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Economy Briefs

- - Tuesday, December 13, 2011

AIRLINES

Southwest orders 208 Boeing 737s

DALLAS — Southwest Airlines is placing a huge order for a redesigned and more fuel-efficient version of the Boeing Co.'s most popular plane, the 737.

It's the biggest firm order in Boeing's history by number of planes - 208 - and list-price value - nearly $19 billion. Last month, Boeing announced a deal with Indonesia's Lion Air for 230 planes worth $21.7 billion, but that agreement hasn't been finished.

Tuesday's order should help Southwest address its biggest challenge - high fuel prices - when the planes start arriving in 2017. Southwest is on pace to spend $5.6 billion this year on fuel, its largest expense and one that is growing twice as fast as revenue.

Southwest committed to buy 150 of the yet-to-be-built 737 Max planes and will become the first carrier to get one. Boeing says the new plane will have about 10 percent better mileage than the most economical single-aisle jetliner in the skies today. Southwest will also buy 58 current 737 jets, adding to the 142 it has on order.

SPACE

New giant plane to launch people, cargo

SEATTLE — Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and aerospace pioneer Burt Rutan announced Tuesday they're building a giant airplane and spaceship to zip people and cargo into orbit.

Unlike traditional rockets and government spaceships, this new commercial spaceship will drop from a high-flying airplane instead of blasting off from a launch pad.

Mr. Allen and Mr. Rutan join a field crowded with Silicon Valley veterans who grew up on "Star Trek" and want to fill a void created with the retirement of NASA's space shuttle. Several companies are competing to develop spacecraft to deliver cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station.

The duo won a prize in 2004 with a spaceship that went into space but not orbit. Their new business model likely includes tourism and satellites.

Their new plane will have a wingspan of 380 feet, longer than a football field. It will carry under its belly a space capsule with its own booster rocket, take off from a runway and go high into the air. Then the plane will release the spaceship, which will rocket to orbit.

COLORADO

Disclosure of fracking chemicals approved

DENVER — Colorado will require energy companies to disclose the concentrations of all chemicals in hydraulic fracturing and also ask drillers to make public some information about ingredients considered trade secrets.

Colorado regulators unanimously approved the new rules Tuesday. They take effect in April.

The guidelines are similar to those required by a first-in-the-nation law passed in Texas this year but go further by requiring the concentrations of chemicals to be disclosed.

EUROPE

IMF: Greece can't tax its people any further

ATHENS, Greece — Greece has reached its limit in raising taxes and needs to refocus its austerity program on long-term spending cuts, the International Monetary Fund said Tuesday.

The warning came as the debt-shackled eurozone member heads toward its fourth year of recession, with revenues weakening despite draconian new emergency taxes.

"I think one of the things we have seen in 2011 is that we have reached the limit of what can be achieved through increasing taxes," said Poul Thomsen, the IMF mission chief in Greece, to reporters.

He concluded that Greece is not yet "doing business in a fundamentally different way" and that is why the country is still in recession.

From wire dispatches and staff reports