Today's New York Times reports that an Arlington pizza parlor is considering putting its used grease under video surveillance. Call it deterrence against biodiesel bandits.
"Fryer grease has become gold," said a co-owner of Olympia Pizza and Pasta Restaurant, whose 50-gallon grease barrels have been sucked by siphoners at least a half dozen times since last summer.
Here's the kicker to our food-crazed, oil-crazed times, in which it's hip to make fuel from used french fry grease:
"And just over a year ago, I had to pay someone to take it away," the Arlington pizzaman said.
Restaurants' processed fryer grease is big business. As the Times notes, so-called yellow grease is traded on the booming commodities market.
Its value has increased in recent months to historic highs, driven by the even higher prices of gas and ethanol, making it an ever more popular form of biodiesel to fuel cars and trucks.
In 2000, yellow grease was trading for 7.6 cents per pound. On Thursday, its price was about 33 cents a pound, or almost $2.50 a gallon. (That would make the 2,500-gallon haul in the Burger King case worth more than $6,000.)
Dave Maulding of Renton home-brews his own biodiesel. He pays restaurants for their used grease. He's been the victim of biodiesel bandits.
"I recently ran short because somebody broke into my drum and sucked my drum dry," Maudling told me in April.
So I've got some greasy questions for South Sound restaurant people:
Have you been the victim of biodiesel bandits? Who picks up your used grease? Do they pay you? How much? Also: What safeguards do you have against biodiesel bandits? Is your used grease safe from theft?
For those of you who obtain used grease legally, here's a cool thing that's going on next week: learn to home-brew your own biodiesel. The cost is $60 per person or $100 for couples. Here's the PR:
A hands-on workshop to learn all the basics to make your own high quality fuel for about $1 per gallon. In this workshop you will do titrations, make small batches of biodiesel with different oils, and learn the tricks to make quality biodiesel every time. We will also operate a small-scale "Appleseed" reactor during class. This system will be compared with the automated BioPro system which the instructor uses to facilitate fuel-making for a Bring-Your-Own-Oil type coop. The class will also cover topics, such as chemistry of the reaction, quality control, vehicle compatibility, cold weather issues, methanol recovery, disposal of wastes, and how to run a successful co-op.
If you can't make it to the workshop, a bunch of biodiesel groupies will meet at Paddy Coyne's Irish Pub about 4 p.m. on June 8 to talk about biodiesel issues.