How Do You Spell Biodiesel

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In 2006, biodiesel fuel reached another milestone on its road to public acceptance. For the first time the word ''biodiesel'' appears in the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, where it is defined as ''a fuel that is similar to diesel fuel and is derived from usually vegetable sources (as soybean oil).'' Using this measure of success, biodiesel is well on its way to becoming a household word.

Biodiesel: An environmentally friendly fuel made from a combination of plant and animal fat. It can be safely mixed with petro diesel.

Biomass: Any biological material used to produce energy.

Carbon dioxide: A heavy, colorless gas that dissolves in water.

Catalyst: Any agent that accelerates a chemical reaction without entering the reaction or being changed by it.

Cellulose: The main ingredient of plant tissue and fiber.

Deforestation: Removal of trees from an area.

Distill: To collecting and condensing the vapor from a boiling solution. Each distinct, volatile chemical compound boils off individually at a specific temperature, so distillation is a way of purifying the volatile compounds in a mixture.

Enzyme: A protein that helps control the rate or speed of chemical reactions in the cell.

Ethanol: A form of alcohol.

Greenhouse gas: A gas that contributes to the warming of the Earth's atmosphere. Examples include carbon dioxide, HCFCs, CFCs, and HFCs.

Landfill: An area of land that is used to dispose of solid waste and garbage.

Organic: Aterm used to describe molecules containing carbon atoms.

Photosynthesis: Biological conversion of light energy into chemical energy by plants.

Yeast: A microorganism of the fungus family that promotes alcoholic fermentation, and is also used as a leavening (an agent that makes dough rise) in baking.

Biofuels can also help the environment by using wastes that would otherwise be dumped in landfills (large outdoor garbage piles). And many experts say that using more biofuels will help reduce America's dependence on foreign oil.

Biofuels are more expensive to produce than fossil fuels and this is why they are not used more widely. In addition, energy companies lack efficient methods for producing biofuels. Since liquid biofuels are made using agricultural products, there is some concern that obtaining the biomass needed for their production could overuse the land or lead to deforestation (destroying forest lands).

For More Information

National Biodiesel Board. ''Biodiesel.'' <http://www.biodiesel.org/> (accessed August 16, 2006).

Northwest Iowa Community College. ''Ethanol.'' May 7, 2004. <http:// www.nwicc.com/pages/continuing/business/ethanolcurriculum.html> (accessed May 18, 2006).

Pahl, Greg. Biodiesel: Growing a New Energy Economy. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green, 2005.

U.S. Department of Energy. ''ABC's of Biofuels.'' February 8, 2006. <http://www1.eere.energy.gov/biomass/abcs_biofuels.html> (accessed May 18, 2006).

[See Also Vol. 2, Agriculture; Vol. 2, Biofuels, Solid; Vol. 3, Enzymes, Industrial; Vol. 3, Ethanol; Vol. 3, Fermentation, Industrial; Vol. 3, Oil-Seed Crops.]

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