Which side is correct? |

Fact-Checking 8 Claims About Crypto’s Climate Impact
By Andrew R. Chow
Correspondent, TIME

Cryptocurrencies are bad for the environment—at least, that’s what most people online seem to believe. Pro-crypto posts on social media are often flooded with angry comments about the industry's outsized contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Studies estimate that Bitcoin mining, the process that safeguards the Bitcoin network, uses more power globally per year than most countries, including the Philippines and Venezuela.

On the other side, members of the crypto community argue that crypto mining is actually good for the environment in several crucial ways. They say that it offers a new, energy-hungry market that will encourage renewable projects. In the long run, they say, crypto will revolutionize the energy grid, and soak up excess energy that would have been otherwise wasted.

As lobbyists have volleyed arguments on both sides, a blow was dealt to crypto mining’s hopes for rapid expansion in the U.S. on June 30 when New York officials denied the air permits of Greenidge Generation, a Bitcoin mining operation, citing “substantial greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with the project." The decision could set a precedent for how local jurisdictions across the country approach a hotly contested topic.

So which side is correct?

To investigate, TIME spoke with several energy and environmental experts to break down some of the crypto community’s main arguments. While some experts say that there’s potential for positive impact from crypto mining, most agree there are few indications that the industry is going in the right direction.

“There is a narrow path upon which they could be useful to the energy system—but I don’t see that happening,” says Joshua Rhodes, an energy research associate at the University of Texas at Austin. And right now, he says, damage is already being done. “Writ large, they’re probably adding to carbon emissions currently.”

Claim: Christmas lights use more electricity than Bitcoin.

This claim has been repeated over and over by Bitcoin mining defenders, including Thiel in our interview, in order to deflect attention from Bitcoin mining and onto other large uses of electricity. It’s also completely unsubstantiated. The latest major study on holiday lights came from a paper written in 2008, which put their electricity consumption in the U.S. at 6.63 terawatt hours of electricity per year. (The paper noted that figure would only decrease as LED bulbs became more common). The Bitcoin network, by comparison, consumes an estimated 91 terawatt hours yearly.

Popular online posts on this topic that defend Bitcoin, including from the digital mining operator Mawson, either do not cite any sources for their data or mangle the findings of trusted institutions.

Read on for 7 more claims that we fact-checked...

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