Friday, July 20, 2007

Stora Enso found not guilty of anticompetitive conduct in the USA

Stora Enso found not guilty of anticompetitive conduct in the USA
Friday July 20, 3:02 am ET

HELSINKI, FINLAND--(MARKET WIRE)--Jul 20, 2007 -- Stora Enso Oyj News Release July 20, 2007 at 07.00 GMT

HELSINKI, Finland - Stora Enso (NYSE:SEO - News) today announced that On 13 December 2006 the US Antitrust authorities announced that Stora Enso North America Corp. had been indicted for its alleged anticompetitive conduct in connection with the sale of coated magazine paper in the USA in 2002 and 2003.

On Thursday 19 July 2007, following a jury trial in the US Federal District Court in Hartford, Connecticut, the jury found Stora Enso not guilty of the charges.

For further information, please contact:
Per Lyrvall

Thursday, July 19, 2007

By gum, it might just be a solution

By gum, it might just be a solution
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Selective crossbreeding to speed the growth of trees offers a breakthrough in meeting the increasing world demand for timber and at the same time saving forests, writes Louise Williams.

AdvertisementIn a secure, sterile greenhouse just south of the Arctic Circle trees are flowering in four weeks that would otherwise have taken 10 to 15 years to mature. The genetically modified seedlings are a huge step forward in the race to produce bigger, faster-growing trees.

It's a race which must be won to meet insatiable global demand for wood and forest byproducts without pushing commercial logging even deeper into the world's dwindling native forests.

"The post-fossil fuel era will see human society turn back to its traditional dependency on wood," says Professor Ove Nilsson, the scientific co-ordinator at the Umea Plant Science Centre in northern Sweden.

But, he says, projected demand dramatically outstrips forest production. Soaring global consumption, especially in Asia, is colliding with new demands on forests for carbon-neutral biofuels for electricity, industrial furnaces, heating and vehicles.

"Everyone agrees that if we are going to solve this puzzle we have to make commercial forests more productive," Nilsson says. "We have to grow bulkier trees faster so we get much higher yields per hectare. Otherwise we risk cutting down every stand of rainforest left on the planet."

In China, the forest products industry grew from $US4 billion to $US17.2 billion in the five years to last year, paper consumption has doubled in a decade and forests, especially in Indonesia and Russia, are being rapidly felled to feed the Chinese industrial machine. Elsewhere, scientists are eyeing wood for biofuels because it is at least twice as "energy dense" as crops used to make ethanol for green vehicles, and trees require much less land and fertiliser.

The commercial forests of the future, Nilsson says, will be fast-growing plantations "tailor-made" for bio-energy, pulp and paper, new wood fibre products and sawn wood and logs for construction and furniture.

And it's not all science fiction; a plant enzyme has been identified in Sweden which makes paper highly water resistant, a potential replacement for petroleum-based plastics, and a wood fibre composite is being tested to replace plastic components in cars. Millions of cloned high-yield trees are being planted in the US, following decades of research and breeding to select the most productive trees. The most dramatic breeding gains have been achieved in Brazil, where massive eucalyptus plantations grow to 35 metres in seven years, a 300 per cent increase on the original Australian species. But most trees are still only 20 to 40 per cent bigger than their ancestors. Genetic engineering is the next frontier.

The futuristic seedlings are locked inside a pressurised greenhouse on the roof, to prevent cross-contamination of pollen and spores with native forests. Unlike work on crops such as corn and soy, the genetic modification of trees is in its infancy. In agriculture, extraordinary improvements in food crops have been achieved through millennia of selective breeding, irrigation, fertilisers and, more recently, the biotechnology revolution, which began in the US in 1995. Wild tomatoes were originally no bigger than a strawberry and corn was about the size of a finger.

"You could argue that biotech has an even bigger potential for trees than crops because crops were already greatly improved before GM, but in forestry we are still at the beginning," Nilsson says.

The trouble with trees is that, unlike crops, selective breeding takes decades. Many cold climate trees such as spruce and aspen take 10 to 15 years to flower, meaning superior trees can only be picked out and crossbred - in the hope of even more productive offspring - a couple of times in a forester's career.

Eucalypts have galloped ahead because they flower in two to three years, allowing rapid crossbreeding to emphasise favourable characteristics such as fast growth and straight stems, boosting harvests in Brazil from 20 cubic metres of wood per hectare to up to 60 cubic metres.

What Nilsson and his team have managed to do is to mimic one of the earliest flowering plants on the planet, the Arabidopsis, a member of the mustard family that flowers in four to six weeks. They discovered poplars and other trees have the same FT (flowering locus T) gene which triggers early flowering in the Arabidopsis, but in nature it is dormant for up to 15 years. By isolating the gene, activating it, then returning it to the seedling, they've turned on almost instant flowering in several of the slowest-maturing trees.

"The flowers are formed normally and they produce pollen," Nilsson says of the first batch grown last year, which created waves in the global scientific community.

The seedling themselves aren't much use in forests; they're not necessarily bigger or stronger. The idea is to use the GM early-flowering trees for cross-breeding; giving researchers the chance to select the best trees using molecular markers a couple of times every year, instead of once every two decades for cold forests such as those in Sweden.

The way the remotely activated FT gene has been delivered into poplars also opens the door for other genetic modifications from a bank of 250 tree genes identified at the Umea centre. The genetic delivery mechanism is a naturally occurring soil bacterium which readily infects plant cells, transferring part of its own genes into those cells. The bacterium has been hijacked by scientists looking for way into a tree's genetic structure.

"We just replace the bacterium's genes with the genes we want to introduce into the tree and the bacterium (or the plant) won't notice the difference.

"If you take the gene that controls the production of growth hormone and turn it off you get a bonsai, but if you make it more active you get a tree that produces almost twice the amount of wood fibres," Nilsson says.

An Australian PhD candidate, Jonathon Love, is at the Umea centre searching for his tree accelerator. His research focuses on how trees seek to correct a lean by generating more wood on one side to straighten the stem.

"If you identify the gene that is responsible for the localised growth stimulation, turn it on, then put it back, you can stimulate faster growth in the entire trees," he says.

Turning laboratory super seedlings into super forests is likely to rely increasingly on embryonic cloning. When genetically superior parents have been created, embryos can be excised from their seeds and grown in tissue culture, where they can be stimulated to make copies of themselves. The embryos can be stored in liquid nitrogen while the copies are planted out to identify which of the original seeds produced the best characteristics. Cloned tree embryos are not difficult to handle; they can be dried, shipped all over the world, and planted without a seed.

Love has worked in commercial forestry in Tasmania and says he's acutely aware of the pressure rapidly growing demand for wood products is putting on wilderness regions.

"The benefit of using forest sustainably is that you can have a carbon-neutral process. Wood is solar power harnessed by trees; you fix the same amount of carbon growing trees as you lose when you harvest them.

"Science can help with technical solutions to maximise productivity, but you still need good management and political commitment to replanting," Love says.

Umea lies in Sweden's biofuel region of vast forests. Wood waste from local timber industries fuels the power plant, providing carbon-neutral electricity, hot water and heating. Garbage is also tossed into the furnace. There's enough emissions-free hot water to run pipes under the city centre, keeping streets free from snow in winter, when the temperature plunges to minus 20 and the sea, lakes and rivers freeze over.

Forest industry waste is being used to generate electricity and heating in Europe, and in Brazil forest offcuts are replacing fossil fuels in the likes of smelting and food processing. Wood and wood composites must eventually replace high-emissions building materials such as steel, bricks, concrete and synthetic composites. In Sweden's south, Europe's first high-rise wooden apartment block is under construction.

Most significant, perhaps, are Swedish experimental factories turning wood and forest waste into second-generation automotive biofuels, raising the prospect of vehicles running on trees. GM trees are being tested in the US for biofuel production and New Zealand and Denmark are also investing in wood-to-vehicle fuel research.

How close we are to commercial GM forests is a matter of conjecture. China has planted out GM trees modified to resist pests, but many governments are cautious. Nilsson plans to use the fast-flowering mechanism only for breeding in sealed greenhouses. Once high-yield trees have been created, the gene can be bred out, leaving genetically normal trees to be cloned and planted.

GM eucalypts, he says, may be only five for six years away, but genetically modified hardwoods are unlikely in cold climate forests before 2015.

And there's still the contradiction between environmental demands for carbon-neutral biofuels and building materials to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the traditional opposition to commercial forests from green groups concerned about biodiversity, especially with single-crop plantations.

But, says Nilsson: "The only way we are going to cope with rising demand is increase forest productivity. GM is one tool but this is a new way of thinking and working and we need more experience to fully understand its potential."

Louise Williams visited Sweden at the invitation of the Swedish Institute for the 300th anniversary of the birth of Carl Linnaeus, the world's first ecologist and the father of the binary nomenclature system of scientific classification.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Kruger idles No. 4 machine 11

Kruger idles No. 4 machine 11
Company blames high loonie for two-week shutdown

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The Western Star

The economy of the region was dealt its second blow this week when Corner Brook Pulp and Paper announced Friday it was shutting down a paper machine.

In a terse and vague press release, Jean Majeau, Kruger’s vice-president of corporate affairs, said “one newsprint paper machine” at the Corner Brook facility and the super-calendared machine at the Wayagamack mill in Trois-Rivieres, Que. faced “production curtailments.”

The statement gave no time line on the shutdown, other than it begins July 22. It also said the two machines produce 145,000 tonnes of annually.

The three-paragraph release cited the high Canadian dollar as the reason. According to the Bank of Canada website, the loonie was trading at 95 cents US on Friday.

The announcement came the same week Lafarge Gypsum announced its Corner Brook plant was shutting down, taking 53 jobs with it.

Bruce Randell, president of the Communications Energy and Papermakers Union Local 242, said the shutdown of No. 4 will likely affect a total of 25 or 26 jobs, but he doesn’t expect the shutdown to be long-lived.

He said it’s expected that the machine will be back up and running within a couple of weeks, although he doesn’t have any official notice of the length of the shutdown.

He said the hardest hit group will likely be the students hired for the summer. He said senior staff will likely move their holidays to coincide with the down time and some may get some training, but the relief workers won’t be needed as badly with the peak vacation season used.

“If it’s going to be a two-week duration and they start up the machine again — which we assume they will — it’s not too bad,” said Randell.

“It’s the summer time and a lot of people have their holidays and spend some time with their families. If this is a long-term thing — which we don’t believe it is — obviously it’s going to be dramatic.”

As the 4 p.m. mill whistle sounded Friday, there were few smiling faces as employees headed home. There were many questions unanswered, and there was a feeling of concern among mill workers.

Tradesmen Rick White and Ross Edison said the rumours have been around for a long time, but that doesn’t help when the news comes down. They heard the closure is for two weeks, after which an assessment will be done.

“It’s been spoken of for the last couple of years that it was potentially going to be shut down, that one machine,” White said. “Apparently, it is supposed to be temporary.”

Edison said it appears Kruger is taking every measure to ensure as little work time as possible is lost.

“What they are asking the men to do now is for a percentage to come forward and take extra vacation during that period, so that nobody is affected with any layoffs,” he said. “They are saying that you can allow 30 per cent more guys off now on vacation for whoever wants to take it.”

Being tradesmen, they said they feel protected from the closure, but said the people in the labour pool will have less work. In particular, they said there will be fewer hours for those on call.

Economic impact

Mayor Charles Pender said it’s hard to guage how hard the area will be hit by the shutdown.

“Any shutdown of any machine for any length of time is going to have an effect on the economy and is a concern to us, no doubt,” Pender said.

“I’ve already had a chance to speak with somebody in government on this

“We met with Kruger twice over the last two months and they were impressing upon us the gravity of the situation, given the rising cost of the dollar, which is the major cause for this shutdown. I think more than half of the paper from the Corner Brook mill goes to the United States, so obviously it’s having a major impact on them.”

Tom Marshall, Finance minister and Tory legislature member for Humber East, said the industry as a whole needs to find a way to be competitive in a world with a pricey loonie. He said Corner Brook Pulp and Paper is coming up with innovative ways to save money, whether it’s burning peat in their boilers to save oil or setting up a co-generation plant.

“The market is terrible as we know,” Marshall said. “We saw the results of that with Abitibi (in Stephenville) and from the shutdown of plants in the rest of the country... We do know Kruger are smart operators and experienced operators. We’ve worked closely with them in terms of helping them on the energy side, on the silviculture side and the roads side. We’ll continue to work with them to ensure this operation is efficient and can compete in the global market even under challenging circumstances.”

Shawn Woodford, president of the Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade, said more questions than answers were raised by the news release.

“We’re certainly going to ask Kruger the details of what this actually means and what the impact will be,” he said. “We’re hoping it’s a temporary measure, and a short temporary measure to correct the market conditions that are being seen in the paper supply.

“After the news this week of Lafarge, something like this obviously is something I take quite seriously.”

Gerry Byrne, Liberal legislature member for Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte, said this business in particular has been innovative in trying to invest in cost-saving measures, but haven’t always received the support it needs.

He said the shutdown is evidence the manufacturing sector in the country is being let down, especially by the laissez-faire monetary policy of the federal government.

“I’m extremely concerned with this being the second shoe to drop in the manufacturing sector in Corner Brook in seven days, more announcements like this may follow,” Byrne said.

“The Harper administration has failed to do anything to assist the manufacturing sector in this country and the competitiveness challenges they faces as a result. They (federal Conservatives) have walked away from Canadian jobs.”