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Tuesday AM May 6th, 2008

OTC continues at Reliant Park with attendees from 110 countries…ExxonMobil plans $100 million plant in Wyoming for testing carbon-capture technology…Federal Reserve says banks are tightening lending standards on home mortgages, consumer and business loans in response to credit crisis…


The 2008 Offshore Technology Conference is underway this week at Reliant Park. OTC shows the latest equipment and technology for drilling miles below the ocean. Margaret Porteous with UK Trade and Investment says UK companies exhibiting at this year’s OTC are here to meet with U.S. firms, but also companies from around the world.

“Your global companies–your American companies–know the city of London, the regulatory regime we have makes it easy to put projects together, and actually the UK’s quite good at that. So we’re not about being nationalistic, we’re being about open and we’re about being facilitators for a whole load of global companies to come and solve problems. The more we can do to create great technologies that do things like enhanced oil recovery that sort of actually make the most of the reserves that we have so that we can create a sustainable future, and also about you know, the new technologies that are coming along—even nuclear, you know, which you know, people are a bit nervous about. But actually one of the great things that the UK does have huge expertise in is in nuclear decommissioning. So you know, we’Ave come through the process and come out the other end.”

OTC is an opportunity to network, but deals can often be made on site.

“There’s a lot of the beginning-a-handshake stuff, there’s a lot of the contact-making, there’s a lot of the information. But there are deals that are cut here. In previous years we’ve had people making deals for training. We actually track what happens, and whether it’s small companies winning, you know, maybe a sort of a $100,000 small piece of work to sort of kick things off, or whether it’s a couple of million dollars here and there, or whether it’s the bigger companies actually getting involved in sort of something that they kick off here, and signing the agreement here.”

Some 2,400 companies are exhibiting at OTC, with some 67,000 attendees expected from 110 countries.

ExxonMobil plans to spend more than $100 million to build a plant in Wyoming that would test carbon-capture technology. The Irving-based company says it will begin construction on the plant this summer, with start-up scheduled for late next year. The plant will employ ExxonMobil’s controlled freeze zone technology, which uses cryogenics to remove carbon dioxide. The company has been working on the technology for about 25 years.

The Federal Reserve reports that more banks are tightening lending standards on home mortgages, other types of consumer loans and business loans in response to a spreading credit crisis. The Fed reported Monday that the percentage of banks reporting tighter lending standards were near historic highs for nearly all loan categories. The survey, conducted in April, found that nearly two-thirds of banks surveyed had tightened lending standards on traditional home mortgages with 15 percent saying those standards had been tightened considerably.

A task force formed by federal authorities is going to take a look at whether lenders or Wall Street firms participated in fraud. The task force–formed in response to the sub prime-mortgage crisis–will be headed by prosecutors in the eastern district of New York, where one of the nation’s top mortgage lenders went bankrupt last year. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn has confirmed a Wall Street Journal report that a task force, made up of federal, state and local agencies, will focus on the activities of mortgage lenders and Wall Street firms. A U.S. Attorney told the Journal that it was too early to say if actions that led to the sub prime crisis rise to the level of a crime.

President Bush says he’s troubled by rising gas prices and will take a look at proposals to relieve the crisis–but warns there’s no quick fix. The president told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that “it’s going to be a while” before the problem is solved. He adds that America is “too dependent on foreign oil and we need to be exploring more at home.” Bush is in favor of building new refineries and drilling for oil in the Alaskan wilderness. He says federal tax rebate checks will help Americans facing soaring gas prices. And he reiterated his call for Congress to make permanent the tax cuts enacted during his administration.

Senate Republicans want the Environmental Protection Agency to consider waiving the country’s ethanol production mandate amid rising food prices. Twenty-two Republican Senators, including presidential candidate Senator John McCain of Arizona, have sent a letter to the EPA. They said the agency has the authority to waive, or restructure, a law passed by congress requiring a five-fold increase in U.S’s ethanol production by 2022. Lawmakers are ramping up questions about the potential unintended consequences of using corn for fuel amid rising global demand for food.

The Asian Development Bank says a billion poor people in Asia need food aid and sound fiscal policies to cope with skyrocketing food prices. The bank’s president says people’s “purchasing power has been eroded” and that’s placing them at greater risk of hunger and malnutrition. At the opening of the bank’s annual two-day meeting, four rice-exporting nations are discussing a proposal to form a cartel to help control the price of the grain. Cambodia’s prime minister says that, unlike OPEC, the purpose would be to ensure global food stability. Other countries considering forming the cartel are Laos, Myanmar and Thailand, which proposed the idea. A Filipino lawmaker calls it a “bad idea” though, saying it would enable a small group of producers to control a staple food and price it out of reach for “millions and millions of people.”

President Bush is drawing sharp criticism for comments he made Friday and the rising price of food around the world. Politicians in India are blasting him for suggesting the South Asian country’s increasing prosperity is partly to blame. Bush was praising the growing prosperity of countries like India, when he said that wealth leads people to “start demanding better nutrition and better food.” he said that higher demand “causes the price to go up.” India’s defense minister calls the comments a “cruel joke.” Meanwhile, opposition party leaders say the government should make “a strong reply” and are threatening to force a parliamentary debate on the matter. The politicians ignored Bush’s characterization of India’s prosperity as “good” and that many economists also share his assessment on food prices.

The Associated Press and more than 100 of its member newspapers are launching a service that will make news stories available on Apple’s iPhone and other mobile devices. AP had announced the Mobile News Network at its annual meeting April 14th in Washington. AP President and Chief Executive Tom Curley said then that six newspaper companies were working to help develop the new service. Director of Client Content Services Paul Caluori says the service now has 107 newspapers participating, up from 18 at the time of the announcement. The papers include the Miami Herald, the San Francisco Chronicle and the St. Paul Pioneer Press in Minnesota. Companies that help connect advertisers with networks of Web sites will be among the sellers of ads for the new service and will share revenues with the news providers. The service will deliver local news from participating member newspapers and national and international news from AP. The reports will be organized by zip code.

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