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Rising Gas Prices Create Smoking Hot Demand for Used Cooking Oil
CNBC.com | March 04, 2012 | 11:16 AM EST

In today’s economy, it’s tough enough being a restaurant owner, but now you have to safeguard your garbage, too.

From California to Maine, thefts of used cooking oil are on the rise across the U.S. — driven by the rising price of oil that make biofuels more cost competitive with fossil fuels. Like thieves who ransack foreclosed homes for copper wire, higher prices for used cooking oil can attract people with a hunger for crime as well as dinner.

The old cooking oil, which has been used for decades in the chemical and animal feed industries, is now a hot commodity, as biodiesel manufacturers also fight for the well-done raw materials for their industry. Biodiesel is gaining in popularity as a transportation fuel. The largest consumers are fleet operators, including municipal buses and courier firms like FedEx.

The last time cooking oil rustlers were so active was in the summer of 2008 — the last time gasoline prices hit $4.

Which explains the recent spate of thefts of used cooking oil in Essex, Mass.

In many restaurants, cooking oil and other trash is often stowed away from the main restaurant operations, for the most part, unguarded. Like at Essex’s Windward Grille.

“The place is outside and open, anyone really could come and take it,” said Vickie Kennesick, manager at the Windward Grille, one of three restaurants stripped of their oil last December.

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