Greenpeace Catches Hell for Its ‘Explosive’ Bitcoin Mining Report

By Decrypt March 21, 2024 In Bitcoin, Mining

GreenpeaceUSA is back with more scathing criticisms of the Bitcoin mining industry, but its claims of environmental harms and Big Oil collusion have drawn a robust rebuttal from its targets.

In a report released on Tuesday, the U.S. arm of the global non-profit said it was exposing the industry’s “deep ties” with the fossil fuel industry and “right-wing climate deniers” whose corporate interests run counter to addressing the climate crisis.

Some of those alleged ties include “overlap” between groups promoting Bitcoin mining and funding from the Koch Brothers and a “revolving door” between the Bitcoin mining industry and the Trump administration.

“Since Bitcoin provides a lifeline for fossil fuels by helping keep dirty coal and gas plants running, it should come as no surprise that fossil fuel companies and climate deniers are excited about the industry,” GreenpeaceUSA wrote.

BREAKING: @GreenpeaceUSA just released an explosive new report exposing the deep ties between the fossil fuel industry, right-wing climate deniers, and the growing lobbying network pushing a plan to save dirty coal and gas plants with #Bitcoin


— Greenpeace USA (@greenpeaceusa) March 19, 2024

The group claimed that such ties “cast doubt” on the industry’s arguments that Bitcoin mining promotes renewable energy buildout, reduces methane emissions, or stabilizes electrical grids.

“The majority of the electricity for Bitcoin mining comes from oil, coal, and gas,” the report added. “Meanwhile the increased energy demand from Bitcoin mines is straining electrical grids and increasing costs for ratepayers, while doing little to nothing for the expansion of renewable energy.”

Bitcoiners were quick to dispute the group’s claims, accusing the non-profit of spreading misinformation about Bitcoin’s energy use.

Mining proponents said that the industry’s benefits were well documented by timely and legitimate studies, while describing GreenpeaceUSA’s more pessimistic claims as based on outdated and debunked sources.

Bitcoin mining firms agree. Pierre Rochard, VP of Communications at Riot Platforms, says Bitcoin miners who don’t use renewable energy simply go out of business.

“Emissions from power generation are already regulated, renewable generation is rapidly growing in the United States, and bitcoin mining itself is zero-emissions,” Rochard told Decrypt.

Isaac Holyoak, Chief Communications Officer of CleanSpark, claims that the firm powers its mining sites using 81% carbon-free energy, noting that renewable sources are simply cheaper for business than coal. The company itself, he claimed, has deployed millions of dollars into Georgia’s energy infrastructure, including substation improvements, transformers, power lines and poles.

“The Greenpeace report is total drivel,” he said. “Here’s the reality… Bitcoin miners are important for monetizing abundant and excess energy in rural communities and driving investment in the power grid.”

Indeed, proponents supported the argument that Bitcoin miners help stabilize electricity grids, not de-stabilize them, by flexibly scaling operations up or down depending on the grid’s needs.

“Bitcoin data centers can turn off during peak hours and turn on during off-peak hours,” said Kyle Schneps, VP of Public Policy at Foundry. Since Bitcoin mining is location agnostic, he said it could be deployed in remote areas to monetize stranded renewable energy sources with no other demand source that may otherwise go out of business.

“According to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, up to 2/3 of energy consumption in the United States is rejected or used inefficiently: Bitcoin miners use what is otherwise wasted,” Shneps explained.

“It is now widely acknowledged that Bitcoin uses mostly sustainable energy,” wrote Daniel Batten, CH4 Capital co-founder and former Greenpeace activist, on Twitter. His fund invests in companies that mine Bitcoin using landfill gas that would otherwise be flared off and generate only air pollution.

Batten referenced a September 2023 study from Bloomberg Intelligence identifying a 52.6% sustainable energy mix for the industry, in contrast to GreenpeaceUSA’s “very old” data set from Cambridge University. The co-founder also referenced peer-reviewed research from Cornell University showing that Bitcoin mining helped make renewable operations more profitable.

Critics clearly don’t trust that GreenpeaceUSA’s anti-Bitcoin mining arguments are made in good faith. Batten, for example, noted that the organization has fallen behind other environmental organizations that flipped from critical to supportive of Bitcoin once they took more time to learn about it.

Even Greenpeace’s global operations are not on the same page, he added.

“We know from direct feedback that other branches of Greenpeace have asked serious questions about GreenpeaceUSA’s anti-Bitcoin campaign, their tactics, and the reliability of the information sources they have used,” Batten said.

In fact, many called out GreenpeaceUSA’s own set of shady connections.

Check out this power map:

— Pierre Rochard (@BitcoinPierre) March 20, 2024

“Greenpeace’s anti-bitcoin arm is openly funded by Chris Larsen of Ripple and is not independent and impartial,” noted Swan co-founder Yan Pritzker. In March 2022, the Larsen-backed GreenpeaceUSA and the Environmental Working Group in a $5 million campaign to change Bitcoin’s code so that the network would consume less energy.

GreenpeaceUSA did not respond to Decrypt’s request for comment.

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