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Thursday AM June 14th, 2007

Southwest Airlines may ease growth because of slower-than-expected revenue…Reliant Energy: five tips for improving summer energy efficiency in homes…T. Boone Pickens plans nation’s largest wind energy production project for panhandle… The head of Southwest Airlines says the carrier could be forced to put the brakes on growth because revenue isn’t rising as fast as expected. […]

Southwest Airlines may ease growth because of slower-than-expected revenue…Reliant Energy: five tips for improving summer energy efficiency in homes…T. Boone Pickens plans nation’s largest wind energy production project for panhandle…

The head of Southwest Airlines says the carrier could be forced to put the brakes on growth because revenue isn’t rising as fast as expected. Chief Executive Gary Kelly said company officials set their 2007 plans assuming a stronger economy. Dallas-based Southwest has grown about eight percent annually by adding planes and serving more cities. But occupancy has fallen, and Southwest can’t raise fares enough to cover rising fuel costs. Kelly says Southwest is a growth company, but he says eight percent “is not a magic number.” He declined to say whether Southwest would expand to more cities this year. Kelly and other airline leaders spoke at an investor conference in New York. The chief financial officer of Houston-based Continental Airlines disputed Kelly’s view that air-travel demand has slowed. Jeffrey Misner says demand is still strong–if fares are low enough.

Reliant Energy is suggesting five tips for improving summer energy efficiency in homes. Reliant’s Bill Clayton says switching from incandescent to compact fluorescent light bulbs is step number one.

“Pricing has come down tremendously. It’s purely macroeconomics—supply and demand. And what’s nice about compact fluorescent bulbs, they use two-thirds to three-quarters less energy. In addition, they give off two-thirds to three-quarters less heat. Most of the energy used by the older incandescent light bulbs, 80 percent of it is given off in the form of heat.”

Clayton suggests checking your attic insulation.

“If you live in a house that was built prior to 1980, there’s a very good chance that there’s not enough ceiling insulation in the house. Reliant Energy recommends R-30. R stands for “resistance to heat transfer,” so the higher the number the better.”

Help your air conditioner do its job by keeping windows and blinds closed to block sunlight, and get a professional to conduct preventative maintenance on your system.

“Probably your air conditioning system is the most neglected appliance in your entire household. The reason why, it’s out of sight, out of mind and the only time that you ever think about it is when there’s a problem. If your unit’s older than ten years old, have an annual tune-up. If your system is undercharged, it’s just going to use more energy and cost you more money in the long-run.” Ed: “And clean filters.” “Absolutely. Did you know dirty filters could add up to about ten percent increase in your total cooling costs.”

Clayton says programmable thermostats should be set at 78, because each degree below that can increase cooling costs from five to seven percent per degree. The thermostat should automatically increase the temperature when you’re away.

“If you’re going to be away from your home greater than four hours, raise your thermostat at least four degrees. We don’t recommend customers to shut it off. We still have a tremendous amount of humidity in the air, so your air conditioning equipment also removes the humidity. Now, one thing we do tell our customers is to run your ceiling fans in concert with your air conditioning unit. “

One last thing about thermostats…

“We see quite a few customers who keep the thermostat setting on ‘on’ for the fan, which means the fan is going to run continuously 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We strongly recommend that customers put that on ‘auto.’ Not only will you save money, but you’ll make your house more comfortable.”

Lastly, caulking and weather-stripping are low-cost ways to save on energy costs. Clayton says a quarter-inch gap at the bottom of the door can equal the energy loss of a 3×3-inch hole in your wall.

Billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens is planning a wind energy production project for the panhandle that his people say would be the nation’s largest. KVII-TV in Amarillo reports Pickens outlined his plans to an invitation-only audience at a close-door meeting in Pampa. Mike Boswell is a spokesman for Pickens’ Dallas-based Mesa Group. He tells the station that Pickens told the select audience about the water rights Mesa owns in the panhandle and the amount of wind that blows across the land. He says early plans are to develop most of the generator complex east and northeast of Amarillo in Gray and Roberts Counties, with a little lapping into adjoining Hemphill and Wheeler counties. The wind-driven turbines would generate 2,000 to 4,000 megawatts and cost $3 to $6 billion to build. Boswell says the four-county complex might be four times the AES wind farm in Abilene, which is now the nation’s biggest. Boswell says construction is now planned to start in 2010, with construction to take six-and-a-half years to complete.

The Houston Symphony Society and the Houston Professional Musicians’ Association have reached an agreement on a new three-year contract. The contract was ratified by the members of the orchestra on Tuesday. The new contract was ratified four months before the current agreement expires in October of this year. Musicians will receive an increase in their minimum compensation scale and return to a 52-week contract. The total package will result in a three percent pay increase in the first year, 3 and 2/3rds in the second and three percent in the third year. Society-paid insurance coverage limits on instruments will be increased.

The Houston Grand Opera Association says it has increased its subscriber base by 25 percent over the 2006-07 season, as it heads toward its highest number of season ticket holders in several years. More than 1,400 new subscribers will join longtime opera lovers this October. The organization has achieved an 18 percent increase in total contributions, allowing the company to achieve budget for the fiscal year ending July 31st.

The University of Houston, Methodist Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical College at Cornell University have co-founded the Institute for Biomedical Imaging Science, according to the Houston Business Journal. The institute will being together scientists from UH and the two New York-based partners in the search for major grants for research and training.

The West Houston Association unveils its Houston Plan 2025 at its “Future of Greater West Houston” symposium this morning at the InterContinental Hotel. A panel of experts will discuss growth, providing quality master planned standards, infrastructure support for sustainable growth and governing issues. Author Joel Kotkin will deliver the keynote address.

A disaster preparedness and recovery breakfast seminar is set for this morning at the Upper Kirby Room on Richmond. It’s sponsored by the Greater SW Houston Chamber and the Houston Intown Chamber, designed for small and medium-sized businesses. Attendees will receive written materials with guidelines, recommendations, checklists and contact information for key agencies.

The Small Business Administration has launched its new Patriot Express Pilot Loan for the military community. The loan can be used for most business purposes, including start-up, expansion, equipment purchases, working capital, inventory or business-occupied real-estate purchases. Loans are made for up to $500,000.

Portland General Electric has announced the secondary offering of 21 million shares by the Enron Disputed Claims Reserve at $26 per share. PGE says it will not receive any of the money from the sale. The offering is expected to close on Monday.

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