Energy By The Ear

Burning Corn CBS

It is morning in Minnesota. 20-below zero. And Keith Borgeson is putting another bushel on the fire. A bushel of corn.

"We're basically satisfied customers, we've been heating our house for three years with corn," raves Borgeson.

For little more than $1 a day, a specially built stove burns shelled corn, a trickle of kernels at a time, safely and efficiently.

"I think this is something that's really gonna last," claims Chris Borgeson, Keith's wife.

It is the same corn that American farmers harvest in bounties, for everything from gasoline additives to cattle feed. The Borgesons buy it to feed two stoves.

"There's a little bit of work to it but it's easy and for the savings it's certainly worth it," Borgeson says.

Their heating bills have shrunk from more than $600 a month to just $60, reports CBS News Correspondent Bob McNamara.

"The gas prices are just ridiculous and my mother, you know, she can barely afford it," Chris Borgeson says.

Minnesota is in a deep freeze this winter -- it is dangerously cold at times. And with gas heating prices now three times higher than what they were just a year ago, the sticker shock has snowed under a tiny industry that can't meet a demand.

"We've sold five times more than we did the year before, and about every 30 seconds a call is coming in from somebody that wants a corn-burning appliance," claims Mike Haefner, who developed the corn stove a dozen years ago.

Today the welders, fabricators and others in his small Hutchinson, Minn., plant hand-make ten stoves a day. At $2,100 each, they're no longer a tough sell.

"You put $2,100 into a stove and get up to a 60% return on your investment," Haefner says. "So it's cheap."

Heating with corn has grown the Borgeson's bank account.

"We've saved enough and we've just put it aside for a family vacation," Borgeson says. "We are literally going to Disney World on our heat money."


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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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