caveat that we’re all a little bit lousy at future price predictions–let’s just say that demand is going to remain strong, that supply’s always gonna be running a little bit behind, and that we continue to see crude oil prices bouncing around on either side of 60 bucks and natural gas, in the, say, six to eight dollar range. If that’s the case, I think what we’ll see is a leveling of activity, but a leveling of activity at a very high level. The Texas Petro Index is–that particular value–is the highest it’s ever been. But it’s not growing by three, four points a month the way it was over that four-year period of time, again leading up to last fall. So I think we’re going to see continued increases, but at a much slower rate, but the levels of activity that we’re now seeing are very high and I think unlike previous periods of time where we saw a peak followed by a really drastic decline, it looks like now we’re seeing something completely different than that, and it’s a very welcome sight.”

The Texas Petro Index is compiled by Ingham at the direction of the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, based on crude oil and natural gas prices, number of drilling permits issued, the rig count and other indicators.

Investors trying to buy TXU Corporation have offered up to $30 million for air pollution-reduction programs in central Texas. But the offer hinges on whether local officials agree not to oppose three coal-fired power plants that the Dallas-based electric utility wants to build. The potential deal may face long odds. Austin Mayor Will Wynn tells the Austin American-Statesman that a deal is unlikely. Private equity firms Kohlberg Kravis and Roberts of New York and Fort Worth-based TPG are trying to buy TXU for $32 billion and build three coal-fired plants opposed by many environmentalists. State regulators have scheduled hearings next week on two coal-fired units planned for near Bryan. A group led by the mayors of Dallas and Houston claims the plants would worsen air pollution. Last year, two administrative law judges said the state should reject an air permit for the units, called Oak Grove. KKR and TPG also want to build a coal-fired unit at the Sandow plant, about 60 miles northeast of Austin.

TXU says it won’t turn off the power this summer for poor or older customers who fall behind on their electric bills. The company also won’t charge deposits for customers with good payment histories. The utility says customers who are at least 62 or considered low-income can avoid having their service disconnect. They must agree to pay 25 percent of the overdue amount with their first bill after September and the rest spread over the next five bills. A spokesman says TXU defined low-income as a customer getting federal benefits such as food stamps or Medicaid. TXU also says customers who are designated as critical care will not be disconnected from July through September. Last year, the Public Utility Commission imposed limits on power cutoffs. Some lawmakers have urged the agency to do the same thing this summer. The legislature failed this year to approve bills that would have protected utility customers from summertime cutoffs and high deposit rules.

Twenty-two air carriers are being asked to pay $219 million in back fees for U.S. airport security dating to 2005, according to the Transportation Security Administration. Southwest Airlines owes $54 million, followed by American Airlines at $40 million and Delta Air Lines at $32 million. Houston-based Continental Airlines is being asked to pay $14 million. The agency’s decision to seek the fees caps an 18-month dispute, as the airlines seek to curb costs they say the government should bear.

An aircraft industry analyst says the firing of an executive at a Boeing parts supplier hints at trouble for the 787. Analyst Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group in Fairfax, Virginia, tells the Seattle Post Intelligencer there could be a problem in a complex production system. Dallas-based Vought Aircraft Industries fired Ted Perdue as executive responsible for the Charleston, South Carolina, plant that produces two fuselage sections for the new Boeing plane. Boeing says first 787 is on schedule to roll out July 8th at the Boeing plant in Everett, Washington, and make its first flight by the end of summer. The first 787 is scheduled to be delivered to a customer next spring, and Boeing has nearly 600 orders for the new long-haul, mid-size jetliner. It’s the first commercial jetliner made largely from plastic composites, and Boeing is relying on partners such as Vought to produce large sections of the plane, which are flown to Everett in super-freighters. The Vought sections will make up 38 feet of the fuselage.

Ridgeway Petroleum will be known as Enhanced Oil Resources beginning next week, according to the Houston Business Journal. The company will be listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange’s Venture Exchange as “EOR.” The change reflects a new strategic focus on carbon dioxide delivery and enhanced oil recovery.

San Antonio is partnering with AT&T to build a municipal wireless Internet network serving downtown. City officials approved the test project and say the network could eventually be expanded to cover the rest of the city. The project calls for San Antonio-based AT&T to build and maintain the test project. City officials say they plan to use the 18-month trial period to figure out the best way to establish and operate a large-scale wireless network for the city. For the general public, AT&T is offering free slower access to the network while faster access will carry a fee. San Antonio joins hundreds of cities across the nation and Texas in their quest to build wireless networks. Austin, Houston, Corpus Christi and El Paso are among the Texas cities working to establish some degree of Wi-Fi service.

Some El Paso residents and activists are troubled by a company’s plan to re-open its copper smelter plant. Asarco closed its smelter in 1999 when copper prices crashed around the world. But news that the once-valued neighbor–seen as a quality employer for generations of local residents–wants to reopen has caused dread among many who the financially troubled company wants to profit at the expense of their health. According to Asarco’s permit application with the state, the company wants to pump several thousand tons of pollutants into the air, including sulfur dioxide, lead and carbon monoxide. Asarco officials say that manufacturing plants and poorly regulated vehicle emissions from Mexico also contribute to El Paso’s air pollution. Opponents, which include the mayor and city council, say Asarco will not only pollute air around El Paso but parts of new Mexico and Mexico as well. Asarco and its supporters, including former employees, say the smelter is a model of environmental responsibility–although they acknowledge state environmental permit violations in the past. They also say the operation will create hundreds of high paying jobs and estimate a $1 billion economic boom for the region.

Dick’s Sporting Goods plans to open 60 stores in Texas as part of its goal to have 800 stores nationwide in the next seven years or so. The company opened its 300th store earlier this year, but most of its stores are east of the Mississippi. Right now, Dick’s has just two stores in the Lone Star State.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers are said to have made a 60-watt light bulb glow by sending it energy wirelessly from a device seven feet away. The move potentially heralds a future in which cell phones and other gadgets get their juice without having to be plugged in. The breakthrough, disclosed in Science Express, the online publication of the journal Science, is being called “witricity” by the scientists. The concept of sending power wirelessly isn’t new, but it has been dismissed as inefficient because the electromagnetic energy generated by the charging device radiates in all directions. The research was funded by the Army Research Office, National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.


Subscribe to Today in Houston

Fill out the form below to subscribe our new daily editorial newsletter from the HPM Newsroom.

* required