- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Twelve families in Takoma Park, citing concerns about global warning, will heat their homes this winter with corn-burning stoves fueled with kernels from the 3.5 tons of corn stored in a new 25-foot-tall silver silo the first of its kind to be built in the country in an urban neighborhood.
The silo was installed last week at the city's Department of Public Works, and yesterday public officials, activists and residents gathered to dedicate the site.
Mike Tidwell, director of the global-warming awareness group Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said he hopes that the new alternative-heating source, which he called a "testament to American creativity and moral awareness," catches fire around the country.
Corn stoves have been used to heat houses for over 15 years in the Midwest.
Mr. Tidwell, 40, of Takoma Park, is a free-lance journalist who has written on environmental issues for 20 years. He became increasingly alarmed about global warming while working on an article about the issue in the summer of 2001, and in September he saw a report on the evening news about corn stoves and purchased one.
Other Takoma Park families heard of the corn stoves, and soon a dozen households joined to form the Save Our Sky Home-Heating Cooperative. They began to work toward having a silo built, which was made possible by a $3,000 grant from a stove manufacturer in Minnesota and a couple of $500 grants from a local corn stove distributor and CCAN.
The stoves, which burn 75 pounds of corn at a time, cost between $2,600 and $2,800. A typical house can be heated for 24 hours by about 30 pounds of corn, and members of the cooperative often fill six or seven 100 pound bags at a time. They have paid $425 for 3.5 tons of corn in advance.
There are many fuel alternatives to fossil fuels, including cherry pits and wood chips, but corn is the best alternative because "the result of burning corn is a positive affect on the environment," said Mike Haefner, president of American Energy Systems, which manufactures the stoves.
That is because corn removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as it grows, and emits a minimal amount of carbon dioxide when burned. The stoves are installed to ventilate out through a wall, but they create little smoke and a faint odor.
Collectively, the 12 families will keep 104,000 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere each year, according to CCAN.
Corn stove owners use field corn as fuel, which doesn't pop, Mr. Tidwell said, but he adds there is nothing that says you can't throw a few popping kernels in the stove, "just to entertain your guests."
"It won't heat your house, but it will pop," he said.
Ashley Flory, a member of the cooperative, attended the rally yesterday with 7-month-old daughter Grace. Mrs. Flory, 43, and her husband, Mark, 45, are both government workers, and although they have yet to meet every other family with a corn stove, she said she felt inspired by a "pioneer spirit."
"You feel united in doing something that's good for the planet, and it's kind of a hoot," she said.
Mr. and Mrs. Flory expect to save about $300 by using their corn stove, although they won't be discarding their furnace just yet.
"We could use this as a supplement. We're not going to let it get cold upstairs, but it seems to be working quite well," Mrs. Tidwell said.
The corn stove industry is also a bright spot for farmers, giving them another outlet to which to distribute their corn.


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