Despite his professed commitment to sustainability, Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently invested heavily in a commodity whose extreme energy demands and unsavory associations have made it a planetary scourge.
Thousands of high-powered custom computers, wired together in makeshift warehouses throughout the world, are consuming staggering amounts of energy — more than 60% of which comes from fossil fuels — in pursuit of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. These Bitcoin “miners” compete continuously to earn rewards for recording transactions in Bitcoin’s global ledger.
The design of Bitcoin ensures that miners must incur a computational cost — and thereby a monetary expense — to participate in the maintenance of the ledger. The result from a mining computation is nothing more than a number that demonstrates to the rest of the network that electricity was consumed. This expenditure of computational effort is the metric that enables miners to reach a consensus on the correct state of the ledger.
[T]he Bitcoin price surge that followed Tesla’s recent investment will likely cause a jump in Xinjiang’s electricity consumption.