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Chasing Rainbows
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Considering all the challenging news we’ve had this year, I decided to go hunting for some good news to share this month. It was a quest, you might say, to also find the silver lining in reports about high fuel prices, the weak dollar, mortgage and building industry woes, mill closures, and global warming.

The search has not been easy, but a few press releases from AbitibiBowater seemed to offer the appropriate upbeat tone, with a focus on environmental achievements.

In May, AbitibiBowater’s Kenogami paper mill received the 2008 Environmental Phenix Award from the government of Quebec. The mill was honored for it efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle plant byproducts to would have been sent to the landfill. Those efforts have reduced the mill’s process waste by 51% and other residues by 60%.

AbitibBowater’s Beaupre mill was a finalist for the award in the product development category for pioneering uncoated freesheet substitute products. The new products are lightweight, totally chlorine free, and require less water, energy, and 50% less wood fiber than conventional offset paper.

Neenah Paper also earned honors for upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant at its mill in Wisconsin. The mill received the state’s 2008 Pulp and Paper Energy Efficiency Award for improvements that will prevent the release of 1260 tons of carbon dioxide each year. The mill has reduced its energy consumption by 33%, also.

Although many companies have been idling equipment or closing mills, a few have been going the other way. Wausau Paper announced plans last week to invest USD 15 million to improve the fiber handling and stock blending systems at its mill in Brokaw, Wisconsin.

News regarding the U.S. economy was slightly encouraging last week, in that the dollar had gained against the euro and Canadian dollar. Crude oil prices declined slightly, also, but with little apparent effect on gasoline prices. That was last week, however. This Monday, crude oil spiked near USD 140 a barrel before declining somewhat.

Prospects for the longer term seem to be more promising. A report from the Reuters news agency suggests that some investors are viewing U.S. timberlands as a potential hedge against inflation. Uncut forests function as carbon stores and can be of value in carbon emissions trading. “Also, timberland owners and investors can sell easements that protect resources or wildlife, or provide sustainable fuel for burning in biomass power plants,” the report notes.

Admittedly, it hasn’t been a great month for good news, but each positive report we stumble upon brightens the way as we journey along a sometimes difficult and tortuous path.


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