Will Lower Gas Prices Boost The Economy?

Oil prices have dropped below $70 a barrel in the U.S. after OPEC opted against cutting production levels last week in what some analysts view as a bid by Persian Gulf states to test the willingness of American shale-oil producers to keep drilling wells.

What does this mean for the U.S. economy?

High oil prices in recent years drove the energy boom by making costly drilling techniques like hydraulic fracturing economically feasible, particularly in Texas and North Dakota. Now, rising global supplies of oil coupled with falling demand has brought prices down.

Bottom line: lower gas prices are still good for America. Prices of regular gasoline have fallen from $3.27 a gallon one year ago—and from a high of $3.68 in June—to around $2.77 on Monday, according to auto club AAA. That should provide a key boost at a time when growth abroad is faltering, even if lower prices curb investment in an expanding energy sector.

Here’s a look at how the gains and the losses add up:
Consumers spent $370 billion on gasoline last year. With prices expected to fall around 20% from their average during the first half of the year, the drop in gas prices over the past six months amounts to a $75 billion tax cut for consumers, according to an analysis one report from Goldman Sachs.

Lower gas prices also benefit most businesses because it reduces shipping and production costs. Goldman estimates that the total boost from lower gas prices should boost growth domestic product by 0.4 percentage points over the coming year.

Google Exec helps locate missing loved ones in earthquake-ravaged New Zealand

A Google executive who hails from New Zealand has been using his skills to help worried relatives locate loved ones separated by the recent earthquakes in New Zealand.

Craig Nevill-Manning, who is from New Zealand 41, first created the Google Crisis Response website with colleagues immediately after the 2010 Haitian earthquake. Now he is using the same “person locator” technology to help the people of New Zealand.

“When there’s a crisis, you want to help,” he said. “It’s the best therapy.” More…

Small Biz Borrowing Jumps Up

Borrowing by small U.S. businesses jumped in November to the highest level in more than two years, PayNet Inc reported. Why?  entrepreneurs invested in their businesses and did a better job of paying existing debts.

According to the Thomson Reuters/PayNet Small Business Lending Index, which measures the overall volume of financing to U.S. small businesses rose 17 percent in November from a year earlier, PayNet said.

It was the fourth straight double-digit jump and the ninth consecutive monthly increase of the gauge, which measures the loans, leases and lines of credit that small businesses originate to finance investment in their operations.

Madden, Lott to Lead Council on NFL Safety Issues

Hall of Fame members Ronnie Lott and John Madden will lead a player safety advisory council for the National Football League.

Lott, who won four Super Bowl titles as a defensive back for San Francisco 49ers, and Madden, who won a championship as coach of the Oakland Raiders and 16 Emmy awards as a broadcaster, will head the panel in providing recommendations on safety issues to Commissioner Roger Goodell, the NFL said in a news release.

The panel will review rules, techniques, training methods and equipment, making recommendation to players and coaches about how the game is played, the statement said.

Art Fair reveals cultural ambitions of Abu Dhabi

At the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, the sand on the private beach is imported from Algeria, the hostesses at reception are Filipino and the butlers are usually Indian. Representing 50 galleries from 18 countries, the art dealers who participated in the second edition of Abu Dhabi Art, from November 3rd to the 7th, were also an international mixed bag.

The event was less a fair than “a formal introduction to the cultural ambitions of Abu Dhabi,” explained Marc Glimcher from New York’s Pace Gallery. “They’re so big that they transcend a cynical response.” This sentiment was echoed by Hyung-Teh Do of Seoul’s Hyundai Gallery, whose sophisticated stand included works by Ai Weiwei and Lee Ufan. “We are enjoying the unusual circumstances,” he said.

Ford Mustang Outsold By Chevy Camaro

For the first time in 23 years, Ford ‘mustang muscle car lost the sports car to General Motor Co.’s Chevy Camaro.

The Camaro in 2010 outsold the Mustang 81,299 to 73,716. The two models have been battling for sports-car sales supremacy since the redesigned Camaro returned to the market in 2009 after a seven-year hiatus. Mustang had been the U.S. leader since 1986, according to Ward’s AutoInfoBank of Southfield, Michigan. The rivalry dates to the 1960s.

Newly Developed Material Makes it Faster and Easier to Mend Broken Bones

Much of modern medicine depends on high tech innovations. Broken bones, however, are another story. They are still dealt with in a clumsy, old-fashioned way that frequently involves screws, nails and pins. Even the simplest operation can result in infections and incomplete healing if those devices are not placed as they should be. In dramatic circumstances—for instance on a battlefield, where surgeons cannot use X-ray machines and there is no proper operating theatre—the need for so many bits and bobs can make effective surgery impossible. Thousands of soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, have had limbs amputated after injuries that could have been treated at any hospital.

Now a new solution may be at hand.