STATEEntrepreneur looks to hog farmingSOLDOTNA -- That other white meat in the grocery store could someday be home grown if a Soldotna entrepreneur’s plan to bring hog farming to Alaska, and possibly the Kenai Peninsula, is successful.Richard Metteer told the Kenai City Council that he is prepared to move ahead with a formal business plan.Metteer was before the council seeking a resolution of support to help him raise $396,500 for a formal feasibility study and business plan.Metteer said the project, once operating at full capacity, would produce 660,000 hogs a year for export and that it could gross $300 million a year.Budget calls for $2 million more for Arctic PowerJUNEAU -- Arctic Power, the nonprofit group lobbying to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration, would receive $2 million under the House Finance Committee version of the state capital budget.The Finance Committee added the money May 5 to the capital budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.Finance co-chair Eldon Mulder, R-Anchorage, said Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young, both R-Alaska, requested the money to help Arctic Power lobby for ANWR drilling as part of President Bush’s energy plan for the country.NATIONJudge upholds Exxon gas royalty verdictMONTGOMERY, Ala. -- A judge upheld the largest jury verdict in state history, $3.4 billion in punitive damages against Exxon Mobil Corp. for deliberately underpaying the state for natural gas royalties."Exxon engaged in egregious, intentional fraud by which it sought to deprive Alabama of hundreds of millions of dollars, probably well over $1 billion,’’ Circuit Judge Tracy McCooey wrote in an order signed May 3.Exxon Mobil plans to appeal to the state Supreme Court, which attorneys estimated could take up to a 1 1/2 years to rule.Along with the record punitive damages of $3.42 billion, the jury awarded the state $87.7 million in compensatory damages, bringing the total judgment to $3.5 billion.Phillips sees longer gasoline crunchBARTLESVILLE, Okla. -- A gasoline supply crunch will likely persist in parts of the country as oil companies struggle to meet demand with limited pipeline and refining capacity, the chairman of Phillips Petroleum Co. told company shareholders."I think we’ll continue to see tight supply-demand situations as we continue to go through this next several weeks,’’ Phillips chief Jim Mulva said at the company’s annual stockholders meeting May 7.The Bartlesville-based company is poised to become the nation’s second largest refiner with its pending acquisition of Greenwich, Conn.-based Tosco Corp.Growing demand for gasoline continues to weigh on refineries, already operating at full capacity making from 16 to 17 grades of gasoline to meet different clean air standards around the country, Mulva said.Limited pipeline capacity is also contributing to supply restrictions, along with refinery shutdowns and operating disruptions.Williams buys Barrett to up natural gas outputNEW YORK -- Seeking to substantially increase its natural gas output, Williams Cos. announced Monday it will buy Barrett Resources for $2.5 billion in cash and stock.The offer topped a $2 billion hostile bid by the U.S. unit of Royal Dutch/Shell Group, which responded by dropping the effort it started in March to acquire Denver-based Barrett.Barrett, a natural gas production and exploration company, decided to put itself up for sale last month after rejecting Shell’s initial offer for the company.Williams, a Tulsa, Okla.-based energy trader and pipeline operator, produces about 15,000 megawatts of electricity but plans to triple its power generation over the next few years.Morris Communications selling dial-up serviceAUGUSTA, Ga. -- Morris Communications Corp. is selling the residential dial-up portion of its Internet access business in three markets to EarthLink, company officials said May 7.The Morris-owned company, Networks, will continue to be a provider for digital subscriber line services, Web hosting and other commercial services.The markets serviced by EarthLink by the end of June are Augusta, Ga., Grand Island, Neb., and Topeka, Kan. Residential customers of Networks in Pittsburg, Kan., and Dodge City, Kan., will not be affected.Morris Communications owns the Journal, the Juneau Empire, the Kenai Peninsula Clarion, the Homer News, Alaska magazine and the Milepost in Alaska, as well as several radio stations.Outside the state, the privately held media company, based in Augusta, has diversified holdings that include newspaper and magazine publishing, outdoor advertising, radio broadcasting, book publishing and distribution, and computer services.Consumer confidence slips in MarchWASHINGTON -- Consumers, bombarded by gloomy economic news, tightened their belts in March, borrowing money at the slowest pace in 17 months.Total consumer credit increased by a seasonally adjusted $6.2 billion in March, or a 4.7 percent annual rate, the Federal Reserve reported May 7. That was a smaller increase than the $9.8 billion rise in credit that many analysts were forecasting.A weak job market, stock market volatility, eroding consumer confidence and higher energy prices are all factors that tend to make people feel less inclined to spend, economists say.Last week, the government reported that the nation’s unemployment rate jumped to 4.5 percent in April from 4.3 percent in March.WORLDBP posts 7 percent rise in quarterly profitsLONDON -- British energy group BP PLC’s profit rose 7 percent while operating earnings climbed 28 percent in the first quarter, helped by higher production and prices for natural gas and stronger profit margins in its refining business.BP, which recently changed its name from BP Amoco PLC, said May 8 it earned $3.30 billion for the first three months of the year versus $3.09 billion a year earlier. It does not report quarterly revenue.Its operating profit rose to $3.44 billion in the quarter from $2.68 billion in the same period of 2000.Chief executive Sir John Browne said the result reflected a "positive environment" together with BP’s improving internal performance, especially in raising its oil and gas output by 13 percent. Gas production volumes alone rose 41 percent, due partly to the inclusion of results for Los Angeles-based Atlantic Richfield Co., which BP acquired in April.-- Compiled from business wire services.