Saving Energy
Viking, Minnesota

Rural Reflections Radio

I want to talk about energy this week.  This won’t be about drilling on Alaska’s North Slope or price controls on gasoline.  These topics have been done to death, I want to talk about saving energy from a rural point of view.

I am right in the middle of researching the purchase of a new appliance.  It’s called a corn stove.  This stove harnesses the amazing potential of a corn kernel.  Many of these stoves use dry, bin-run corn to produce an  enough heat to keep your house warm with as little as 150 bushels of corn.  A bushel of corn is under $2.00 right now  and my last monthly electric bill was $370 so you do the math.  I wouldn’t care if corn was $6.00 a bushel-I would rather pay my neighbor to auger me a little corn than  pay some oil company to fill the fuel barrel.  Right now my pick-up runs on ethanol that contains ten percent alcohol however  Minnesota’s legislature may change than to a higher percent.  There is also an ethanol that contains eighty-five percent corn alcohol but may be used only in vehicles with a flexible fuel system.  I took a trip last year with my nephew out to North Dakota where you can get this fuel anywhere.  When you ask for the fuel around my home the clerk usually stares like you have three heads and recently parked your flying saucer under their canopy.  We currently use fossil fuel which produces carbon dioxide when burned.  Ethanol produces carbon too but the corn it is produced from uses the carbon dioxide during it’s growth.

Now here are some things we’ve done at our farm to reduce energy use.  We’ve insulated everything that uses electricity to the point where I rather enjoy the way my hands itch from the fiberglass fibers.    I’ve always found that I can never pay for something as fast as I can refuse to buy it so sometimes I just avoid  trips that use gas.  We’ve asked our boss at my work place for longer shifts which would require my attendance and driving to town less often.  I’m trying to do better with our farm, too.  This summer our third cutting of  alfalfa/orchard grass will be harvested by our cattle and not the baler.  This will save a little diesel fuel and wear on our equipment.   A float switch on our cattle tank brings naturally warmer ground water on-demand so we don’t have to keep a huge tank of water heated during winter.   I also have a simple ten dollar timer on the tank heater for my tractor.  I can let the timer start the heater instead of plugging the fifteen hundred watt heater in prior to bed time.

Our recent ancestors  did the hard things so that we could have rural electricity and ease of life created by a combustion engine burning gas.  We now need to stand on their shoulders to make our country one that is not only great but is also energy efficient.