Last updated: August 28. 2013 12:08AM - 765 Views

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Mazda pumps up

production speed

Mazda, the longtime also-ran of Japanese automakers, says it came up with innovations in nearly every step of auto manufacturing for a super-efficient assembly line that rolls off vehicles at a stunning rate of one every 54 seconds.

The revamped Hofu plant in Yamaguchi Prefecture, southwestern Japan, shown to reporters Tuesday, underlines how Mazda Motor Corp. has defied skeptics who predicted the automaker’s demise after Ford Motor Co. ended a long partnership.

Mazda is still riding on its reputation for producing cool gas-sipping models such as the Miata roadster without a single gas-electric hybrid in its lineup. The Hofu plant can barely keep up with demand. Its pace betters that of Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s top automaker, which can roll out a vehicle at paces varying from 57 seconds to 115 seconds.

Syrian situation

boosts oil price

The price of oil climbed above $109 a barrel, its highest in more than two years, as the U.S. appeared to edge closer to intervening in Syria’s civil war.

U.S. defense secretary Chuck Hagel said Tuesday that American forces were ready to act on any order by President Barack Obama to strike Syria in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons in the conflict. Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that it was “undeniable” that the Syrian government used chemical weapons.

The U.S. Navy has four destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea within range of targets inside Syria. The U.S. also has warplanes in the region.

U.S. benchmark crude for October delivery was up $3.04 to $108.95 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange as of 1:16 p.m. The price rose as high as $109.32, matching its high for the year. That’s the highest price since May 2011. Oil still remains a long way off its record high of $145.29 a barrel, set in July 2008.

35 states to collect

mineral payments

Dozens of states will receive an estimated total of $110 million in mineral leasing payments from the federal government following a dispute over automatic spending cuts that drew a backlash from lawmakers in the West.

Interior officials previously defended the cuts by saying they had no choice in the matter under budget rules now in place.

But they said Tuesday that a months-long legal review of the Mineral Leasing Act determined the money must be paid to states at a later date. “It’s very clear those funds are not permanently canceled but withheld,” said Interior budget director Pam Haze.

Thirty-five states had been denied a portion of their payments for 2013, under automatic spending cuts put in place after Congress failed to agree on a deficit reduction plan.

The money is derived primarily from payments by companies for oil and gas leasing on federal lands and production royalties. Mineral leasing revenues are typically split about evenly between the states and the Interior Department, with the states’ portion paid out monthly.

The government last year paid $2.1 billion to the states under the program.

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