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Environmental groups press for a lower energy use in the Bitcoin Community

Environmental groups press for a lower energy use in the Bitcoin Community

A coalition of environmental groups launched Monday a campaign to change bitcoins code in order to reduce its energy consumption, which has increased significantly over the past few years.

Bitcoin is popular with some investors. However, its energy use has riled some environmental groups and alarmed some lawmakers. This has put the cryptocurrency in conflict with a green movement that still has some supporters on Wall Street. The new campaign is designed to convince everyone involved with bitcoin, from software developers to investors to mining companies, that a change in policy would be better for the environment as well as bitcoin’s reputation and support.

Greenpeace USA, Environmental Working Group, and others will place ads in media outlets like the

New York Times,

Politico and The Wall Street Journal highlight bitcoin’s environmental impact and advocate for change. Ripple co-founders funded the campaign

Chris Larsen

Who isn’t representing the cryptocurrency company in this endeavor? Mr. Larsen stated that he provided $5,000,000.

Some of the ads target prominent bitcoin backers like

Tesla Inc.

Chief Executive

Elon Musk,

Block Inc.

Founding founder

Jack Dorsey

Fidelity Investments Chief Executive

Abby Johnson.

The campaign isn’t anti-bitcoin.

Michael Brune,

The former executive director of Sierra Club is now advising the campaign. He said that the campaign argues that climate change is at a critical point and that bitcoin, the most valuable cryptocurrency by market capitalization, is contributing too heavily to global warming.

He stated that anyone in a position where they can act must do so. It is impossible to ignore the fact that we are in a severe climate emergency.


How can bitcoin mining be done more sustainably? Join the conversation below.

The goal is to persuade the bitcoin community of investors, backers to change their networks code. This would remove the proof of work mechanism that forces bitcoin miners to use a certain amount energy while processing transactions to earn rewards for newly created bitcoin. According to Mr. Brune, the change could dramatically reduce bitcoin’s energy consumption.

Bitcoin’s energy usage is a defense mechanism that protects the network. Anyone can run the bitcoin software because it is an open-source project. The network requires miners, who must expend a lot of computing power to make it possible to take over the network. This could make it prohibitively costly for someone to create counterfeit bitcoins and erase transactions.

According to the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, bitcoin uses slightly more energy per year (134.9 terawatts) than Norway (124.3 terawatts). However, the research institute found that bitcoin uses less energy per year than what is lost in the U.S. through electricity transmission.

A bitcoin mining operation in upstate New York uses electricity from a local hydroelectric station powered by Niagara River. The company is part a group of miners who are trying to make the industry more sustainable both financially and environmentally. Illustration: Alex Kuzoian/WSJ

Some bitcoin miners have found a solution by using more renewable energy sources to power the computers. But Messrs. Brune, Larsen feel that this is not enough.

Although bitcoin’s environmental impacts have been a problem for years, the people who control it have rejected the proposed changes. Aside from the fact that bitcoin is not owned or controlled by a company it is impossible to change the code without the agreement of nearly all the parties involved.

The proof of work model is still used by the Ethereum network. However, the Ethereum network is moving to proof of stake which basically swaps energy for cryptocurrency. The change, which has been delayed multiple times due to technical reasons, is expected decrease Ethereum’s electricity use by 99%. The campaign aims to make a similar switch in bitcoin.

Paul Vigna can be reached at [email protected]

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