You may have heard a criticism that Bitcoin uses lots of energy and that this is bad for the environment.
This criticism is flawed. Please consider this rebuttal in three short parts.
1. Not All Energy Use is Harmful to the Environment
First, let us address a flawed presumption that all energy use is harmful to the environment. There are many forms of clean energy produced by nuclear and hydro mostly, but also increasingly wind and solar, that are far cheaper than energy created by fossil fuel.
The part of Bitcoin that uses electricity, mining, is an intensely competitive business and by necessity uses the cheapest sources of energy available. A quick Internet search will reveal that the cheapest sources of electricity come from clean energy. I leave this task to you to avoid being accused of cherry picking one study over others making this claim. In fact, fossil fuel energy is far more expensive per megawatt-hours than clean energy sources and it is thus overwhelmingly used only in cases where energy needs to either be portable (which is not relevant to bitcoin mining, but highly relevant in transportation) or uninterrupted (to supplement the fact that solar and wind are intermittent sources of energy since the night time and clouds obscure the sun and the wind doesn’t always blow).
Given the incentive to use the cheapest energy, Bitcoin mining migrates towards clean energy, since clean energy is the cheapest source of electricity.
2. Bitcoin is a Very Good Use of Energy
Let me begin the second point by acknowledging that Bitcoin does use lots of energy. Why this is a good thing is explained in this short article. Bitcoin is transparent and honest about how much energy it uses, so this makes it an easy target to criticize. However, Bitcoin is sound money, better than our current system of money, and that is a very valuable thing for a civilization to have.
It is arguably a far more worthwhile expenditure of energy than many other large uses of energy, such as sources of entertainment like social media, or personal overconsumption like unhealthy, processed food. Further, consider the energy used in military operations, the current banking system, and many other things we’d be better off with less of in our lives.
Because Bitcoin increases in value over time it incentivizes more saving and reduced spending. Bitcoin stands to correct unnecessary consumption, which includes significant energy misuse and waste. This leads me to the conclusion that it will almost certainly be a net benefit to the environment.
3. Bitcoin Incentivizes the Development of Abundant, Clean Energy
Thirdly and finally, I’d like to point out that Bitcoin mining actually encourages the development of ever cheaper energy sources. This is a forward looking point. Bitcoin’s energy use actually incentivizes the invention of cheaper ways of generating energy than we now have.
As an example, there are currently multiple initiatives to capture clean, stranded energy, which is impractical to ship or transmit. Bitcoin mining can be used immediately where this energy is generated, removing pressure on existing power sources used for other applications. Search the internet for “Bitcoin stranded energy mining” to find numerous examples.
I would not be surprised to see Bitcoin’s incentive to use energy be the catalyst that finally pushes forward the actual development of fusion energy, space based solar energy capture and other exotic energy sources whose progress coincidentally stalled when fiat currency, also known as the petro-dollar, replaced the gold standard. To see many examples of the impact that event had on the progress of our civilization please take a few minutes to look at the website https://wtfhappenedin1971.com for details. Such progress in energy production is good not only for Bitcoin mining, but also for the entirety of human civilization and the environment.
Want more? This entire series (plus a 26th bonus article) is available as a pdf or kindle ebook at https://swanbitcoin.com/whybitcoin.
This is article seven of “Why Bitcoin” — a series I am writing wherein each article is short, accessible to newcomers and still valuable to long time Bitcoiners.
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Another excellent, slightly longer article on this topic: Orange is the New Green.