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Gasoline prices give kick to new crime: stealing grease

For months, a thief in Mission, Kan., struck a Popeyes restaurant in the middle of the night and took hundreds of pounds of used grease — a former waste product turned gold because it can power vehicle engines.

Popeyes fought back with a surveillance camera. Early Friday, Mission police arrived and arrested a Kansas City man who they said was siphoning grease into his truck. The 22-year-old got tickets for theft, trespassing and unlawful activity.

Nationwide, many states are seeing grease piracy as higher gasoline prices drive up the value of the oil that restaurants cast off. James Eddy, an owner of the Popeyes in Mission, says the public reads about grease thieves and thinks that dirty people skulking to steal the stuff is funny. But it's not.

The escalating value of used grease — from 7.6 cents a pound eight years ago to about 34 cents a pound now — allows restaurants to sell it and offset increased prices for food, he said, which keeps restaurant prices lower.

Biofuels Digest reported last month that thefts reported in 10 states ranged from small strikes by home fuel makers, to big truck hauls of $6,000 worth of grease in Texas, to gang-related capers in Arkansas.

The thefts also are heavy in the Pacific Northwest, where biofuel is especially in demand. Businesses that collect the grease legitimately say the thefts threaten the stability of a growing biofuel market there.

A company that sells kits to convert diesel vehicles to biodiesel cars and trucks that run on yellow grease is struggling to keep up with demand. The president of Greasecar Vegetable Fuel Systems of Easthampton, Mass., recently told the Chicago Tribune that he expected sales to double to $3 million this year.

Read the full story at KansasCity.com.

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