Letter Re: Corn Burning Stoves


Just wanted to thank you for your blog and all the good information available through it.  Several times in the section on selecting the midwest for a retreat, you mention the lack of available fuel sources.  Corn burning stoves are fairly common in this part of the country.  They tend to be in the hands of those who don’t pay retail for corn at this time, and certainly given modern means of agriculture the Midwest (Kansas, Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska) can produce enough corn for its people and corn stoves.  Who knows if this would hold true in a disruption that moved agricultural production back a century;  on the plus side, the appetite of the ethanol refiners for the stuff would be quenched. – M.L. in Iowa

JWR Replies: Pellet and corn stoves require electricity. They are also more complicated to maintain than a traditional wood or coal stove. If either motor in the stove fails, then you have no heat. As I’ve mentioned before in SurvivalBlog, I do not recommend them.

Further, you have to consider the Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI) for burning dry harvested corn kernels, including the costs of the initial seed corn, fertilizer, pesticides, milling, transportation fuel, and finally the elctricity to run the pellet stove’s motors. Even if you have a plentiful supply of corn and a reliable off-grid power system (to provide power for your stove’s fan and auger), will all of your neighbors be comparably self-sufficient? If not, then you may be surrounded by folks that are both hungry and freezing.

I recommend that you move to a region where you can find a property with plenty of trees, or with a natural gas well, or with a surface coal seam in your back yard. Another consideration is the variety of crops where you live. If you live in a monoculture farming region, then chances are that it is a poor choice for self-sufficiency, post TEOTWAWKI. Truck farming regions make more sense.