In 2007, the federal U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard law was expanded to mandate usage of renewable sources of used oil be blended into transportation fuel to create biofuel or biodiesel. The purpose of this was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The renewable sources used is mostly ethanol made from corn, but also includes used “yellow grease” cooking oil. Biodiesel is created from a blend of gasoline and these renewable sources.
An estimate of 36 billion gallons of biodiesel by the U.S. Energy Department will be produced and consumed in 2022. The increase in demand caused by this mandate has also increased used kitchen oil theft.
Recently, a man in Virginia stole hundreds of used cooking grease form a Burger King dumpster. Last August of 2018, there were several used kitchen oil thefts in Stamford, Connecticut. $75 million of grease and oil is stolen each year as reported by the National Renderers Association. Thieves collect about 25 cents per gallon for the used oil.
The most popular used kitchen oil is “yellow grease”. This is the oil used to cook French fries and other fried foods in restaurants. 12% of all biodiesel uses it.
According to the Energy Information Association, more than half of yellow grease is from soybean oil, and the amount of yellow grease rose approximately 13% in 2018, up 1.4 billion pounds, and is now, at 1.67 billion pounds.
The thief in Virginia said that he netted $300 to $400 for each theft according to the Washington Post. In Virginia, they had six reported thefts last year and more that may be unreported.