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Business highlights, July 4

Business highlights, July 4
Oklahoman Published: July 4, 2012

Business briefs


Energy corridor plan proposed

A plan for designating thousands of miles of energy corridors in 11 Western states will be revamped under a settlement reached by federal land managers, environmental groups and one Colorado county. The settlement was filed Tuesday in federal court in San Francisco. It must be approved by a judge. A senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity says the landmark agreement is a step toward advancing renewable energy development in areas that make sense. The environmental groups identified areas from Washington to New Mexico where wildlife habitat, historic properties and trails could be affected by corridors for power lines. The settlement puts agencies on notice that projects in those areas could be challenged. The settlement also gives the federal government a year to set up a review system for determining whether corridors should be revised, removed or added.

Power delivery setup questioned

In the aftermath of storms that knocked out power to millions, sweltering residents and elected officials are demanding to know why it's taking so long to restring power lines and why they're not more resilient in the first place. The answer, it turns out, is complicated: Above-ground lines are vulnerable to lashing winds and falling trees, but relocating them underground incurs huge costs — as much as $15 million per mile of buried line — and that gets passed onto consumers. With memories of other extended outages fresh in the minds of many of the 1.26 million customers who still lack electricity, some question whether the delivery of power is more precarious than it used to be.

Truck, auto sales surge in June

From mini cars to monster pickups, sales of new cars and trucks surged in June. Automakers reported big gains over June of last year. Chrysler posted its best June in five years. Sales soared at Volkswagen, which is on track for its best year in the U.S. since 1973. The results allayed fears that growth would stall after a strong start to 2012. Earlier this spring, sales were on track to reach 14.5 million this year. The pace dropped in May as fears about the health of the global economy increased. But buyers didn't go away. Falling gas prices, cheaper loans and new models like the Ford Escape and Dodge Dart drew them out. A revived housing market lifted sales of pickups.

Factory orders increase in May

Companies placed more orders with U.S. factories in May compared with April, demanding more computers, machinery and other equipment that signal investment plans. The increase is a welcome sign for the economy after two months of declining factory orders. Still, factory orders are down from the start of the year. And more recent data show manufacturing activity shrank in June for the first time in three years, adding to worries that weaker global growth is weighing on the economy. Factory orders increased to $469 billion, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. Core capital goods, which include machinery and computers, rose 2.1 percent, showing companies are making investment plans.

Chuck E. Cheese mascot changes

Chuck E. Cheese has been given the pink slip. The company that operates the chain of children's pizza restaurants is retiring the giant rodent's outdated image — and the man who voiced its character for nearly two decades. CEC Entertainment Inc. says it plans to launch a national ad campaign Thursday with a revamped image of Chuck E. Cheese as a hip, electric-guitar-playing rock star. It's just the latest makeover for the 35-year-old mascot, which started life as a New Jersey rat who sometimes carried a cigar. CEC Entertainment, based in Irving, Texas, is struggling to revive sales at its more than 500 pizza restaurants.

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