Bitcoin is Actually Good for the Environment

You’ve probably heard that bitcoin is terrible for the environment. You’ve heard that it wastes tons of energy on a ridiculous “mining” process. You’ve been told that pretty soon, all of the world’s power will be used to mine bitcoin.  You’ve been told that, if we took all of the smoke emitted by coal power plants being built to mine bitcoins, that smoke would form a black hole that soon threatens to collapse and swallow the entire universe, leaving us with no planets, stars, or life,  with nothing left in existence except for one guy who keeps mumbling about “double spending.” Of course, some of these claims are slightly exaggerated.

I’m here to tell you that these claims are wrong, and that bitcoin is actually good for the environment. If you want to stop global warming, then buying bitcoin is a great idea. Here’s why.

Energy Usage Isn’t a Problem

Yes, bitcoin mining uses energy. That isn’t a problem, because using energy, by itself isn’t a problem. It’s carbon emissions that are a problem. We aren’t going to stop global warming by using less energy. Sure, maybe Americans and Europeans can assuage their guilt by reducing their energy usage.  It might make us feel like we’re making a difference, but it won’t matter. The reality is that cutbacks in energy usage in America and Europe won’t matter at all if India and China continue to increase their emissions

We can’t tell the developing world, “Hey, we got wealthy burning fossil fuels, but you guys can’t do the same, because it’s bad for the Earth,” and expect them to listen. They’ll say “yeah, sure, whatever” and then keep on burning fossil fuels to make their lives better.

The way to stop global warming is to pour lots of money into developing sources of energy that don’t lead to carbon emissions. If we can develop reliable, cheap, fusion power, for example, we can give this technology to the rest of the world, and they’ll say “hell yes.” Then we all win. The same is true for all forms of renewable energy: we need to invest in them.

Stopping global warming requires giving money to anyone who develops clean energy. Fortunately bitcoin miners are doing exactly this.

Bitcoin Mining Gives Money to Green Energy Suppliers

Most bitcoin mining is done with renewable energy sources. When people set up bitcoin mines, they are doing so mostly in places that are already producing lots of renewable energy, but aren’t being paid for it because it can’t all be used.  We’ve had hydroelectric dams in eastern Washington for a long time. Bitcoin mining has given these dam operators boatloads of cash.

What do you think is more likely to save the world? Appealing to people’s sense of morality and justice, and convincing them to consume less? Or investing in technology and engineering to solve problems we’ve created for ourselves?  Bitcoin miners are giving money to anyone who can produce reliable power for cheap, and the best sources of cheap, reliable power are renewable energy.

You might think this doesn’t matter at all, because bitcoin mining isn’t exactly a ton of power. It’s not enough to be the difference between profitability and failure for green energy, is it? As it turns out, excess production by renewable power is a big problem. Energy demand fluctuates wildly over the course of the day, and these fluctuations don’t always line up with the times at which renewable energy is produced. The variable output means renewable suppliers have pay or a lot of wasted capacity. Nobody wants to buy your extra gigawatts at two in the morning. Nobodoy, that is, except bitcoin miners. Bitcoin mining fixes this problem for renewables by always being willing to buy cheap power, regardless of the time of day. No other industry has this property.

The future looks like clean energy all over the world, much of it renewable, hooked up to local bitcoin mining operations that utilize slack power generation.  Bitcoin miners get cheap, emissions-free power, and renewable operators don’t require government subsidies to stay afloat. You can’t try to fix the world by rolling back time. The only way out is through. And honestly, it’s a hell of a way out.

Let’s Get to Kardashev 1

Which future would you rather inhabit? One populated by energy-obsessed neopuritans, with state-mandated austerity, and constant hand wringing about how we’ve wronged Mother earth? 

Or a future where we have repaired much of the environmental damage, we are mining asteroids, and we are living on a terraformed Mars, floating colonies on Venus, and a hundred thousand experimental environments inhabited by all kinds of people with different values, music, styles of dress, food, and homebrew beers?  Oh, yes, of course, in the second future we’ll probably also see all kinds of other nightmares that we can’t currently imagine, but that’s how life goes. We can’t cling to the past – we have to advance, bravely and boldy, in the future. 

The automobile was originally proposed as an environmental saviour, because it solved the problem of horse shit in cities.  Imagine what would have happened to the world if we’d said “The way to fix this problem is to stop living in cities.”  We’d have given up all the economic advantages that come from people living together in huge numbers. If we had listened to ludditic environmental doomsayers last century, we’d all be speaking a hybrid of German and Japanese while goose-stepping to techno-nazi anime, because there’s no way in hell that fascist states will listen to moralistic hand-wringing from wealthier, weaker civilizations. 

Yes, the world is covered in the modern equivalent of horse shit. The solution is to move forward, not backwards. 

The Kardasehv scale is a measure of civilizational development, and it’s based on energy usage. We’re still not even to level 1.  Convincing ourselves to reduce our energy usage is a way of saying, “no, let’s not develop, we think that’s bad.” The truth is, the damage from global warming is so bad, just stopping it isn’t enough. We need to grow and develop the capabilities necessary to fix the future problems we will encounter – not try to hold onto an imagined past that can’t exist again, and probably never did.

Oh, and what kind of currency is going to work in an environment like that? Would people living on Mars trust a currency run by people on Earth? Or would interplanetary trade demand a currency that’s backed by the laws of physics and mathematics?

We need to dream about the future again – now more than ever.  Buying bitcoin is a tangible way to make that dream real. People all over Earth are buying bitcoin every day using You could be one of them.

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