SOVIETS MOTHER OUR INVENTIONMarch 25th, 1990
On Friday in Ottawa an Alberta MP had three Russians meet a sparse clutch of reporters. Two of the Soviets were scientists, one a banker. They disclosed a new, small, most unusual joint enterprise in wood usage. It means Soviet development of a technology worked up by a Canadian inventor.
One of the scientists, Anatole Klyosov, has a high profile in the USSR through television exposure rather comparable to David Suzuki’s in Canada. He believes the technology “breakthrough” is comparable to that which fractionated petroleum. In short, big!
The odds are still long on full success for the enterprise but, if it prospers and rolls world-wide as the best method for converting wood to fibres and cellulose, huge benefits will accrue for our massive, forested landscapes – and for our economy.
In 11 years as an MP, David Kilgour (PC Edmonton Southeast) has come to be seen as a stubborn individualist, ready to walk alone, distinct from the Tory caucus. I think, as a Hill bystander, that Kilgour’s often isolated resolution dims the influence he might exert in Parliament, given the force and utility of some of his opinions.
This is a rather precious prelude to my appreciation of the hard work which Kilgour has done on a constituent’s behalf – for inventor Ted De Long. The MP and his staff have given hundreds of hours over some four years on De Long’s behalf, largely in challenging federal and provincial mandarins and Crown corporations.
In partisan terms such efforts are unprofitable, meaning nothing in voting support. Even if De Long wins success, any recognition for Kilgour in expanding the public good will be slight.
For 10 years I’ve believed that De Long’s patents in processing wood have the prospect to revolutionize our largest industry. It could alter the nature of our forests and end most environmental pollution caused by forest industries.
Let me play back what I wrote about the De Long technology in July, 1981. The sketch began with the dilemma in the Canadian woodlands, i.e., on the raw material side of forestry.
I wrote: “The premium trees for making pulp and paper were (and are) conifers. Hardwood species such as poplar and birch could not be used in manufacture to anything like the requirement for spruce (and secondarily for balsam and jack pine). Yet our vast boreal forests are heavy in poplar and birch, and these tend to reproduce more readily in cut-overs and burns than conifers. Therefore, we’ve billions of living cords of hardwoods in our forests which are under-used. Anything which would use more hardwoods profitably would give us a great national bonus.
“Over on the product side of the pulp and paper industry there’s been another unusable in great quantity. It’s lignin, an organic substance, which, together with cellulose, forms the essential part of woody tissue, making up the greater part of dry wood’s composition.
“Immense quantities of lignin issue out as a near waste from the making of pulp and paper in Canada. Scientists and engineers have strained for decades, with only moderate success, to find some beneficial use for lignin . . . ”
“What a breakthrough there would be if a process were available which: (a) found major products and revenue from our more prolific hardwoods; (b) did the same with lignin. Such a dual breakthrough would have wonderful implications for more than Canada. Think particularly of much of the Third World . . . ”
I asked Kilgour how he would explain the enormous difficulties De Long and his company (Tigney Technology) has had over more than 10 years in freeing his patents, in his repeated failure to get backing from federal development agencies and in being ignored or dismissed as a crank by executives of many of our large corporations engaged in exploiting our wood resource?
Kilgour sees the irony that Russians, Koreans, Norwegians and Italians have showed great interest and enthusiasm for the De Long technology and no Canadian outfit has. He explains it in part as a disbelief in a most self-confident industry that any lone inventor could develop something of such enormous import. And he sees the fear of immense redundancy. The new technology, if successful to large industrial ouput, would make obsolete most of the billions in present plants across Canada.
Kilgour notes that the Russian, Dr. Klyosov, estimates a 600-ton-a-day plant using the new technology will cost much less – maybe a fifth – of present pulp and paper plants.
Meanwhile, what Klyosov describes as “a novel, ecologically safe technology of producing cellulose and of the bio-technology of its conversion into useful products” is to proceed in the USSR, not in Canada where it was developed and also promises to do so much good.
Source: BY DOUGLAS FISHER, TORONTO SUN
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