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Tuesday AM February 19th, 2008

Texas energy firms rank among most shareholder-friendly…Study points to $1 trillion carbon emission market by 2020…Collapse of Enron inspires musical in Las Cruces, New Mexico…

Several Texas energy firms rank among the most shareholder-friendly, according to a survey by Institutional Investor magazine. In oil services, National Oilwell Varco places at number one, followed by Noble Energy, Schlumberger, Transocean and Smith International. In the oil category, Irving-based ExxonMobil is number one, followed by Marathon Oil. ConocoPhillips is also in the top five, placing at number four. Fort Worth-based XTO Energy is number one in oil and gas exploration, followed by EOG Resources, Apache Corporation and Fort Worth-based Range Resources.

A new study by New Carbon Finance claims the United States will have a $1 trillion carbon emission market by 2020 that will raise consumer energy prices, according to the Houston Business Journal. The study looks at various bills under review by Congress. The report predicts that the carbon-constrained U.S. economy, including a cap-and-trade system allowing only domestic trades, will produce a carbon price of $40 per ton by 2015. A company wanting to emit more than its entitlement could buy the right from businesses that emit less than its entitlement, under most of the 13 climate change bills being discussed. The report says that would push consumer prices up by 20 percent, gasoline prices by 12 percent and natural gas prices by ten percent.

Hourly wages for highly-skilled technology professionals reached an all-time high during the fourth quarter of 2007, according to the latest Yoh Index of Technology Wages. The average hourly wage for high-impact technology workers was recorded at $32.39 during October. Yoh Vice President of Strategy and Marketing says Jim Lanzalotto says workers looking for jobs should zero in on how their skills can help businesses be more profitable, better serve their customers and improve inefficiencies during a softening economy. The index is built on data compiled by Yoh’s 75 field offices.

A new survey from Robert Half International finds that recruiting experienced IT professionals is the top concern for three in ten CIOs at large companies. Nearly the same number of CIOs at smaller companies name providing adequate skills training as their greatest management challenge. A Robert Half executive director says in Web development, database management, wireless networking and applications engineering, the supply of qualified professionals has not kept pace with demand.

The construction industry contributed $58 billion to the gross domestic product of Texas in 2006, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. Construction companies employed more than two percent more workers in 2007, or about six percent of the state’s non-farm jobs. Texas construction workers averaged three percent higher pay than the private sector’s average. AGC says the growth in construction could be a result of the sate’s fast population growth.

Transocean has been awarded a $351 million drilling contract by a Marathon Oil subsidiary-led consortium, according to the Houston Business Journal. The two-year contract begins in 2009, with Transocean providing the ultra-deepwater drillship GSF Explorer to drill exploratory wells off Indonesia. Meanwhile, Transocean is selling two semisubmersible rigs, the GSF Arctic II and GSF Arctic IV, as part of its compliance agreement with the Office of Fair Trading in the United Kingdom in connection with its merger with GlobalSantaFe last November. And Transocean is selling three of its jackup rigs and equipment to Hercules Offshore for $320 million. The company says the move marks it exit from the shallow-water area of the Gulf of Mexico.

BP plans to spend $2 billion exploring for natural gas in Libya. The firm plans to start seismic studies this year. London-based BP’s output fell three percent last year—the second annual decline after a decade of expansion.

Information stolen from Brazil’s state-run oil company was related to two new offshore petroleum fields, according to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Last month’s theft of four laptops and two hard drives involved state secrets, although it’s not known whether the information is destined for foreign companies or governments. But Brazil’s president says Petrobras has backup copies of the information. Police say the equipment was in the possession of Halliburton and was stolen last month while being transported from the coastal city of Santos to Macae in Rio de Janiero state.

Research in Motion has sued Motorola over several patents used for wireless devices such as RIM’s Blackberry e-mail devices and Motorola’s Razr smart phones. The Ontario-based company is asking a federal court in Dallas to declare Motorola is breaching commitments it made to license essential patents to competitors. Research in Motion also says in a court filing, dated Saturday, that Motorola is violating nine rim patents. The Canadian company’s filing came one day after Motorola filed a suit against RIM, claiming it violated some of Motorola’s patents. The two companies–innovators in wireless communications–have both collaborated and competed with each other over the years. Motorola’s Jennifer Erickson said her company believes the claims are without merit and Motorola intends to vigorously defend itself.

Kohl’s is opening three new Houston-area stores in April, bringing some 450 jobs to the area. The Wisconsin retailer is opening locations in Atascocita, Katy and League City. It’s part of the chain’s five-year growth plan of operating more than 1,400 stores nationwide by 2012. Kohl’s currently operates 18 stores in the Houston area.

An Oil States International subsidiary has purchased a manufacturing facility along the Houston Ship Channel, according to the Houston Business Journal. The facility was bought for about $22 million, and has capabilities for light and heavy steel construction, machining, inventory control, customer property storage and offshore logistics capabilities. The firm will enhance its capability to manufacture, assemble, test and load out larger subsea production and floating drilling rig equipment.

Houston-based WellDynamics has been awarded two frame jobs in Norway by StatoilHydro valued at about $185 million over eight years, according to the Houston Business Journal. WellDynamics is a joint venture of Halliburton Energy Services and Shell Technology Ventures Fund 1 BV. The work includes installing electronic flowmeters and pressure/temperature gauges in wells.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development, Litton Loan Servicing and industry experts are hosting a foreclosure prevention meeting this evening at the Second Baptist Church north campus on Highway 59 North in Kingwood. HUD planned the meeting in response to the growing number of foreclosures. According to RealtyTrac, Houston-area foreclosures exceeded 11,000 filings for the second half of 2007, ranking 36th among the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan cities.

The collapse of Enron has inspired a musical in Las Cruces, New Mexico, according to the Las Cruces Sun-News. Over 70 are involved in the cast, orchestra and crew of “We Are Enron.” The production on the New Mexico State University campus runs through February 24th. The show focuses on the key players and headline makers, like Ken Lay, Jeffrey Skilling, Cliff Baxter, Rebecca Mark and Andrew Fastow. The play follows the fate of Skilling as he joins the corporation, rises to the top and ultimately falls. The production involves 40 dancers and singers. Director Megan McQueen says instead of dwelling on the end, it shows how the company and employees were trying to do something great.

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