Biodiesel Pirates Stealing Grease to Make Fuel
MSNBC reports on a growing number of thefts of used cooking oil from restaurant by “biodiesel pirates”, who convert the cooking oil into fuel.
Now, restaurants from Berkeley, Calif., to Sedgwick, Kan., are reporting thefts of old cooking oil worth thousands of dollars by rustlers who are refining it into barrels of biofuel in backyard stills.
“It’s like a war zone going on right now over grease,” said David Levenson, who owns a grease hauling business in San Francisco’s Mission District. “We’re seeing more and more people stealing grease because it lets them stay away from the pump, but it’s hurting our bottom line.”
In the last three years, the price of soybean oil — the main feedstock for biodiesel made in the United States — has tripled. Last week, a gallon of crude soybean oil fetched 66 cents on the open market, according to the National Biodiesel Board.
Those kinds of numbers have encouraged biofuel enthusiasts to plunder restaurants’ greasy waste, and have even spurred the City of San Francisco to get into the grease-trap cleaning business.
One imagines that you’re going to see more of this as gas prices continue to rise–both the thefts of grease to sell on the market, as well as more biodiesel “moonshiners” making fuel on the cheap by avoiding regulation.