International business briefs: Angola opens up, Exxon fined, EPA commendations, Hong Kong pollution, Australian wind concerns, Mexico and Australia in energy deal

Angola has become more open about how it uses its oil and mining revenues, and has made progress in talks with the IMF which are crucial to unblocking bilateral aid, according to Callisto Madavo, World Bank vice president for Africa while he was in Johannesburg for an African investment conference this week. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are helping Angola to shed light on revenues into the country, where a 27-year civil war ended in 2002. Angolan deputy prime minister Aguinaldo Jaime said last week that high oil prices had swollen state coffers by US$275 million in the first half of 2004.

Texas has fined Exxon Mobil Corp US$150,462 this week for violations of air pollution regulations at the company’s 363,000 barrel-per-day refinery in Beaumont, Texas. According to a statement released by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the violations were discovered during investigations back in 2002, and include failure to limit emissions during refinery malfunctions, failure to repair and perform monitoring of equipment, record keeping failures and failure to install equipment.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this week commended 13 members of the Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Programme (PESP) for their outstanding efforts in pollution prevention and pesticide risk reduction. The 2004 PESP Champions used most or all of the following integrated pest management strategies to reduce the human health and environmental risks associated with pesticide use: sampling to accurately determine pest population levels; training and demonstrating integrated pest management practices; employing cultural practices such as crop rotation or removing food and habitat for structural pests; controlling or managing pests through biologically based technologies; applying less toxic or reduced-risk pesticides such as insect growth regulators; and using conventional pesticides only when absolutely necessary.

Air pollution in Hong Kong has hit record levels, the government stated this week, warning people with heart or respiratory problems to stay indoors. Government figures showed the air pollution index has hit a record of 201, putting it into the most severe classification. The index eased yesterday to 140 in the Central business district and 123 in Mongkok, one of Hong Kong’s most crowded districts, but those levels were still classed as very high.

As senior energy officials meet this week to discuss geosequestration at the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum in Melbourne, the wind industry is calling for all sides of politics to give due consideration to the significant role that renewable technologies can play in Australia’s clean energy future. The Australian Government has committed heavily to research and development investment in geosequestration in its energy white paper, but has failed to increase the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) for the renewable energy industry, which will effectively result in the halt of renewable energy development in 2007.

And finally, Australia and Mexico will forge an energy co-operation agreement in November, the energy minister of Australia said this week, as the country is keen to sell more coal and gas to Latin America. Australia is the world’s largest coal exporter, bringing in Aus$11.9 billion in export revenue in fiscal period 2002-2003. It also exports millions of tonnes of liquefied natural gas annually, mostly to Asia.

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