Enough freedom fries will turn any pol green.
Just ask Rep. Vito Fossella (R–Bay Ridge), who wants to encourage restaurants to take their used frying oil and turn it into an environmentally safe fuel.
On Monday, Fossella traveled to Yellow Hook, a bar and grill popular with local conservatives, to announce legislation that would double the tax credit — from 50 cents a gallon to $1 — for the makers of the so-called “biodiesel” fuel, whose raw material is the grease in which restaurants fry calamari, French fries and other deep-fat delights.
To highlight his support for the bill, Fossella even got behind the fryers with Yellow Hook Chef Eugene McConnell.
“It is no pie-in-the-sky idea,” Fossella said. “This futuristic technology is here and now.”
Fossella noted that biodiesel is already being used on Staten Island and the rest of the city by the Parks Department to power its 650 diesel-operated vehicles and equipment.
“We are all sensitive to the environment, and this is one way to reduce our reliance on foreign oil,” added Fossella, whose prior commitment to the environment has been questioned by such groups as the League of Conservation Voters, which said Fossella supported the group 11 percent of the time in 2005; and Republicans for Environmental Protection, which gave Fossella a 17-percent rating in the same year.
The goal of Fossella’s bill is to encourage restaurants — which currently pay private companies to dispose of their grease — to partner with fledgling biodiesel manufacturers, who may eventually pay the restaurants for their liquid gold.
The bill is needed, Fossella said, because the cost of biodiesel production is still higher than the cost of producing standard fuel. In 2005, it cost 67 cents to produce a gallon of regular diesel, compared with about $1.41 to produce a gallon of biodiesel from from restaurant grease, Fossella’s office said.
Biodiesel is a cleaner-burning alternative made from any fat or vegetable oil, produced by removing glycerol through a chemical process called transesterification. Cars that run on a pure form of biodiesel belch out 50 percent fewer ozone-depleting hydrocarbons, virtually no sulfates (which contribute to acid rain), and nearly half the carbon monoxide as conventional diesel vehicles.
One of Yellow Hook’s chefs said he was all for the Fossella bill.
“It is pretty simple: we store the grease, and a truck comes to pick it up,” said McConnell. “Before you would even have to pay someone to take it away, and now you can get paid.”
Vito Fossella is certainly no stranger to fried foods. In 2003, the fifth-term Congressman got on the bandwagon to start calling French fries “freedom fries” as part of a symbolic show of unity against France’s opposition to Fossella-backed war in Iraq.
But now he has a more important use for the oil that creates those delicious freedom fries.
“The bill is a win-win situation for both the restaurant operator, who now has another viable option for the disposal of old oil, as well as the general public, who benefit from energy conservation,” Fossella said.