A controversial topic in the blockchain community that comes up from time to time is the impact of Bitcoin (BTC) mining on the environment. Last year, Tesla CEO Elon Musk made a sharp correction in the cryptocurrency market by tweeting that Tesla would abandon plans to accept BTC, citing the “rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for bitcoin mining and transactions.” However, a recent report published by CoinShares notes that despite the widespread use of coal, oil and gas for bitcoin mining, the network accounts for less than 0.08% of global carbon dioxide production.
During an exclusive interview with Cointelegraph, Christian Chepsar, Marketing Director of Slush Pool, the oldest bitcoin mining aggregator, spoke about what he believes are current misconceptions about the environmental impact of bitcoin mining. When asked about the drawbacks of using electricity from an oil and gas mine for bitcoin, Chepchar said there is more to it than you see:
“We are literally burning gas in the atmosphere just because it is not economically feasible to do anything with it [burn it]. Instead, we can put it in a motor to generate electricity and use it to extract bitcoins.”
Flaring is the process of burning surplus natural gas from oil production due to a lack of pipeline infrastructure to bring it to market. Recently, in the United States and Canada, bitcoin miners have found clever ways to extract natural gas to generate electricity rather than just burning it in the atmosphere, thus solving a serious environmental problem.
But Chepsar remains skeptical about some renewable sources of bitcoin mining, calling them “marketing noise,” notably solar energy. As he told Cointelegraph:
“On our blog, we published a study that we are not big drivers of solar energy recovery; if you calculate the profitability, it is not good, it is a very complex business.”
Cespcsar also states that nearly 70% of all solar panels are made in China and that there hasn’t been much research on the environmental impact of the manufacturing process:
Its production results in many harmful chemicals. And nobody talks about it. Everyone thinks that solar panels grow on trees and then the sun shines on them. But no, the process of making it is harsh.
Finally, Slush Pool does not have any accounts as to the source of energy used by bitcoin miners. When asked why this is so, Cespcar gave an unexpected, but perhaps correct answer to his philosophy of decentralization and privacy:
“We don’t want to see him as a pool operator. To get these numbers we need to KYC our miners, review their transactions, or even filter transactions [for analysis]. That is not the ideal we want to maintain.”