Theft of Grease for Biodiesel on the Rise: CA Adjusts Laws

By cutting fees for the legal transportation of kitchen grease used to make biodiesel for personal use from $400 to $75 per truck, California hopes that would-be backyard biodiesel grease thieves will pony up and go legit.


Prices for regular diesel have been historically high nationwide, and all over the U.S. people are turning to backyard biodiesel as a way to make cheap fuel — a fairly straightforward process that can be accomplished for less than $1/gal.

One of the most copious sources of inedible oil to make biodiesel is the nasty, used fryer grease leftover from commercial kitchens — and what cheaper way to obtain it than stealing?

Although the cost of regular diesel has dropped from around $5 per gallon a few months ago to about $4 per gallon today, the enticement of the free grease has still proven to be too much to avoid.

In the past year, rendering plants in Northern California and elsewhere have reported loses of $15,000 per month due to the increasing amount of grease theft. These rendering plants normally make their money off of contracts with restaurants to collect the grease and recycle it into biodiesel and feed supplement for livestock.

Authorities have had little luck in catching grease thieves and so have no idea if the thefts are conducted by organized groups or by individuals looking to save a buck (or hundreds of bucks as the case may be).

Whatever the case, I wonder if people who are willing to steal in the first place will care that the transportation fee has been reduced — or if they’ll even notice. One thing’s for sure, the people that make backyard biodiesel legitimately are going to be able to make it even cheaper now, which will probably drive demand for used fryer grease even higher.

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Image Credit: Photo from rachaelvoorhees’s Flickr photostream. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Source: (via Biofuels Digest)

Nick Chambers

Not your traditional car guy.