Musk sets bitcoin a Herculean task

SpaceX founder and Tesla CEO Elon Musk looks on as he visits the construction site of Tesla's gigafactory in Gruenheide, near Berlin, Germany, May 17, 2021.

NEW YORK, June 14 (Reuters Breakingviews) - Tesla (TSLA.O) boss Elon Musk said on Sunday that his electric-car maker will allow customers to transact with bitcoin again when creating new coins becomes more climate-friendly read more . Tesla’s on-off relationship is a big driver of the crypto-asset’s value read more : Musk’s latest remarks sent it back above $40,000. He has, though, set an improbably high bar.

So-called bitcoin miners use lashings of energy to generate a new coin every 10 minutes or so. Cambridge University pegs usage at an annualized 97 terawatt hours, roughly the electricity output of Virginia. Knowing how green it is, though, is impossible. One crypto report estimated renewable energy made up 39% of the mix last year; another, a year earlier, claimed bitcoin is already mostly green.

The problem is bitcoin’s energy hunger is inbuilt. The amount required to mine means nobody can seize control of the system, which is part of its appeal. For as long as bitcoin’s price justifies mining it, and Musk’s comments help make that so, owners of dirty fossil fuel have an incentive to keep burning. (By John Foley)

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