Research shows that Bitcoin mining is struggling to go green

A representation of the virtual cryptocurrency Bitcoin is seen in this image taken on October 18, 2021. REUTERS/Edgar Su

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LONDON, Sept 27 (Reuters) – Bitcoin is struggling to go green as the cryptocurrency made modest gains on sustainable energy use in the year to January, research from Cambridge University showed on Tuesday.

The processing of Bitcoin transactions and the “mining” of new tokens is performed by powerful computers connected to a global network and competing against others to solve complex mathematical puzzles.

The process guzzles electricity as it relies heavily on polluting fossil fuels like coal, drawing criticism from policymakers, investors and environmentalists worried about its impact on global warming.

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Projects have been looking for ways to switch bitcoin mining to cleaner energy, such as B. Reusing heat by-products from oil production for crypto mining.

Still, fossil fuels accounted for about 62% of Bitcoin’s energy mix in January 2022, the latest data available, up from 65% a year earlier, research by the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index (CBECI) showed.

While coal’s share fell from 47% to 37%, Bitcoin became more dependent on gas, which made up a quarter of its energy mix in January, up from 16% a year earlier.

The role of sustainable energy — classified as nuclear, hydro, wind and solar — in the mix rose little, reaching about 38% versus 35% a year earlier. Hydro fell from about 20% to 15%.

Bitcoin mining is largely unregulated and opaque, with only a few centralized bodies collecting data. The Cambridge study was based on data on the geographic spread of mining around the world and each country’s energy mix.

The report said its results “notably differ” from estimates by the US-based industry association Bitcoin Mining Council, which in July put the share of sustainable energy in Bitcoin’s power mix at around 60%.

“We try to show what footprint Bitcoin has,” said CBECI boss Alexander Neumüller. “The energy mix really has a strong impact on greenhouse gas emissions.”

Bitcoin’s greenhouse gas emissions are expected to reach 48.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent this year, about 14% lower than estimated emissions for 2021, CBECI said.

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