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

Researchers have alleged that contrary to most expectations, the carbon emissions associated with Bitcoin’s mining have actually increased after Beijing’s crackdown against the mining industry last year. When miners left China, they also left behind the country’s eco-friendly hydropower and they are now making use of energy that is generated via fossil fuels. The Joule journal published the research, which said that after the ban of the Chinese government imposed on bitcoin mining in the People’s Republic, the process of crypto mining has actually become dirtier. The study said that since last August, there has been a fall in the share of renewable energy used for powering crypto mining operations.

It highlighted that the figure had gone down from 42% to 25%. Estimates indicate that more than 65 megatons of carbon dioxide are produced by bitcoin in a year. This amount is in excess of the total carbon emissions of a country, such as Greece, which had registered less than 57 megatons of carbon dioxide in 2019. One of the authors of the research, Alex de Vries, stated that the network, has become less green than ever. He highlighted that mining companies relocating to other countries, such as Kazakhstan and the United States, has meant that the use of renewable energy sources for crypto mining has declined.

Therefore, it means that bitcoin production has become less environmentally friendly because its carbon intensity has increased by almost 17%. Digiconomist.net was founded by De Vries, which is a platform that publishes the Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index and considers itself dedicated to highlighting the unintended consequences associated with digital trends. He works at the Dutch central bank and also works as a researcher in Amsterdam at the School of Business and Economics at Vrije Universiteit. Crypto media has challenged his estimates of the energy usage of Bitcoin, along with members of the community.

However, mainstream publications have often quoted his statistics. The latest report he has presented claims that with crypto mining moving to the United States, there has been an increase in the use of fossil fuels, particularly natural gas, because only a relatively small amount of electrical energy in the country is generated from renewables. He has further stated that the move to Kazakhstan is also not a good one because it involves using energy from power stations that burn ‘hard coal’ for its generation. This can lead to more pollution than the Chinese plants that miners had been using outside of the wet season.

Crypto-related activities had been banned in China back in 2017, but the government had left mining alone until the previous spring. The State Council had taken the decision of clamping down on the mining industry in May 2021 after the pledge of President Xi Jinping to achieve carbon neutrality in China in the next four decades. Since then, the mining crackdown has expanded to provinces like Sichuan where crypto miners had been able to access hydropower. However, industry groups remain optimistic regarding the use of renewable energy resources for mining.

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