You’ve probably heard by now that old cooking oil can be used to power some cars. Many became aware after Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters
powered an old diesel Mercedes with vegetable oil. With a minimal amount of processing and some relatively inexpensive modifications
nearly any diesel engine can be converted to run on "yellow grease." With gas prices climbing to record heights, it’s not just hippies who are embracing this alternative anymore. Recently people have been robbing -- yes, robbing -- restaurants of their leftover cooking oil.
There has always been a market for waste oil, with a few specialized companies turning the leftover sludge from our golden brown french fries into liquid gold. But just as crude oil prices have skyrocketed, so too has the going rate for fryer fat. In 2000 for example, the average price of waste oil in was around $.07 per lb. Today, that number is $.33 per lb. This drastic jump has lead to the emergence of a new breed of pirates
, marking their maps with golden arches rather than "x's" and pillaging their loot from greasy 50 gallon treasure chests. A rash of thefts have been reported from Northern California, to Kansas, and even across the Atlantic in Jolly Old England
Back when I was working in The Bay Area, my boss had an arrangement with a local Volkswagon car club to sell them our used fryer oil. There were a few members who had made the conversion and swore by it. The only downside, they said “the whole car smells like fried food.” The movement is catching as people across the country, and across the globe as people try to find some relief from astronomical prices at the gas pump.
driving eco-terrorists aren’t the only ones cashing in. Some restaurants are participating in programs where, in exchange for their used oil, they are given an allotment of the refined fuel produced from it. Others are cutting out the middle man
entirely, converting their delivery fleets to run on an endless supply of used fryer oil. Business owners must feel a little like Jed Clampett
, finding a fortune in oil in their backyard. It was only a few years ago many restaurateurs had to pay someone to haul away the smelly by-product of the deep fryer, but today people are literally breaking down their doors (or breaking in) to get at it.
How are you capitalizing on this newest commodity? Has your leftover oil fueled any Toyotas lately?