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Orange is the new Green

Marius Farashi Tasooji
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February 6th 2023, last update on September 12th 2023
This report aims to assess the environmental impact of Bitcoin objectively. While mainstream media often portrays Bitcoin as a threat to the environment, we'll examine the facts to better understand its effects on our planet. Despite my personal support for Bitcoin, I'd to remain neutral, providing sources for all data presented.

Table of Contents

IntroductionI . Comparing what cannot be compareda. Comparisonsb. ProjectionsII . What Energies Does Bitcoin Use?a. Renewable Energiesb. Utilizing Electrical Surplusesc. Flare gasIII . Reduce Your Carbon Footprint with Bitcoina. Emissions of Our Currenciesb. The One PieceIV. Monetary Printing = pollution
Conclusion
Calculs

Introduction

Energy has been a highly significant topic in our society for many years. Within the crypto community, energy becomes a non-issue, while it receives a lot of attention in traditional media.

Some of these articles:
These articles tell us that Bitcoin is harmful to the environment and could even threaten our planet. But is this true? Were the journalists behind these articles neutral and well-intentioned, or did they already have a biased and negative opinion of Bitcoin and were only seeking a way to tarnish its image?

It is with the document you are currently reading that I will attempt to detail as much as possible the current and potential impact that Bitcoin has and could have on our planet, in order to better understand it and determine if its expansion could be dangerous for our ecosystem.

Although I am a Bitcoin supporter, I will do my best to remain neutral, and every figure I use will be accompanied by a source that you can verify and question.

"If you don't believe it or don't get it, I don't have the time to try to convince you, sorry."
-Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin.

What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a decentralized value exchange network that is not controlled by any central authority. Transactions are securely recorded in a public ledger called the blockchain. Bitcoin has a limited supply and can be considered a rare and valuable asset.

Learn more about Bitcoin

What is Bitcoin mining?

Bitcoin mining is the process by which computers solve mathematical problems to validate transactions and add new blocks to the blockchain. Miners are rewarded with bitcoins for each block in exchange for the time and energy they invest.

I . Comparing what cannot be compared

a. Comparisons

I have two hypotheses:

The first is that when these articles were created, these journalists simply had the initial idea of comparing Bitcoin's energy consumption to that of countries without seeking other comparisons. This would mean that they compared a payment system to a population living on a territory without finding any reasoning problem.

The second hypothesis is that during their research, these journalists found numerous data on various industries and activities, saw that even idle computers in the United States consumed more, and decided to focus on figures that would better serve their articles aiming to tarnish Bitcoin's image.

Regardless of which hypothesis is true, the effect on the readers is the same, so let's correct this.
In the same way that it is absurd to compare Bitcoin to a country, it is absurd to compare it to the paper industry in the European Union, but let's go along with it.

According to the University of Cambridge, Bitcoin consumed 116.61 TWh TWh in the past year.

So, Bitcoin consumes 1.89 times more than Switzerland, 1.36 times more than Belgium, but 1.45 times less than gold mining, 2.23 times less than the world's data centers, 3.24 times less than the paper industry in the European Union alone, and 36.12 times less than the United States.

But Bitcoin is a payment system, wouldn't it be more fair to compare it to the banking system?

The banking system consumes about 4,981 TWh per year, which is 42.72 times more than Bitcoin and its 116.61 TWh.

Note that we are only talking about the energy consumption required for the banking system to operate, including the creation and management of cash, offices, employee commutes, their data centers, etc. I mention this because these 5,000 TWh exclude the investments of banks in fossil fuels and other highly polluting industries, but we will come back to that later in the document.

As an indicative figure, the world consumes 176 431 TWh each year. Therefore, Bitcoin represents only 0.07% of global energy consumption, compared to 2.82% for the banking system.

Is it really with 0.07% of the world's energy that we are going to destroy the planet?

Once we have established that Bitcoin does not consume all the available energy on Earth, you might wonder, "However, Bitcoin proponents aim to make it a global currency, which would lead to much wider adoption and consequently significantly greater energy consumption."

But to what extent would this be true?

b. Projections

In the NYDIG Bitcoin Net Zero report, you can find various projections of Bitcoin's energy consumption based on its adoption and total capitalization.

Let's focus on the most extreme projection: a Bitcoin worth between $500,000 and $600,000 and a total capitalization of $10 trillion, which is slightly less than the total capitalization of gold, which currently stands at over $12 trillion.

According to NYDIG, Bitcoin could then consume up to 706 TWh per year with a total capitalization of $10 trillion. This would be a six-fold increase compared to today and would represent 0.4% of global energy consumption (assuming it does not evolve).
706 TWh is 7 times less than the 4,981 TWh of the banking system.

With a little research, it is easy to see that Bitcoin's energy consumption represents a small part of global consumption. So, no, Bitcoin will not destroy our planet; quite the opposite.

Furthermore, pollution does not only depend on the amount of electricity consumed by an activity but also on the volume of waste it generates.

Bitcoin could transition from being the number one energy enemy to a driver of ecological transition.

II . What Energies Does Bitcoin Use?

Knowing how much energy an activity consumes is not enough to determine if it pollutes or not.

Indeed, some energy sources emit more greenhouse gases than others. So, an activity consuming 1 million TWh per year from a greenhouse gas-free energy source would not pollute.

What about Bitcoin?

a. Renewable Energies

Miners aim to find places where energy is cheap and abundantly available, and this is mostly found in developing countries.

These countries are building large renewable energy power plants to meet their present and future needs, resulting in power plants that produce more energy than they require.

This surplus energy is a gift for miners who set up near these power plants to harness this low-cost energy.

It's also an advantage for these countries because, thanks to mining activity, they can increase their revenue from their new power plants. This allows them to develop these installations more quickly and efficiently, promoting the adoption of green energy sources in their countries.

Bitcoin miners would thus use up to 52.6% renewable energy. This represents 61.34 TWh of decarbonized energy out of the total 116.61 TWh.

Renewable energies are not always in sync with society's electricity demand. For example, solar energy peaks during midday when electricity demand is generally lower. This often leads to energy surpluses that cannot be immediately consumed.

Storing these surplus energies in batteries would be too expensive and, most importantly, too polluting. However, Bitcoin mining can play a significant role in regulating these surpluses.

Bitcoin miners can absorb these energy surpluses during production peaks, helping to balance the supply and demand for electricity throughout the day. This efficient use of surplus energy could represent a crucial step toward a more sustainable and energy-efficient future.

Learn more:
The Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where mining revenues are used to maintain the park, which was previously unprofitable. There, in addition to being decarbonized, Bitcoin is saving the national reserve.
Irish farmers are using surplus of energy generated with cow dung to mine Bitcoin.

b. Utilizing Electrical Surpluses

For a power plant, mining can provide an additional source of income. It is challenging to produce just the right amount of energy needed. Therefore, there is often an excess of energy that goes to waste because it is not used.

In Texas, for example, ERCOT reserved 1.7 GW  for Bitcoin mining during the winter of 2022. This will allow them to better adapt to peaks in electricity demand.

Texas is one of the leading energy-producing states in the United States. Located at the intersection of the Sun Belt and the Wind Belt, Texas is the state with the most access to solar and wind resources, in addition to its reserves of fossil fuels.
Bitcoin mining also plays a regulatory role for Tepco, Japan's largest electric company. They recently annonced, "We have started experiments to confirm the system behavior and the impact on the power grid when equipment is operated with a large amount of power on the scale of 1,500 kW, and have confirmed that the equipment can operate normally."

Here is the wasted energy around the world:
Learn more:
Irish farmers are using surplus of energy generated with cow dung to mine Bitcoin.
Iceland power plants exploiting the big amount of energy susplus to mine Bitcoin

c. Flare gas

Flare gas refers to the process of burning excess gas released during oil extraction.
This surplus gas is burned for various reasons.

Firstly, this gas is mainly composed of methane. The combustion process converts methane (CH4) into carbon dioxide (CO2), which is approximately 25 times less polluting.

The gas accumulated around the oil in underground reservoirs must be released before drilling for oil to prevent a sudden increase in pressure that could cause explosions. Burning the gas reduces this pressure and avoids risks to workers and infrastructure.

Finally, when small quantities of gas are produced in excess, or when it would not be cost-effective to build the infrastructure to collect and transport this gas, oil companies prefer to simply burn it rather than invest in its collection and use.

In 2022, it was 138.55 billion cubic meters of flared gas, which represents 357 million tons of CO2 equivalent, or about 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

As one cubic meter of natural gas can produce 11kWh, the 138.55 billion cubic meters of flared gas last year could have produced up to 1524 TWh.

Furthermore, an IEA report showed that among the 935 billion cubic meters of natural gas extracted in 2019, approximately 6% (in yellow in the graph below) was not even flared but simply released into the air. That's 55 billion cubic meters that could generate up to 605 TWh.

Unlike many industries requiring fixed infrastructure and heavy installations, ASICs (Bitcoin mining computers) are generally stored in containers that can be easily disconnected and moved by various means of transportation.

Moreover, the 1524 TWh that could be produced thanks to flare gas, as well as the 605 TWh that could be generated from gas simply released into the air, could together power the entire Bitcoin network 18.26 times.

Currently, although the share of energy from flare gas is still low in the energy consumed by the Bitcoin network, approximately 1%, it represents a significant growth opportunity.

Thanks to its unique characteristics, Bitcoin could not only help reduce energy waste but also play a positive role in the transition to more sustainable energy sources and the overall reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

III . Reduce Your Carbon Footprint with Bitcoin

a. Emissions of Our Currencies

Now that we have a better idea of what energy Bitcoin uses, we can question the ecological relevance of keeping your money in fiat currencies.

The 4,981 TWh annual consumption of the banking system consists of 3,420 TWh consumed for employee transportation and 1,561 TWh consumed for its operation (data centers, ATMs, offices, etc.).

Based on my research, it is very challenging to determine with a minimum of precision the amount of CO2 emitted by the 46 million employees of the banking system. So, I choose not to include an estimate that could bias our judgment. (If you have a source or the ability to calculate their CO2 emissions yourself, please contact me, and I will update this document.)

However, we can estimate the greenhouse gas emissions of the 1,561 TWh required for its operation.

According to the International Energy Agency, 1 kWh emits an average of 475g de CO2 per year worldwide, with total global CO2 emissions at 36.3 Gt in 2021.

This means that the banking system emits 0.74 Gt of CO2 per year, or 2% of global emissions (without considering employee transportation).

Considering that only 47.4% of Bitcoin's energy, or 55.27 TWh, comes from fossil fuels, we can estimate its CO2 emissions at 0.0263 Gt per year, or 0.07% of global emissions.

So, without taking into account employee commuting or the banking system's emissions, Bitcoin emits 28.14 times less CO2 than the banking system.

But that's not all!

When you deposit your money in a bank, it's not just sitting there waiting for you to spend it. It is used and reinvested in many different assets, including companies that pollute heavily.

For example, in 2018, the activities of BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole, Société Générale, and BPCE emitted more than 2 billion tons of CO2 equivalent, which is 4.5 times France's emissions. So, 4,000€ in one of these banks emitted 2 tCO2 per year.

As a reference, 2 tons of CO2 per year per person is the limit set by the Paris Agreement in 2015.

Today, Bitcoin's market capitalization is 500 billion euros, which means that 4,000€ in Bitcoin emits 0.21 tCO2 per year, which is 9.52 times less than in one of the four largest French banks.

In a scenario where Bitcoin reaches a total capitalization of 10 trillion euros, consuming 706 TWh per year and maintaining the same proportion of renewable energy in its operation, Bitcoin would emit 0.159 Gt of CO2 per year, which is six times more than today and would represent 0.44% of global emissions if they do not increase.

In this projection, 4,000€ in Bitcoin would emit only 0.0636 tCO2 per year, which is 3.3 times less than today.

It is now established that €1 invested in Bitcoin can have positive environmental impacts. In fact, €1 sold in Bitcoin allows you to save 52.6g of CO2 per year. 52.6g of CO2 is on average equivalent to driving 0.24 km by car.

Finally, what is important to understand with this last figure is that we are completely opposite to what these press articles want us to believe.

Holding a portion of your capital in Bitcoin will protect you from censorship, allow you to be the real owner of your money, transfer value to the other side of the world at a lower cost and in minutes (or even seconds), all while supporting the development of renewable energy.

b. The One Piece

A portion of the energy consumed by a Bitcoin mining computer is used to secure the blockchain. But the majority of this energy is simply transformed into another form of energy: heat.

The energy we use to heat our buildings is one of the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions and plays a central role in decarbonization initiatives.

On the other hand, managing ventilation is one of the main challenges for computer designers because overheating can lead to device damage.

Humanity needs access to hot water and habitable environments even in winter, while Bitcoin miners need to dissipate the heat produced by their computers to ensure their proper operation.

Why not consider synergy between these two needs?

The most widely used mining computer today is the Antminer S19, followed by the older Antminer S9.
Picture
Name
Heat Power
Profits per hour
Antminer S9
1000 W
0.03$
Antminer S19
3000 W
0.97$
In short, replacing a radiator with a Bitcoin miner as heating would heat your home while generating passive income and reducing your electricity or gas bill.

If, in the future, buildings, houses, offices were heated through Bitcoin mining, it would double the utility of the consumed energy. Thus, the carbon footprint of the energy used, regardless of its source, would be halved, used to secure the Bitcoin network and heat buildings simultaneously.

In a hypothetical scenario where Bitcoin mining would be exclusively used as a heat generator, its carbon footprint would be zero, as the entire network would then be supported by energy solely used for heat generation.

With the extended lifespan of ASICs, the price paid for heating could be covered. If the profitability of our ASICs drops to -50€ per year, it is still profitable to use them if our traditional heating systems cost us 50€ or more under normal circumstances.

Here are some examples of achievements:

-DCX Immersion Mining, which heats homes through mining ;

-Micheal Schmid alias Schnitzel, who heats an entire house (heating, water, and jacuzzi) through mining.

These examples demonstrate that it is possible to harness this heat, and it takes little effort for this practice to become widespread.

In a world where Bitcoin mining is widely adopted, one can envision many houses, residences, buildings, and offices equipped with Bitcoin miners heating them either entirely or partially.

This would not only make the Bitcoin blockchain more decentralized but also enable these properties to be heated for free or at a lower cost thanks to mining revenues.

IV. Monetary Printing = pollution

In our society, governments relentlessly pursue economic growth, considering it imperative, even though this pursuit is inherently limited by the finite resources of our planet.

The global financial system has been based on fiat currencies since 1971, the end of the Bretton Woods agreements. These currencies are issued and managed by states, especially by central banks such as the Federal Reserve (FED) or the European Central Bank (ECB), with the goal of maintaining an annual inflation rate of 2%.

According to these central banks, an annual inflation rate of 2% is considered adequate to create value without risking hyperinflation, a situation where monetary devaluation would be uncontrollable, rendering the currency unusable.

These currencies are the most effective tools for governments to boost their economies and continue to create value.

However, the major problem with a currency that loses 2% of its value each year is that individuals using it are incentivized to spend it quickly, fearing a loss of purchasing power over time. Fiat currencies are the only financial assets that guarantee an annual loss of value.

Before 1971, we had currencies backed by gold, whose circulation was determined not by the will of a central bank but solely by the gold reserves it held. This led to periods of inflation and deflation, growth and contraction, reflecting a healthier economy.

However, 1971 marked the beginning of exponential growth in the money supply and a period of rampant consumption, resulting in significant pollution.

Thus, under the pretext that consumption stimulates growth, we find ourselves in a race against inflation, where overconsumption is encouraged by the monetary system itself. This trend goes so far as to push us to buy goods we don't truly need, leading to unnecessary pollution.

Our infinite currencies are incompatible with a world with finite resources because infinite currency provides the power to create value at will, which will eventually reach the planet's limits.

On the other hand, beyond the technical aspect of Bitcoin mining, the very operation of the Bitcoin token offers the opportunity to reduce pollution on a global scale.

A deflationary currency would encourage individuals to preserve it in the long term because spending it today would mean losing purchasing power tomorrow. This inclination toward savings would also help strengthen the economy during times of crisis. Instead of relying on central banks to create liquidity, the population would spend their savings, thereby supporting businesses during difficult periods.

Implementing a deflationary monetary base would encourage humanity to set aside its endless ambitions for wealth without a true purpose. Governments would be less obsessed with the pursuit of endless growth, instilling frugality in our societies and thus reducing our environmental impact.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is essential to consider a nuanced perspective when assessing the environmental impact of Bitcoin, far from the sensational headlines of some news articles.

Firstly, comparisons with other sectors and industries reveal that Bitcoin consumes significantly less energy than the traditional banking system. Even considering widespread adoption of Bitcoin, its energy footprint would remain limited compared to other economic actors.

Furthermore, Bitcoin can be seen as a catalyst for the transition to renewable energies. By using surplus energy sources, Bitcoin miners help reduce energy wastage while promoting the adoption of cleaner energy sources.

Extending the lifespan of mining computers, harnessing the heat generated by mining also offers opportunities to heat homes and businesses, contributing to more efficient energy use and cost reduction.

Lastly, the deflationary aspect of Bitcoin can encourage a more responsible approach to consumption and savings. Unlike fiat currencies that encourage rapid spending, Bitcoin encourages long-term savings, which could reduce overconsumption and its adverse effects on the environment.

It is time to stop fighting Bitcoin mining, asking to change its code, and recognize that Bitcoin mining can become a positive player in the energy industry, offering significant environmental and economic benefits.

Bitcoin should not be demonized as the primary cause of the environmental crisis. On the contrary, it offers unique opportunities to reduce pollution, promote renewable energies, and rethink our relationship with consumption. Rather than condemning it, we should consider how Bitcoin could positively contribute to the transition to a more sustainable future.

In summary, Bitcoin has the potential to become much more than just a digital currency. It could evolve to become the battery for storing and valorizing wasted energy.

After revolutionizing our means of exchanging value, Bitcoin could well revolutionize our energy consumption.

For further reading: Bitcoin: An Counterintuitive Solution to Climate Change

Calculs

CO2 Emissions from the Banking System
1 kWh = 475g CO2 or 1 TWh = 475,000 tCO2
475,000 tCO2 x 1,561 TWh = 741,475,000 tCO2 or 0.74 Gt of CO2

CO2 Emissions from Bitcoin
1 kWh = 475g CO2 or 1 TWh = 475,000 tCO2
475,000 tCO2 x 55.27 TWh = 26,253,250 tCO2 or 0.0263 Gt of CO2

CO2 Emissions per 4000€ in Bitcoin (per 1€ in Bitcoin)
0.0263 Gt of CO2 / 500,000,000,000€ = 0.0000526 tCO2 per 1€ in BTC
(or 52.6g CO2 per 1€ in BTC)52.6 * 4000 = 0.21 tCO2