- Bitcoin advocates often correctly cite inaccurate energy data in relation to mining
- Video sharing platforms, fashion, and many others use more energy than Bitcoin mining
- Bitcoin will continue to be on the receiving end until its use case matches other big energy users
Bitcoin critics have developed various angles of attack in recent years, from its perceived lack of inherent value to its use in ransomware exploits. However, it is Bitcoin’s energy consumption that has gained the highest number of virtual and physical column inches in recent years. Bitcoin advocates routinely point out that Bitcoin’s energy use is miniscule compared to other mass emitters of CO2 in the world, but these arguments are never going to hold sway until Bitcoin has a global use case that matches these other producers.
Dodgy Data Dominates the Discussion
Mainstream media outlets have always grumbled about Bitcoin’s energy use, but in the last 18 months the criticism has turned from a trickle to a torrent, with the result that any Bitcoin-related post on non-crypto social media accounts inevitably result in a plethora of anti-Bitcoin sentiment, almost exclusively relating to its energy use.
The spuriousness of the data used by Bitcoin-bashing mainstream media outlets is well known, and there has been plenty of research conducted that shows the problem in its true context. For example, cryptocurrency investment firm CoinShares recently released a paper entitled ‘The Bitcoin Mining Network’ which said that Bitcoin mining accounts for 0.08% of the world’s carbon emissions. This still equates to the energy use of one of the myriad countries often cited by mainstream media outlets, which is much more attention-grabbing than a statistic of 0.08%, but it does put the numbers into context.
An Inconvenient Truth
The issue that Bitcoin has, however, is one of use case, which we can explain by looking at the carbon emission giants globally. Livestock farming, for example, equates to 14% of global emissions; the fashion production industry currently makes up 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions; and transport emissions emit 24% of the world’s greenhouse gas output. These are, of course, much higher numbers than Bitcoin, and yet they don’t make headlines. Why?
The reason is simple – one or all of these three mass CO2 producers is regularly used by everyone in the world. The use case of meat, transport, and clothing outweighs outweighs the cost to the planet and it would be inconvenient to us to ditch one or all of them, so they barely get a mention.
Bitcoin Has Become an Easy Target
The same can’t be said for Bitcoin, which has become an easy target due to its lack of global adoption. It may be used more than ever before, but, as the saying goes, we’re still early. Which is a problem, because until humanity relies on Bitcoin as much as it does the other mass emission emitters then it will continue to garner such negative attention.
Sometimes it’s not even about use case. The storage and transmission of online videos spews out double the CO2 of Bitcoin mining, yet YouTube and Netflix are rarely criticized for their energy use because, you know, the world likes watching TV.
What we can say for sure is that while Bitcoin’s primary use case remains the increase or preservation of wealth, it will not be seen as sufficiently useful to be worth the energy cost. Bitcoin supporters can throw out all sorts of contextual statistics to show that, actually, the cost to the planet isn’t as bad as mainstream media outlets make it seem, but until those same journalists are using Bitcoin as much as they eat meat, drive cars, or watch funny cat videos, the issue will persist.