‘Existential threat’ to Bitcoin-investing companies from carbon fallout

Asset managers are warning industry giants like Tesla and PayPal that investing in energy-intensive assets like Bitcoin could diminish their popularity among investors.

Allocating capital to Bitcoin risks a backlash from environmentally conscious investors, according to author and co-anchor of CNBC’s Squawk Box, Andrew Ross Sorkin.

In a piece for the International New York Times, syndicated worldwide, Sorkin pointed to statements by Lawrence Fink, CEO of Black Rock — the largest asset managers in the world — indicating his company would make all future investment decisions based on “how they plan to meet the climate challenge.”

Tesla’s $TSLA recent bet on bitcoin sullies its green credentials. Mining and transacting the cryptocurrency requires huge amounts of computing power and electricity, much of it from fossil fuels #btc #ev pic.twitter.com/lv0pvossdr

— Michael A. Gayed, CFA (@leadlagreport) February 21, 2021

Sorkin mentioned PayPal, Square and Tesla as examples of BTC-buying companies with strong green initiatives. But such initiatives seem in principle at odds with Bitcoin’s energy inefficient method of making transactions which adds to the carbon in the atmosphere:

“All of which raises a crucial question: Does the movement among investors toward companies that rank highly for environmental, social and governance issues pose an existential threat to Bitcoin’s success?”

Sorkin authored a book on the Wall Street banking crisis, Too Big to Fail, in 2009, which was on the New York Times bestseller list for six months and made into a movie in 2011.

Tesla received $1.5 billion in environmental subsidies in 2020, funded by U.S. taxpayers. The subsidies are intended to reward and encourage environmentally friendly behavior. #Tesla then spent the same amount buying #Bitcoin, which wastes electricity and harms the environment.

— Peter Schiff (@PeterSchiff) February 11, 2021

Tesla came under fire in Feb. after Ben Dear, the CEO of sustainable products investor Osmosis Investment Management told Reuters that the company should “concentrate on measuring and disclosing to their market their full suite of environmental factors,” in light of its Bitcoin purchase. The statement emphasized the need for greater transparency by Tesla when it comes to environmental accountability:

“(We hope that) if they continue to buy or indeed start mining Bitcoin, that they include the relevant energy consumption data in these disclosures.”

According to the 3rd Global Cryptoasset Benchmarking Study published by the University of Cambridge, up to 39% of all proof of work mining globally is conducted using renewable sources of energy, mostly hydroelectric power. Other estimates put the figure higher.

Approximately two-thirds of all Bitcoin mining takes place in China. While a significant portion of this is done using renewable energy, coal remains the country’s biggest source of energy. Mining operations in Inner Mongolia were recently curtailed after failing to meet the standards of a government-mandated energy efficiency review.

Regardless of attempts to utilize green energy, Bitcoin currently suffers from an image problem in the form of a “massive carbon footprint,” as described by Forbes in a recent article. In February, a self-professed “green hacker” called for the destruction of Bitcoin on the basis that it is immensely damaging to the environment.

As the Bitcoin network consumes as much energy as a mid-sized country on a daily basis, some companies, like Jack Dorsey’s Square, have allocated funds to green Bitcoin mining projects in an effort to further alleviate the cryptocurrency’s reliance on fossil fuels.

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