Are Corn Cobs to Become the Next Biofuel?

Many consumers are searching for a more efficient and cleaner burning source of fuel for heating their homes.

 Conventional fuels are not environmentally friendly and they can be very costly. Many homeowners have begun to experiment over the years to find a way to heat their homes without the cost of gas and electric and without the worries of deforestation when burning wood.

What have they come up with? Many are turning to corn or more specifically, corn cobs. Corn itself, as in the kernels, has been tried as a biofuel and has shown to be a bit more effective in creating a greener fuel source than other methods. Corn kernels however, are used for other means. Corn is eaten by humans and many animals alike. Burning corn kernels seems as if it would take away from food sources and given the concerns over the global food crisis, it simply makes sense to find a more efficient biofuel that does not take away from other needs.

Corn cobs may just be the answer.

When you consider the actual benefits of biofuel, you get a picture of why many scientists are trying to fit corn cobs into this equation. Biofuels are chosen because they offer a more cost effective way to heat. Corn can easily be grown by most households so essentially, every homeowner who wanted to heat his or her home in this manner could grow their own fuel. Corn is certainly renewable. It can be grown year after year, provided soil is kept healthy and because corn can be grown on a local scale, it helps to support local farmers so this helps to lessen the dependence on foreign energy for the entire nation as a whole.

Of course, no fuel source can offer only positive results. There are going to be pros and cons for using corn cobs just as there for using any other source of heating. Consumers may simply need to think about these pros and cons and decide for themselves whether they feel that this is a better way to heat their homes. The cost of heating would certainly be lower than paying for electric or gas heat so those who are looking to lower costs may find corn cobs beneficial.

Scientists are currently studying to determine whether these corn cobs and other residue that is left after corn is harvested could possibly be used to produce cellulosic ethanol. The USDA is performing research today that could potentially change how homes are heated tomorrow. The main concern by the USDA was that taking this debris and residue away from harvested corn fields would ultimately harm the soil. Residue is typically left on fields after harvest to protect the quality of the soil. Removing corn cobs and other debris would mean that nutrients would not be added back into the ground after harvesting.

The research that has been done however, suggests that the quality of the soil will not suffer if those corn cobs are removed and used to produce fuel. This could be a major breakthrough for environmentalists as they work to find cleaner and more efficient ways of producing fuel needed for heating.

During the studies, agriculturists studied the runoff rate from fields that were harvested. Part of the fields contained the residue left over after harvesting and part did not. The results conclusively show that removing corn cobs from the fields post-harvest did not have any effect whatsoever on runoff. Fields drained basically the same in both scenarios. In both cases, residue did help to prevent some of the runoff but the removal of the corn cobs themselves made no change whatsoever in the experiment.
So what does this mean for consumers? It means that there may soon be a much cleaner and less expensive way to heat your home. Many homeowners have chosen to have corn burning stoves installed that are a bit less expensive to burn and can provide sufficient heat. With the studies done on corn cobs however, there may be a way to provide the same heating benefits without actually having to use the corn kernels. This helps to ensure that corn itself is used in the manner for which it is intended and that greener sources of heat are also available. It may simply be a win-win all the way around.

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