Bitcoin: less green than ever

One of the most common criticisms towards Bitcoin and many other cryptocurrencies is, as you may know, that it is not a particularly environmentally friendly technology. As blockchains grow in size and the computing capacity to manage them and to mine cryptocurrencies increases, the power consumption required for such operations increases substantially.

This has led to more efficient alternatives being sought, in terms of spending-consumption of electricity and resources that are associated with cryptocurrencies, and there are already some initiatives in which systems test have less impact in this regard. However, in those cases we are talking about new cryptocurrencies, or others that have already had this type of change on their agenda for a long time. This is not the case with Bitcoin, which by its nature seems doomed to be more demanding in this regard every day, until a time comes when, if this increase is maintained, it becomes unsustainable.

One way to try to mitigate the impact of Bitcoin at this point is, of course, to ensure that the vast majority of the electricity consumed for mining operations originates from non-polluting sources, so that even with such high consumption, does not end up becoming a major cause of pollution. And although in recent times we have heard about some initiatives in this regard, it does not seem that the situation has improved.

Rather, and according to a study published in Joule, the trend would be just the opposite, with a very marked decrease in the amount of “green” energy used around Bitcoin. And although more than one will be surprised, the main reason for this is found in the policies carried out by China to end Bitcoin mining in some of the country’s regions, more specifically in those where electricity is cheaper. .

Bitcoin: less green than ever

As we told you at the time, the mining ofBitcoin was endangering the CO2 emission targets set by the Asian giant, since the macro-farms that proliferated in the country depleted production hydroelectric installations, forcing electric power operators to resort to other sources, mainly coal, to sustain the volume of demand in these regions. In other words, Bitcoin mining in China was sustained, in a significant way, by electricity of “green” origin.

However, with the de facto expulsion of Bitcoin farms from China, its officials have looked to other regions of the world where the price of electricity they need for the farms makes these facilities remain profitable, and that not to mention places where their arrival is encouraged with tax exemptions and similar measures. A diaspora that has had destinies as antagonistic as the United States and Kazakhstan.

Specifically, the transfer of Bitcoin mining farms from China to the United States, encouraged bystates such as Kentucky that have offered tax advantages, has caused an increase in the consumption of electricity whose origin is not are the renewable sources, but rather the polluting ones, mainly coal. And the same happens with Kazakhstan, with quite cheap electricity, but which is sustained in a significant way by coal.

Thus, according to this study, the impact of the relocation of Bitcoin farms in China would have caused a more than substantial drop, since from the 41.6% of green energy used up to that moment, it fell to 25.1%. A drop of more than 15 points that, based on the researchers’ calculations, indicates that currently the emissions generated by Bitcoin exceed those of Greece, with 65.4 megatons of carbon dioxide per yearBitcoin versus Greece’s 56.6 megatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in 2019

Another very interesting comparison is that of the carbon footprint generated by each transaction with Bitcoin, and that the study estimates at around 669 kilograms of carbon dioxide, an amount comparable to that of a Round-trip transoceanic flight, for example between London and New York, whose footprint is estimated at around 670 kilos per passenger.