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Another Oil Market Heats Up

Used to be that foodservice operators had to pay someone to get rid of their used fry oil. Now, they increasingly have to lock it up to keep it from getting pilfered.

As conventional vehicle fuel prices have soared, used vegetable oil — which can be turned into biofuel to power diesel engines — has suddenly become a hot commodity. Restaurants that previously kept the used oil in unguarded drums and tanks out back until it was picked up — often for a fee — now find they have to keep it under lock and key. Thieves — most of them backyard “brewers” of biodiesel — have been drawn to used cooking oil as prices for fresh vegetable oil have skyrocketed. The used oil, which when filtered works as well as virgin oil, and is apparently regarded as “free for the taking,” no different than picking through someone's trash can.

Police in some communities have even formed special squads to track used oil rustlers, since losses from pilfered fry oil can sometimes amount to thousands of dollars. “It's like a war zone going on right now over grease,” one grease hauler complained recently to the Associated Press.

Guess the song was right: Grease really IS the word….

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