American National Restaurant Association decides on a biofuels policy

Last week, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) decided it was high time to get firm about a biofuel policy. When I saw this story in my RSS feed, I thought it meant the association had taken a stand on what its members could and should do with their waste oil and homebrew biodiesel makers, but the letter is actally much more befitting a national organization and targets legislation. The letter (you can read the text after the jump or see it here) is addressed to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and was sent in time for the start of the whole CAFE and energy and biofuel debate that's going on now. In short, the association says it supports biofuels, but warns against rising food costs if more and more corn goes to make ethanol and more and more land goes to grow corn instead of other crops.

Peter Kilgore, acting interim President and Chief Executive Officer, said in a statement that the NRA urges "the implementation of safeguards against price distortions in the food supply." The NRA is in favor of cellulosic ethanol (who isn't?) and in using used restaurant grease to make biodiesel. Ah, there it is.

[Source: National Restaurant Association]

June 13, 2007

Majority Leader Harry Reid United States Senate
528 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell United States Senate
36l-A Hart Senate Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell:

The National Restaurant Association, founded in 1919, is the leading business association for the restaurant industry, which is comprised of 935,000 restaurant and foodservice outlets and a work force of 12.8 million employees - making it the cornerstone of the economy, career opportunities and community involvement. We support efforts to develop efficient renewable fuels as we work to improve our energy security, availability, and diversity. As the Senate takes up the Energy bill, we strongly urge consideration of the potential unintended consequences of rapidly increasing the renewable fuel mandate as proposed in S. 1419, the Renewable Fuels, Consumer Protection, and Energy Efficiency Act of 2007.

Com-based ethanol is at the leading edge for U.S. renewable fuel production, and much of the increase in mandated production included in this legislation will inevitably be met by com ethanol. In addition to increasing food input costs, the continued aggressive expansion of com ethanol production diminishes the availability of soybeans and other crops that provide healthy oil alternatives that the food industry is more broadly utilizing, and provide a more positive health impact on consumers. Soybean oil is also considered an "advanced biofuel" for biodiesel production that has diverted soybean oil for food use to biodiesel production.

The use of cellulosic feedstocks for ethanol production holds great promise, but the technology must be further advanced. In addition, other means of producing biofuels, such as the use of recyclable restaurant oil in biodiesel, offer renewable fuel opportunities and should be promoted.

The National Restaurant Association supports efforts to develop efficient renewable fuels. As Congress moves forward with this legislation, we urge consideration of the unintended consequences of rapidly increasing the renewable fuel mandate that will likely be filled by food production inputs and the implementation of safeguards against price distortions.

Peter Kilgore, Acting President and CEO
John Gay, Senior Vice President Government Affairs and Public Policy

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