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Grass-based fireplace logs allow for green winter coziness

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December 1, 2010

Green Logs are fireplace logs made from compressed Giant King Grass, and are said to have ...

Green Logs are fireplace logs made from compressed Giant King Grass, and are said to have a very low carbon footprint

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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.

Green Logs ready to be packaged

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.

VIASPACE CEO Dr. Carl Kukkonen in front of a crop of Giant King Grass

“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.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
10 Comments

This has wax, how is it carbon neutral.

trees are carbon neutral, yes we could argue that trees may be slower to grow and perhaps harder to process.

On that note how much diesel does it take to ship 30lbs of fake logs from china, then drive it around the country?

Michael Mantion
2nd December, 2010 @ 02:51 am PST

For crying out loud! That CO2 thing has been PROVEN BS! Get off that "AGW" crap, will you please? Plants absorb CO2 to provide the oxygen we breathe. Even were the temperatures to go up, that would mean MORE plant growth, more CO2 absorption. Remember Junior High School science?

But to credit this method of "fire log" making, anything we can use for whatever purpose is a credit to human ingenuity, and I will credit this manufacture for a positive purpose, if a misguided reason. Congratulations for utilizing something/anything to help mankind.

Chris Blake
2nd December, 2010 @ 06:42 am PST

This article brings the question of what can be defined as 'carbon nuetral'?

Technically, over a period of however many billion years, the fossil fuels we burn every day are carbon nuetral, the CO2 being released is the very same CO2 photosynthesised out of the atmosphere originally in the pre-historic swamps and jungles which now form modern day oil fields, the argument however is that those carbon emissions have greater effect because they've been 'out of the cycle' for so long, which is one of the fundamental flaws underlying the fearmongering 'climate change' principle. Comparing the carbon-nuetrality of wood (a tree) to grass, is to compare a 30 year carbon cycle to a 1 year carbon cycle which is a futile exercise.

But using fast growing grasses such as these would be ideal for biofuel production, just because it would be a rapid and efficient growth cycle.

PeetEngineer
2nd December, 2010 @ 08:01 am PST

Several comments here:

- To assess the plant value since it grows fast (as opposed to trees), you need to know if it needed inputs (fertilizer, water, pesticides...). Trees used for logging don't usually need much input (which is also why they take time to grow). At the end, especially if chemicals were used, you logs can be very far from a carbon neutrol log made of wood

- Where is the plant grown? In which type of habitats? We know how chinese authorities are quite regardless when it comes to planting things with an economic potential. If you need to cut forests down to get free lands to grow this giant King Grass, then your carbon balance is dramatic... Besides, such monocultures has often little value for biodiversity as opposed to a well managed forest. So we would need to get far more information about agricultural practices here to make sure it does not actually harm the surrounding natural environment.

- Finally, as it was mentioned above, you need to account for all the energy used to import such logs, while most wood logs come from forests in nearby States/countries. That has to be added in the carbon output. By no means your grass logs are carbon neutral.

All in all, behind a genuine product put forward for its "green value", there is nothing green at all... Just lots of big money to be made behing a supposedly green product. No matter how slow a forest grow, with a sufficient surface and sustainable practices, you can produce as much logs with far less impacts.

Angelie Baral
2nd December, 2010 @ 10:06 am PST

Sort of seems a bit self defeating and redundant considering that there are now technologys for pressing sawdust left over from lumber yard and timber finishing factories which allow waste products to be consumed rather than purpose grown materials.

Drew__1
2nd December, 2010 @ 03:07 pm PST

I would have thought using wood to help heat your home would be considered green!?!

Its astounding to me, how crazy people have gotten.

If you want to truly save the earth, then kill yourself. That way your not consuming its natural resources, & contributing to over-population.

Remember, every time you breathe, the earth dies a little bit more.

Howe
2nd December, 2010 @ 04:16 pm PST

Great idea...

Concerns:

1. I hope the fields are refertilised with organic (i.e. mulch from shit) fertiliser.

2. I hope that the fields can also be refertilised with the leftover sludge from algae oil extraction...

3. I hope the fields are refertilised with organic waste....

And that the processing is powered by renewable power sources.

Mr Stiffy
2nd December, 2010 @ 05:48 pm PST

The shipping costs left me ROFL, I will just cut buck and split the wood and plant new trees on two of my 10 acres , and leave the second growth fir over eighty years old (yes it is a small forest) on the other seven acres yeah house and barn need space, the acre left, what a joke with that shipping cost

Bill Bennett
2nd December, 2010 @ 06:55 pm PST

Heating should now come from electricity only. This method is excellent for biofuel production.

Dawar Saify
7th February, 2012 @ 05:34 pm PST

Do you have any idea how much polution is created by container ships burning Bunker "C" oil is creating? Check Gizmag - one container ship creates the same amount of polution as ten million cars (10,000,000) You still want to ship grass from China and be inproving the enviroment????

Mike Stokes
17th January, 2013 @ 02:53 am PST
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