The high price of gasoline has wide-ranging impact on the economy. Here’s one effect you might not have anticipated: a nationwide wave of cooking grease robberies.
WBZ Boston reported that two men pulled up to a local restaurant in Quincy, Mass., recently and siphoned the grease right out of two large containers at the rear of the building. The grease has a value of between $450 and $500 on the black market where it’s valuable as an ingredient in bio-diesel fuel.
A sales manager from Charlottesville, Va.,-based Greenlight BioFuels told TheHook.com that before, the company could cart away restaurant’s cooking grease for free. But now that fuel prices are up, restaurants have started to sell it to them.
The National Biodiesel Board calls cooking grease a hot commodity. At peak times, it sells on the street for as high as $4 a gallon. John Spagnolo, a sales manager for Greenlight Biofuels calls it a big problem for the company. He estimates that Greenlight loses 20 to 40 percent of their oil to thieves.
Spagnolo says robbers pull up to containers behind restaurants and, using tank trucks with a vacuum system, simply siphon off the stuff.
In Arlington, Va., police conducted a sting operation for Greenlight that led to the arrest of two men. A trial is scheduled next month.
While there’s not an accurate count as to how much money is being lost due to grease theft, one analyst estimates that about 6 million pounds of the raw material is hijacked across North America every year resulting in as much as $1 million in lost revenues.
The state of California is trying to strike back against the cooking oil crooks. The state’s Department of Food and Agriculture, which is responsible for regulating waste grease transport, has contracted with law enforcement agencies to combat theft in areas where restaurants leave their used grease out to be picked up by rendering companies.
But as long as the price at America’s fuel pumps remain high, this new cooking grease crime wave is expected to continue.