Restaurants across the United States are reporting that thieves are stealing their used cooking oil, turning it into black-market biodiesel made in garage distilleries. In many cities where biodiesel fuel is popular, restaurants can earn up to $1.25 per gallon of the used stuff. Oil pirates, however, are rarely looking to make a buck. They are just whipping up biodiesel for their own uses, cutting out middlemen who go through a complicated certification process with the Environmental Protection Agency in order to distill the fuel from oil.
The Associated Press reports:
Grease is transformed into fuel through a chemical process called transesterification, which removes glycerine and adds methanol to the oil, leaving a thinner product that can power a diesel engine. Biodiesel can also be blended with petroleum diesel, and blends of the alternative fuel are now sold at 1,400 gas stations across the country. But as the price of diesel shoots up, so, too, does the value of grease.
That's where the pirates come in. Especially in areas where a lot of people are driving biodiesel cars, it can be much cheaper to brew your own fuel from stolen cooking oil than to buy it from legitimate sources. I can't wait to hear people offering me biofuel under their breaths, along with kind buds, when I walk down the street in San Francisco. Image via AP.