Kunming, the capital city of China’s Yunnan province, is having problems dealing with recycled cooking oil – often derisively referred to as “gutter oil”. City municipal officials told the Chinese media that the problems with “gutter oil” have existed for centuries. One official, Xi Qingyang, said they dated back to the time of China’s Qing Dynasty (1644 to 1912). ’’The problem of ‘gutter oil’ has been around since the Qing Dynasty, and all of a sudden we have been ordered to regulate it,’’ Xi said. “This can not be done,” he told Yunnan Information Daily. His comments attracted widespread condemnation from internet users. Some accused city authorities of shirking their responsibilities over the issue. The use of illegal cooking oil - recycled from waste oil - is rampant in China. And because waste oil contains harmful carcinogens and other pollutants, mainland authorities have been determined to crack down on it for years. Kunming has a national pilot scheme which converts recycled cooking oil into bio-fuels for vehicles. But the scheme is not working very well, the media also reports. One reason is inadequate regulations in Kunming governing the use of waste oil. Three quarters of local bio-fuel manufacturers stopped production last year following a shortage of supply, the daily reported. Lu Bo, the owner of one of the largest bio-energy companies in Yunnan, said there was now a shortage of cooking oil because city authorities had not issued firms with the appropriate franchise rights. Without these, companies cannot take used cooking oil directly from restaurants. Consequently, manufacturers have been forced to purchase it from private collectors. But most of the used cooking oil ends up being sold to illegal workshops because they offer the best prices for it. They then sell it back to restaurants. Consequently, many bio-energy companies lack raw materials for production, the newspaper reported. Sales of the biofuel manufacturers were also strained, the daily found. A bus company in Kunming said it stopped using biofuels after less than six months. “We benefit from government subsidies by using conventional diesel oil, but we can’t with biofuels,” a company spokesman told the paper. Private fuel retailers also are reluctant to buy biofuels from these companies because they fear a possible shift of policy on the issue would affect their sales significantly. Kunming lawyer Chen Weibiao blamed these problems on government departments shifting responsibility among one another. “[Different] departments all have some sort of administration authority in the issue, but it was unclear who’s calling the shots,” Chen told the paper. “Illegal cooking oil recyclers can exploit these loopholes,” he added. Restaurant owners also said local villagers often collected used cooking oil. “What they do with it - we have no idea,” one owner told the paper.