International business briefs: Toxic algae, African grant, Hydro deal, Australian wind concerns, US and Russia in energy deal

An unusually large toxic bloom of algae, which US oceanographers claim could poison humans as well as shellfish, has been detected in the ocean off the northwest coast of Washington. The bloom is about 30 miles wide, far larger than the normally observed width of 2 miles. According to US scientists, unseasonable cool weather and rain in September could have caused the bloom to expand and remain in place.

A £200,000 grant from the Darwin Initiative is funding the groundwork for effective ongoing conservation of one of the world’s fastest disappearing biodiversity hotspots, and helping safeguard the livelihoods of local communities in five West African countries. Over the next three years, 150 local West African scientists will be trained in tropical biodiversity identification, surveying and monitoring techniques. The project will leave a lasting legacy by creating a network of skilled individuals that will benefit biodiversity conservation in these countries far beyond the project period.

TransCanada Corp has this week agreed to buy two New England hydro power systems for US$505 million in its second big acquisition this year from a bankrupt utility company. Canada’s biggest pipeline operator, which also runs a growing North American power business, said in a statement that the purchase from USGen New England will incorporate around 567 MW of hydro-generated electricity. However, TransCanada has yet to officially confirm that it will acquire these assets.

The Australian wind industry is concerned about David Bellamy’s 60 Minutes funded trip to South Gippsland this week in the lead up to the federal election. The Australian Wind Energy Association (AusWEA) have claimed that Professor Bellamy’s controversial views misrepresent the facts about wind energy and go against the majority of scientific opinion on climate change. Professor Bellamy’s views also go against 68 of Australia’s senior business and industry executives, top scientists, health officials, church leaders, and environmentalists, who wrote to the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader this month, warning that Australia’s way of life is at serious risk from global warming.

And finally, US oil firm ConocoPhillips stated this week that it was seeking 20% of Russia’s LUKOIL in an alliance that opens the way for the oil majors to tap into reserves in northern Russia and Iraq. Announcement of the agreement, which allegedly has received strong support from both the US and Russian governments, followed the purchase at auction by the company of Russia’s remaining 7.6% stake in LUKOIL for US$1.988 billion.

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