North Carolina lawmakers said a liquid once considered garbage has turned into a valuable commodity, enticing thieves to target local businesses.
Thefts involving kitchen grease are on the rise, driven by the increase in gas prices. According to the USDA, yellow grease now sells for about 40 cents a pound, compared to only 25 cents a year ago.
Thieves convert the grease into bio-diesel fuel.
"It's strange, but transportation's a big thing for people," said Peter Yiottis, the owner of Tatsis Restaurant in Charlotte.
State Rep. John Torbett, from Gaston County, is sponsoring a bill that would make it a felony to steal grease worth more than $1,000.
"I do hope that we can take more serious looks at the people that are perpetrating these crimes," Torbett said.
At many restaurants, cooking oil is left unguarded outside the property until it's collected. That makes the businesses easy targets for thieves, hoping to cash in on a waste now considered liquid gold.
"People don't need to be stealing other people's grease," Yiottis said.
Lawmakers are expected to vote on the bill in May.
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