Historic first for crude oil: $80/barrel close

Posted: September 16, 2007

Crude oil, the world's economic lifeblood, closed at more than $80 a barrel last week for the first time. The milestone is symbolic, but the potential of rising oil prices to harm the ability of businesses to expand and consumers to spend is not. "It's just one more weight on an already very fragile economy," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com, of West Chester. A big question is, how quickly will the surge in oil prices show up at the gasoline pump, where it will especially hurt low- and middle-income households? A widely watched futures contract traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange closed at $80.09 Thursday, as Hurricane Humberto forced three Texas refineries to halt operations. The price retreated to $79.10 Friday. See:

US Airways announces plans to hire 350 new pilots

US Airways Group Inc. plans to hire 350 new pilots during the next 12 to 16 months and to promote 140 other pilots who now fly regional jets to operating larger aircraft, the company said. Most of the new hires will be based at the airline's Philadelphia International Airport hub and will fly new 99-seat Embraer 190 jets, the airline said in a statement. The pilot-staffing needs are driven primarily by the retirement of pilots from the mainline operation, which uses larger Boeing and Airbus aircraft to fly longer routes, the company said. The 140 pilots who will move up from flying US Airways Express commuter flights were furloughed from the mainline operation during the airline's two trips through Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection between 2002 and 2005. See:

Atlantic City casinos find August take isn't so hot

The Atlantic City resort casinos' peak season was definitely off-peak in 2007. Their take was down 5.9 percent last month compared with August 2006. The New Jersey Casino Control Commission reported a $465.2 million "casino win," or the amount gamblers lost, at the 11 gambling halls. Only three casinos - Caesars, Harrah's Marina and Trump Taj Mahal - reported revenue increases, while four - Resorts, Showboat, Tropicana and Trump Marina - reported double-digit declines. Gambling experts say smoking restrictions that took effect in mid-April, intensifying slots competition from Pennsylvania and New York, and a divisive unionization drive among the city's 8,000-dealer workforce made for one of Atlantic City's most challenging summers since its first casino opened in 1978. See:

Woolsey gives a boost to Rendell's biofuels plan

Former CIA Director R. James Woolsey was in Philadelphia last week to lend support to Gov. Rendell's goal of producing a billion gallons a year of ethanol and other biofuels in Pennsylvania within the next decade. Woolsey, a longtime advocate of alternative fuels who now is a consultant in the field, said developing competition for petroleum-based transportation fuels would be crucial if the United States wanted to maintain its strategic independence. "Ninety-six to 97 percent of the world's transportation runs on petroleum. And that means those who produce it have a major hand in our affairs," said Woolsey, who served as CIA director during the Clinton administration, from 1993 to 1995. A special session of the Pennsylvania legislature, scheduled to begin this week, will consider the governor's biofuels proposal as part of a package of energy bills. Rendell's plan eventually would require that gasoline sold throughout the state include 10 percent ethanol. See:

Coming tomorrow

Haverford start-up views the mouth as a solution to America's obesity problem.
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