Could Bitcoin Mining Actually Reduce Methane Emissions By 2030?

ESG analyst Daniel Batten argues that bitcoin mining could reduce methane emissions by up to 8.5 percent by 2030.

As a greenhouse gas, methane has 80 times more potential of causing climate change than carbon dioxide (CO2) during its first 20 years in the atmosphere, according to research. It accounts for about one fifth of all greenhouse gases emissions.

Converting methane into CO2

Daniel Batten, a renowned environment, social and governance (ESG) analyst and bitcoin investor, said bitcoin mining could significantly reduce the amount of methane concentrations in the atmosphere.

Batten argues that removing the equivalent of one ton in methane emissions is more effective than avoiding the same amount of carbon dioxide. His plan is to convert methane into carbon dioxide, and use that to power bitcoin mining.

“You do that by finding leaking methane and cleanly burning it to generate electricity,” Batten outlined in a long April 29 thread on Twitter. “By doing that you get a +80 point for removing methane, but a -1 point penalty for the residual carbon dioxide, so its still 79x more effective than removing CO2 from our atmosphere.”

Methane is produced mainly in landfills and in agriculture, particularly during the digestive processes of a cow. Human activities such as driving cars, oil and gas fields also cause CH4 emissions. Once burnt, however, methane disintegrates to form non-global warming gas products.

Bitcoin miners have started to experiment with the use of what is called “stranded gas” – flared and vented natural gas from the oil industry – to power their mining rigs. Ordinarily, this is gas that will either go to waste or is burnt. Batten says miners could add to this energy produced from landfills.

“If Bitcoin miners were used throughout the world’s oil fields and landfills, they would reduce our global emissions by a huge 8.5%: 1.5% for oil fields and 7% for landfills,” Batten explained.

Batten adds that the quantum of methane in the world has been understated, quoting NASA data which says the world underestimated oil and gas methane emissions by 40 percent. Landfill gas has been under-quantified by 127%, he says.

BTC energy consumption behind the banking industry’s

Scientists blame the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide for causing climate change. Now, bitcoin mining is caught in the matrix. Some academics and economists have criticized the process by which new bitcoins are created, often called mining, claiming it fuels climate change.

They say that mining consumes too much electricity generated from fossil fuels like coal, a major source of carbon emissions. For example, Fairplanet argues that “each bitcoin transaction uses around 2,100 kilowatt hours (kWh), which is roughly what an average U.S. household consumes in 75 days.”

Much less is said about electricity usage involving legacy, monopoly financial institutions like commercial lenders.

In August 2018, Dr Katrina M. Kelly-Pitou, a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, published her “Stop worrying about how much energy bitcoin uses” article, which tackles the notion that mining is inherently energy wasteful and thus dangerous to the environment.

Regarding the oft-cited estimation that “BTC mining used 30 terawatt hours in 2017” – as much as Ireland, she explained:

“This is a lot, but not exorbitant. Banking consumes an estimated 100 terrawatts of power annually. If bitcoin technology were to mature by more than 100 times its current market size, it would still equal only 2% of all energy consumption.”

Methane ‘not get out of jail card’ for BTC

Batten, however, also emphasizes that methane emissions is not a ‘get out of jail card’ for bitcoin.

“We need to do both methane and CO2 reduction together,” he urged. “While methane is more lethal, carbon dioxide is much more prevalent. So reducing our emissions of each by 50% is super important.”

Willy Woo, a bitcoin analyst who looks into nuances of data mining and the environment, said there is need to revisit studies that claim crypto mining is bad for the climate.

“If you think bitcoin hurts the environment, dig deeper. It`s the best technology we have to accelerate the adoption of renewables,” Woo tweeted, quoting the argument by Batten.

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