The increasing interest in and importance of biodiesel fuel has earned the word a place in the 2006 update of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (Eleventh edition). The term is becoming widely used as the result of its increasing acceptance as an alternative fuel for diesel engines.

Few new words are ever accepted by the editors of Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. When new words are accepted, they not only enter the dictionary, but enter the realm of historically significant language. Biodiesel now joins about one hundred new words that will be included in the updated version. Other words include “avian influenza,” “mouse potato” (yes, some are humorous), “spyware,” and “agritourism.” The printed version of the new edition will be released in fall 2006.

Soybeans can be used to make biodiesel.

Soybeans can be used to make biodiesel.
Credit: U.S. Department of Energy, Alternative Fuels Data Center

The updated dictionary lists biodiesel as a noun, with its first known usage dating to 1986. Its definition is stated as “a fuel that is similar to diesel fuel and is derived from usually vegetable sources (as soybean oil).”

Acceptance into the dictionary bodes well for this alternative fuel. “Appearing as a word in the dictionary gives biodiesel the credibility that it deserves,” said Joe Jobe, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board. “It shows we are making an impact on getting biodiesel into the mainstream, and that is very gratifying.”

Biodiesel can be used to power many types of vehicles, including school buses.

Biodiesel can be used to power many different types of vehicles, including school buses.
Credit: NREL/DOE, Joe Biluck, Jr.

Biodiesel reduces emissions and overall petroleum usage while offering similar performance to petroleum diesel fuel. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that it has become America’s fastest growing alternative fuel. In 2005, biodiesel production tripled to approximately 75 million gallons. By the end of 2006, it is possible that biodiesel production may double to 150 million gallons, indicating that in coming years biodiesel is on the road to continually increasing success. The fact that it has now reached even Webster’s Dictionary only enhances its standing.




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