14/05/2008 (Kansas.com) - The price of gasoline has gotten so high that people have begun to steal used cooking oil.
"There's somebody, or multiple people, out there stealing our cooking oil," said Ben Healy of Healy Biodiesel in Sedgwick.
Healy's company converts used vegetable cooking oil into biodiesel, and he has contracts with more than 100 restaurants in and around Wichita to pick up their old oil.
But thieves have been cutting into locked storage areas behind restaurants since mid-March and stealing the vegetable oil, he said. While he doesn't have a precise number, Healy said, the total stolen is in the thousands of gallons.
"It's getting to where it's hurting us pretty bad," Healy said.
Wichita police Lt. Joe Cutcliff said the thieves may be taking the oil elsewhere for resale -- or they may be simply be trying to convert the vegetable oil into biodiesel for their own use.
"This is the first case that we've had" of cooking oil theft, Cutcliff said.
Healy fears it will be far from the last.
"I would say that there's a lot of people doing it - taking it for biodiesel and making it in their garages or barns," he said.
And in case you're curious, vegetable oil conversion will not work on gasoline vehicles. Only diesel.