As winter tightens its icy, gloomy grip on the Northern Hemisphere, many of us are turning to our fireplaces or wood-burning stoves for physical and psychological warmth. Unfortunately, however, burning wood releases carbon into the atmosphere – a conundrum for people who want to minimize their CO2 footprint but still stay warm. U.S. company VIASPACE Green Energy, however, has just started selling a product that it claims will provide customers with fire fodder, while being almost carbon-neutral: fireplace logs made from compressed Giant King Grass.

VIASPACE’s Green Logs are made from grass grown and processed at the company's facilities in China. They incorporate a natural wax binder and fire starter, light in less than three minutes, burn for up to five hours, and are said to have a heat output similar to that of wood... but how are they low-carbon?

“If the plant is burned, carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere,” CEO Dr. Carl Kukkonen told Gizmag. “However, it is exactly the same amount of carbon dioxide that was removed from the atmosphere during growth, and the next crop will absorb the same amount of carbon dioxide.”

Trees also absorb CO2, of course, but they grow much more slowly than Giant King Grass – whereas a tree takes decades to reach maturity, the grass can be harvested every four to six months. Kukkon admitted that fossil fuels used to process and transport the product do add some excess carbon to the atmosphere, but the same can be said about other heating fuels such as wood and coal.

“We believe that Giant King Grass can play a very important role in clean energy for the world,” he said. “Green Logs are a first product and the place where we can touch consumers directly. Giant King Grass can be burned in power plants to generate clean electricity and can be used to produce nonfood cellulosic biofuels such as ethanol and green gasoline.”

The first shipment of logs is mainly going to retailers who want to see how the product sells, although some cases are available direct to consumers on Amazon and eBay. Unfortunately, they're not yet quite as cheap as wood – a pack of six 5-lb (2.27-kg) logs will cost you US$22 or $29.95, plus a substantial shipping fee.