Elon Musk recently tweeted that Tesla is going to pull support for Bitcoin over environmental concerns. This sent Bitcoin prices tumbling, and also has raised questions about the sustainability of cryptocurrency. So, can cryptocurrency ever be sustainable?
Why does Bitcoin mining use so much energy?
When people speak about the energy cost of cryptocurrencies, they’re usually talking about the impact of mining Bitcoin.
Bitcoin miners use a computer to solve increasingly difficult algorithms which form the blockchain. The trick is to get all miners to agree on the same history of transactions for the blockchain.
This mining process requires a significant amount of computing power, which in turn requires large amounts of electricity. This can pose an environmental issue when the miners use fossil fuels.
However, the large amounts of energy consumption required to mine Bitcoin is majorly a product of its increasing popularity, rather than being an inherent design element, says Liam Bussell from BANXA.
Is a carbon neutral cryptocurrency possible?
With this in mind Bussell says a carbon neutral cryptocurrency is theoretically possible if the miners use clean energy rather than fossil fuels.
Better, more energy-efficient blockchain mechanisms also could help this transition.
Although Bitcoin mining does require large amounts of electricity, it’s ultimately up to the individual miner whether they use renewable energy to power this process.
How does Bitcoin’s carbon footprint compare to traditional currency?
On the other hand, it’s important that we keep these discussions in the perspective of our current systems.
Rory Manchee from Brave New Coin argues that traditional fiat currencies also use considerable amounts of energy to mine and process the materials used in the production of notes and coins.
So how does Bitcoin stack up?
Let’s take VISA as an example. Digiconomist reports that Bitcoin uses far more energy than VISA. Also, the energy used by VISA is relatively “greener” than the energy used by the Bitcoin mining network.
How can cryptocurrencies reduce their energy output?
The reason that Bitcoin mining is so energy-intensive is majorly down to a process called proof-of-work.
However, some experts are already in the process of replacing this with the more energy-efficient proof-of-state. In this model, coin owners create the blocks rather than the miners. This negates the need for the computational heavy-lifting we currently see.
Are all cryptocurrencies equally harmful to the environment?
Different types of cryptocurrency are mined in different ways. Therefore, some currencies are more energy-reliant than others.
For example, Ethereum mining uses far less energy than Bitcoin mining.
Ethereum also has plans to change its proof-of-work algorithm to an energy efficient proof-of-stake algorithm called Casper.
Oil giant Shell ramps up sustainable jet fuel production
Oil giant, Shell has revealed bold plans to produce low carbon jet fuel for aircraft as the world continues to turn its focus on climate change
Shell plans to start producing low-carbon jet fuel at scale by 2025, in an attempt to encourage the world’s airlines to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Aviation accounts for around 3% of the world’s carbon emissions an is considered one of the toughest sectors to tackle due to a lack of alternative technologies to jet fuelled engines.
Shell is one of the world’s largest oil traders and has confirmed it aims to produce 2 million tonnes of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) by 2025.
That effort is a ten-fold increase from today’s total global output.
SAF is produced from waste cooking oil, plants and animal fats, and Shell says it could cut up to 80% of aviation emissions
Shell, currently only supplies SAF produced by other refineries, including Finnish refiner Neste.
Shell stated that SAF can be blended with regular aviation fuel with little need to change plane engines, to make up 10% of its global aviation fuel sales by 2030.
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Air New Zealand examining the future of greener, cleaner flying
New Zealand’s national carrier is looking to the future of eco-friendly flying
Air New Zealand says it is right now examining how it can add low-carbon technologies like electric, hybrid or hydrogen powered planes to dramatically reduce emissions from shorter and regional flights as soon as 2030.
The New Zealand-based airline confirmed that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Airbus to research the impact that hydrogen planes would have on the Air New Zealand network, as well as operations and infrastructure.
Airbus has stated that it is hoping to develop a hydrogen plane by 2035
That goal from the plane maker has industry officials and analysts ambitious for the future.
The agreement between the European based aircraft manufacturer and Air New Zealand brings both companies a step closer to developing a cleaner travel future.
Air New Zealand Chief Executive Greg Foran stated that it’ll allow the airline to see “low carbon solutions in place for our shorter domestic and regional flights in the next decade,”
Airbus could be the eco-friendly travel game changer
The company has already struck similar hydrogen study deals with easyJet and SAS airlines in Europe as carriers around the world look to meet ambitious emissions targets in line with government commitments.
Aviation accounts for around 2.5% of global carbon emissions.
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