Grease Wars!

New Orleans   Yikes – every once in a while, we find out we are out there on our own in a wild world where the protection provided for fools and little children is sadly lacking.  This summer after 18 months of negotiation, we acquired through donation and loans a fantastic mobile biodiesel rig on an 8 foot by 4 foot trailer with the capability of producing 20,000 gallons of biodiesel fuel a month out of grease.  Wow!  The donor wanted to give a hand to New Orleans, and if there’s no question there’s a lot of cooking with grease in this city.

Two small problems emerged.  One is just about solved and that is finding a location for the rig, the collection tanks, and everything that goes with it.  The other was a surprise.  When the New Orleans Biodiesel Project started doorknocking businesses to arrange to collect their grease, we were surprised to find that many were under contract paying them a few dollars a month to come and pick the grease up.  In fact the companies were hauling the grease up to Baton Rouge to process.  Unbelievable!  Was it possible that we were in a competitive market for grease of all things?  Would our rap about “doing good,” “protecting the environment,” and “supporting the recovery,” just crash and burn?  How would we collect the volume of grease we needed to be sustainable.  Eeek!

Then I read the New York Times and discover that not only is biodiesel a hot commodity suddenly, but it is trading on a “booming commercial market” at 40 centers per pound, and, even more bizarrely, because it’s suddenly more valuable, at least in New York City, folks are pulling pickups up behind restaurants and stealing the stuff in the dark of nights.  The article in fact was about how lame prosecutors are about pursing grease crime.

This whole sustainability, self-sufficiency thing is an education every day it turns out, and damned if it isn’t the school of hard knocks!

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