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Sources: California Energy Commission and U.S. Energy Information Administration

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Barrel: A barrel of oil is 42 U.S. gallons, originally based upon the size of the whiskey barrels that transported crude oil from Pennsylvania in the 19th century. One barrel of oil has the energy content of 6 million British thermal units.

Base load: The lowest amount of power production needed during a season or year.

Battery, alkaline: A device that stores energy and produces electric current by chemical action.

Balancing authority (electric):  The responsible entity that integrates power plant resources ahead of time and maintains the market balance between electricity production and demand within a particular region.

Benzene: An aromatic hydrocarbon present in small proportion in some crude oils and made commercially from petroleum by the catalytic reforming of naphthenes in petroleum naphtha. Also made from coal in the manufacture of coke. Benzene is used as a solvent in the manufacture of detergents, synthetic fibers, petrochemicals, and as a component of high-octane gasoline.

Bioconversion:  Processes that use plants or micro-organisms to change one form of energy into another. For example, an experimental process uses algae to convert solar energy into gas that could be used for fuel.

Biodiesel: a biodegradable transportation fuel for use in diesel engines that is produced through the chemical reacting biologically-derived oils or fats. It may be used either as a replacement for or as a component of diesel fuel.

Biofuel: Fuel produced from renewable biomass material, commonly used as an alternative, theoretically cleaner fuel source.

Biogas: The mixture of methane, carbon dioxide, and other minor gases formed from the decomposition of organic materials.

Biomass: Energy resources derived from organic matter like wood, agricultural waste and other living-cell material that can be burned to produce heat energy. They also include algae, sewage and other organic substances that may be used to make energy through chemical processes.

Bituminous coal: Soft coal containing large amounts of carbon. It has a luminous flame and produces a great deal of smoke.

Blackout: A power loss affecting many electricity consumers over a large geographical area for a significant period of time.

Boiler: A closed vessel in which water is converted to pressurized steam.

Boiling water reactor: A nuclear power unit in which water used as a coolant is allowed to boil at the core. The resulting steam may be used to drive electric turbines.

Breeder reactor: A nuclear reactor that produces more fuel than it consumes.

British thermal unit (Btu): The standard measure of heat energy. It takes one Btu to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit at sea level.

Brownout: A controlled power reduction in which the utility decreases the voltage on the power lines, so customers receive weaker electric current. Brownouts can be used if total power demand exceeds the maximum available supply. The typical household does not notice the difference.

Butane: A hydrocarbon gas found in the earth along with natural gas and oil. Butane turns into a liquid when put under pressure. It is sold as bottled gas and  used to run heaters, stoves and motors, and to help make petrochemicals.

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