Used-cooking-oil, the golden-brown waste product left over from making French-fries, doesn’t strike most of us as a particularly valuable commodity.
But recycled grease represents a source of cheap energy to some, one that can be converted to biodiesel or used directly as a substitute for diesel fuel. Having collected waste oil for both of these ends, I can tell you I’ve always had a nagging suspicion that one day the ‘free’ ride would come to a screeching halt. It just wasn’t clear how soon it would end.
Some parts of the country are now facing fierce competition over this generally unknown but ubiquitous local resource. The Associated Press has dubbed it the “Grease Wars”:
Recycled cooking oil has traditionally been sold for use in cattle feed and cosmetics. But the segment going to biofuels has grown in recent years to account for about 20 percent of the used oil market, said Tyson Keever, co-founder of Sequential Pacific Biofuels, the state’s largest manufacturer of biodiesel.
Portland’s oil peddlers are now fighting over grease worth as much as $1.20 a gallon. “You have processors now in the metro area who are looking at using that grease for biodiesel primarily,” said Mike McCallum, president and CEO of the Oregon Restaurant Association. “There are restaurants who are being solicited for the use of the grease and are getting some money for it.” The result in the long run may be more expensive biodiesel at the pump.