Jumping On Tesla For Buying Bitcoin Is Not Fair

Critics are now calling into question just how “green” Tesla is since it recently purchased $1.5 billion in Bitcoin. Reuters published an article that is questioning Elon Musk’s stance on clean energy and wanting answers as to why Tesla is buying bitcoin. The article stated that Tesla’s backing of Bitcoin “could turbo-charge global use of a currency that’s estimated to cause more pollution than a small country every year.”

Bitcoin mining uses around the same amount of energy as the Netherlands did in 2019, the article noted. That is a lot of energy, and I understand why this topic needs to be addressed, but blaming Elon Musk and Tesla as the cause of this isn’t the right move here. So let’s address this without blaming Tesla — I mean, if you want to blame someone, then blame everyone who uses Bitcoin, not just Tesla. Or blame anyone who uses money in any form — Bitcoin isn’t the only currency that creates CO2 emissions.

Everyone on this planet including me is guilty of contributing to a carbon footprint. Even if you have never driven a car before, your very breath contributes to the carbon footprint of this planet — we breathe out carbon dioxide. The point I am emphasizing here is that we can’t just blame Elon Musk and Tesla for investing in Bitcoin, label them as villains, while ignoring the fact that there are billions of dollars invested into it and other cryptocurrencies.

Should we touch on this topic? Yes. But, we need to keep it fair and unbiased. I understand why some would criticize Elon Musk for this since he is an image of sustainability — it’s Tesla’s goal, after all. However, you can not clean the house without getting dirty. You’re going to get a bit dirty while cleaning — it’s just the natural order of things.

If Tesla Is Bad For Owning Bitcoin, Then It Should Be Punished For Using Any Sort Of Currency

Yes, that heading is senseless and it sheds light on just how silly blaming Elon Musk for Tesla’s buying Bitcoin is. Currency has a very high carbon footprint. Perhaps we should just stop using it — no more money, no more capitalism. Just take out the money and dispose of it in an environmentally sustainable way.

Leftover Currency published an article titled, “The Carbon Footprint of Cash,” and in that article it broke down the carbon footprint of currencies, ATM machines, and the ATM network. In the latter case, the ATM network increases the carbon footprint of polymer £10 banknotes to 436 grams CO2 from 31 grams per banknote over 10 years.

This is just the UK. Think of the ATM networks all over the world. In a Medium article by Stackmore, the author noted that in 2016, there were about 12.5 bank branches per 100.000 people in the world. As of 2018, the world’s population was 7.6 billion and this equaled over 950,000 banking branches globally. A small business consumes around 30 MWh per year and when you multiply that by 950,000 branches, you get 28,500,000 MWh per year. This is 28.5 terawatt-hours. Based on the author’s calculations, this is the conclusion they came to:  28.5*490 = 13965 kton of CO2.

The author also broke down just how much ATMs, a user’s commute, an employee’s commute, and the use of paper contributed to CO2 emissions. With there being at least 3 million banking ATMs globally, the average electricity consumption of an ATM is 2,000 kWh per year. This leads to 2,940 tones of CO2 per year, the author noted. You can read the full article and the calculations here. 

We Should Be Concerned About The CO2 Emissions Of Bitcoin

I’m not dismissing the CO2 emissions of Bitcoin. They are real. But there is a bit of hope. A new study conducted in October 2020 shows that 76% of crypto miners use renewables as a part of their energy mix. The study, put forth by the University of Cambridge Judge Business School, noted that 62% of surveyed miners indicated that their operations are powered by hydroelectric energy. Other types of clean energies such as wind and solar accounted for 38% and 36% of respondents’ power sources. A total of 39% of the surveyed miners’ total energy consumption comes from renewable energy.

The study also stated that 76% of the miners use renewable energy as a part of their energy mix — and this is where we have a bit of hope. The 39% is pretty low, but with renewables on the rise, that number may rise in the coming years. With Tesla buying Bitcoin, this will hopefully bring attention to a problem that can be solved with renewable energy.

The Solution

The solution isn’t to blame Elon and accuse him of being a hypocrite. The solution is to encourage miners to use renewables. For this to happen, we need renewable energy to continue its rise into the mainstream. We need to stop propping up the fossil fuel industry on government subsidies and stop allowing them to lobby lawmakers into creating laws that benefit the oil and gas industry while taking advantage of citizens.

However, it’s easier to blame Elon Musk than it is to convince politicians to say no to get paid to push fossil fuel agendas.

It’s also easier to write articles blaming Elon Musk for doing the same thing everyone else does simply because it seems to be the trendy thing to do these days.  I think we would be better off trying to find solutions rather than pointing fingers


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