Pandering to what comes naturally

THERE are few subjects I cannot conceive of writing about in Perspective but one such rarity arose this week.

It is panda poo.

Yes, that’s right, the droppings from those cuddly but enigmatic creatures from China.

Normally, this would be of little concern to me but my eye was caught by the news that a biochemist had discovered that panda ploppings could be used to develop new biofuels. It is an exciting moment for the world’s future needs, no doubt.

I learn that powerful bacteria in the panda end product appear more efficient than any known technique for breaking down tough plant material – known as lignocellulose – that is found in corn stalks and wood chips as well as bamboo which, of course, the black-eyed lovelies love to chew.


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It is this breaking down which is essential for extracting ethanol, which is burnt as a biofuel.

The bacteria is so good at doing this that it could mean there is no need for various processes which currently make biofuel production expensive and time consuming, the American Chemical Society has been hearing in Denver.

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“Who would have guessed that panda poo might help solve one of the major hurdles to producing biofuels,” said one of the scientists from Mississippi State University which led the research. Certainly not me.

How would mankind go about making this work? In the wild, an adult panda gets through a mass of bamboo and can defecate up to 40 times a day. But there are not too many of them out there.

Dismiss the thought that a small army of workers would be sent out into the countryside to follow the pandas with buckets and spades.

I’m reliably informed that scientists hope in the future to isolate the genes that make the bacteria and insert them into yeast which could then be produced on a commercial scale.

Another news item which came to my attention this week concerns a numbskull council doing the sort of thing which local authorities can be prone to do – interfering in people’s lives when it is not necessary.

The culprit here is Hull City Council which is threatening a couple with up to a �5,000 fine after a complaint that their son was too noisy while playing in the family garden.

The council sent them a letter warning that if there were more complaints about the four-year-old – yes, he is only four – they could be served with a noise abatement notice.

Someone from the council tried to justify its actions by saying that it had a legal obligation to investigate all complaints.

I say that is a pathetic excuse for being stupid.

One thing which did make me laugh was the tale of the two security company guards who were sacked for committing a “serious disciplinary offence”.

They got the push after electronically tagging a convicted felon’s false leg which had been covered in a bandage. That allowed him to remove it and break his curfew.

I will resist the temptation to make a joke about them being left without a leg to stand on.

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