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Bums Beware!

Taking things from trashcans is a criminal offense. At least it was for this poor fellow caught stealing waste grease from Burger King. Why on earth the Burger King manager cared to rat him out is beyond me. Maybe it was a case of You Don't Know What You've Got Until It's Gone? When the manager saw someone pumping the inedible waste grease into a truck, he suddenly wanted it? The brown grease suddenly looked gold?

Biodiesel--made by combining alcohol (usually methanol) with vegetable oil, animal fat, or recycled cooking grease--is a good fuel alternative. It's theoreticaly cheap to produce and carbon-neutral. Unfortunately, there's just not enough waste grease to make a significant difference. (A doctor quoted in the NYTimes estimated that New York City could produce 53 million gallons of biodiesel annually from its waste greases--that is, "about five times the annual diesel fuel consumption of the city public transit system." But even if all of the 3.8 billion pounds of restaurant waste grease in the United States were turned into biodiesel, that's only 495 million gallons, a mere 1 percent of the country's total diesel consumption.) And so we see the manager's reason for ratting: waste grease is a scarce commodity, indeed! The only question that remains is why this man from Illinois chose the Burger King in Morgan Hill, Ca. He couldn't find any Burger King closer?

--Francesca Mari