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China Mining Ban Worsens Bitcoin’s Carbon Footprint. Study Claims

China Mining Ban Worsened Bitcoin’s Carbon Footprint, Study Claims

Contrary to some expectations, Beijing’s crackdown on the crypto mining industry has increased Bitcoin’s carbon emissions, researchers have alleged. They claim that miners have abandoned China’s eco-friendly hydropower, and are now more dependent on fossil fuels for energy.

Bitcoin Mining Allowedly Less Green since Miners’ Exodus from China

Cryptocurrency mining has become a dirtier process after the Chinese government effectively prohibited bitcoin extraction in the People’s Republic, according to research published in the Joule journal. The share of renewable energy used to power mining operations has fallen from almost 42% to around 25% last August, the study insists.

It has been estimated that Bitcoin produces more than 65 megatons of carbon dioxide annually. The amount exceeds the total carbon emissions of a country like Greece, for example, which in 2019 registered less than 57 megatons of CO2. Alex de Vries, one of the authors, said to the BBC:

We see the network becoming less green than ever before.

He explained to Bloomberg that the shift of mining companies from the United States to countries like Kazakhstan and the United States has resulted in a decrease in renewable energy sources. This made bitcoin production less friendly to the environment as it resulted in the increase of its carbon intensity by about 17%.

De Vries is the founder of Digiconomist.net, a platform presenting itself as “dedicated to exposing the unintended consequences of digital trends” and publishing the Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index. He is also a researcher at Vrije University, Amsterdam. His estimates about Bitcoin’s energy usage have been challenged by crypto media and members of the community but quoted by mainstream publications.

Migration from the U.S. has increased the use of fossil fuels especially natural gas. However, only a small amount of electrical energy generated in the country is from renewables according to De Vries’ latest report. And moving to Kazakhstan often leads to utilizing electricity from power stations burning what’s known as “hard coal,” polluting more than the Chinese plants that miners worked with outside the wet season.

China banned crypto-related activities such as trading back in 2017 but the government did not interfere with mining until last spring. In May 2021, the State Council decided to clamp down on the industry following President Xi Jinping’s pledge to achieve carbon neutrality in the next four decades. The crackdown has since spread to provinces like Sichuan where miners had access to hydropower.


BBC reported that

Industry groups were more optimistic about the potential use of renewables for the minting digital currencies. It quotes an older estimate made by the Bitcoin Mining Council, according to which the “global mining industry’s sustainable electricity mix had grown to approximately 58.5%.”

Meanwhile, in Europe, nations such as Sweden and regulators like the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) have more recently voiced concerns over the growing use of renewable energy for bitcoin mining. They are calling for an EU-wide ban of energy-intensive mining methods.

On Friday, news came out that the European Parliament canceled a scheduled vote on the bloc’s new crypto regulations after a proposal to prohibit proof-of-work mining found its way to the draft Markets in Crypto Assets (MiCA) framework and sparked negative reactions from the industry.

What are your thoughts on the findings of the bitcoin mining study? Please leave your comments below.

Lubomir Tassev

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Image Credits: Shutterstock, Pixabay, Wiki Commons

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