100 Important Questions about Bitcoin’s Energy Use and ESG Impacts
- Collecting transcribed interview notes (for all broadcasts and for all topics for which transcriptions were posted in show notes) and creating transcriptions (Sonix AI) for a range of other broadcasts specifically about Bitcoin’s energy use and ESG impacts (n = 747 transcriptions in total);
- Using text mining software (QDA Miner 5.0.011, Provallis Research) to identify keywords and phrases potentially relevant to energy use and ESG issues, and flag transcriptions for further review;
- Conducting a light-touch review of selected transcriptions (n = 154) to verify whether the interview contained substantive and credible discussions about energy, environment, or higher-order ESG impacts;
- Conducting an in-depth review of original broadcasts and transcriptions for cases with substantive energy and ESG discussions (n = 73 transcriptions); and
- Extraction of 330 candidate questions from 68 broadcasts by 18 different broadcasters (80 interviewees, >88 h of interviews) (see Supplementary Materials S1 for a list of broadcasts, interviewees, and links).
3.1. Bitcoin Energy Use—The Big Picture
- How best can Bitcoin’s future energy use be predicted?
- How much of the world’s currently wasted and stranded energy could be used for Bitcoin mining without increasing CO2e emissions?
- How will Bitcoin mining affect the flow of investment funds to renewable energy infrastructure, beyond what would happen through organic growth in renewable energy demand?
- What novel low-emissions energy and storage technologies might power Bitcoin mining in the future, and how would they compare to established energy technologies in terms of ESG impacts?
- How much otherwise unprofitable fossil fuel extraction and generating capacity might Bitcoin mining help keep in production?
- How do environmental damages caused by Bitcoin mining compare to those caused by gold and precious metals mining?
- How much energy does Bitcoin consume relative to legacy financial systems, and on which metrics might they be best compared?
- How can total historical Bitcoin carbon emissions be calculated, and can and should they be compensated for to make Bitcoin mining carbon neutral over its entire history?
3.2. Mitigating Methane Emissions
- How much methane can be mitigated by Bitcoin mining operations co-located with oil and gas wells?
- How could Bitcoin mining be used to most effectively reduce methane emissions from landfill sites and agricultural operations?
- How much time could large-scale, methane-based Bitcoin mining buy in the global energy industry’s transition to net-zero CO2e emissions?
- How best can methane emission opportunities be prioritized so that Bitcoin mining deployment could have a rapid and substantive impact?
3.3. Electricity Grid Transition
- What combinations of contextual factors, including the presence or absence of Bitcoin mining, help a grid to successfully transition to renewable energy?
- How does the addition of Bitcoin mining affect the economic viability, net carbon emissions, and risk profile of electricity grids transitioning to renewable energy?
- How does the addition of Bitcoin mining to an electricity grid affect the need for new generation and transmission infrastructure investments?
- How do mandates about grid objectives and management responsibilities vary, and when and how can different types of Bitcoin mining strategies best help fulfill those mandates?
- How does Bitcoin mining affect electricity grid resilience in the face of extreme weather events or other shocks?
- How does large-scale Bitcoin mining affect electricity availability and costs for other electricity customers?
3.4. Bitcoin Mining—Site Choices and Costs
- What are the determinants of Bitcoin miners’ site, energy source, and technology choices, and how do changes in the availability or quality of those factors affect miners’ production strategies and mobility?
- How does the balance between small-, medium-, and large-scale miners affect Bitcoin’s net carbon emissions profile?
- How important are Bitcoin miners’ upstream and downstream carbon emissions relative to emissions from mining itself?
- How and why do Bitcoin’s production costs vary globally, and how can they be assessed in the absence of financial reporting from private mining firms?
- What is the levelized cost (revenue required to build and operate a facility over a specified cost recovery period) of Bitcoin mining for different regions, technologies, and energy types?
- What is the marginal abatement cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by Bitcoin mining and how does that compare to other mitigation options?
- How do motives other than profit maximization influence Bitcoin miners’ investment choices and production strategies?
- When and how can aging Bitcoin mining rigs best be re-used or recycled, and what is the true lifetime of a rig?
- How widespread is small-scale (e.g., household) Bitcoin mining and, if significant, how can its energy use and carbon emissions be reduced?
- How can waste heat from Bitcoin mining best be used as a resource for other purposes?
3.5. Bitcoin Security
- Can a truthful and secure record of global transaction history be maintained without the Proof-of-Work consensus and, if so, how do alternative consensus algorithms differ in their net ESG impacts?
- For which use cases can less energy-intensive proof-of-stake ‘altcoins’ match or exceed Bitcoin’s potential direct and higher-order ESG benefits, and, conversely, which use cases and ESG benefits can only be fulfilled by the Bitcoin network?
- How much security is ‘enough’ for the Bitcoin network?
3.6. Retail, Institutional, and National Bitcoin Adoption
- What are the key technical, economic, social, political, and cultural determinants of the adoption of bitcoin as money?
- How best can Bitcoin reduce the transaction costs of payments, banking, and other financial transactions?
- How will the adoption of Layer 2 technological advances (e.g., Lightning Network’s capacity to bundle and process small bitcoin transactions off-chain) affect Bitcoin’s electricity consumption and ESG performance?
- How do ‘green mining’ certification schemes affect retail and institutional investors’ willingness to pay for sustainably mined bitcoin?
- How much could carbon offset and renewable energy certificate (REC) schemes reduce net carbon emissions, and how do the strategies compare?
- How do levels of trust in a society affect the likelihood, rate, and impact of Bitcoin adoption?
- What is the relative importance of environmental, social, and governance criteria for institutional ESG-oriented Bitcoin investors, and how do they make trade-offs among different factors?
- How could bitcoin’s widespread adoption as money affect international trade patterns and wealth distribution?
- What are the economic and ESG opportunity costs for nations not adopting Bitcoin?
- Under which circumstances and in what contexts would governments prefer to adopt Bitcoin rather than a CBDC?
- What environmental, social, and governance outcomes are most important to governments, and how does Bitcoin adoption help or hinder them to achieve that?
- How might governments balance the costs and benefits of regulating Bitcoin mining and adoption relative to the benefits they derive from tax revenues?
- How will Bitcoin redefine and restructure political power over time?
- How could widespread international Bitcoin adoption lead to more participatory forms of governance?
- How could widespread international Bitcoin adoption affect the ability of G7 countries and international financial institutions to shape international relations?
- How can Bitcoin mining and adoption best be aligned with national and international ESG-oriented treaties and commitments?
- If, in the future, Bitcoin was adopted as a reserve currency, how would that affect nations’ capacity to govern domestically and influence international relations?
- How does Bitcoin affect governments’ capacity to enact monetary and fiscal policy, and does that constrain or catalyze good governance?
- How can poor nations leapfrog richer countries with regard to Bitcoin adoption, and what would the impact be on trade, development, and poverty alleviation?
- How best could Bitcoin be used to implement universal basic income (UBI) and other targeted social support initiatives?
- How can governments create a stable and internally consistent regulatory environment for Bitcoin miners and investors?
- How do different government regulatory and non-regulatory intervention options affect Bitcoin mining profitability and behavior?
- How can regulatory and non-regulatory market mechanisms incentivize sustainable Bitcoin production, and how do options compare with regard to emissions levels and control costs?
- How do ESG and other political factors influence the regulatory options available to governments to manage Bitcoin mining and adoption?
- When and how might Bitcoin mining and adoption be strategically supported by governments in order to build prosperous national and regional economies resilient to external shocks?
- How does the ‘optimal’ amount of governance decentralization or devolution change as Bitcoin increasingly decentralizes financial transactions?
3.8. Values and Beliefs
- How does Bitcoin adoption affect the values, time preferences, and behavior of individuals, firms, and governments?
- How do Bitcoiners and non-Bitcoiners differ in their willingness to make trade-offs among different liberties?
- What influence does a person’s life experience have on his or her willingness to adopt Bitcoin?
- How does Bitcoin adoption affect peoples’ perceived threats and opportunities, and influence their visions of feasible futures?
- How does Bitcoin adoption and use vary among individual- and community-oriented cultures?
- Does Bitcoin adoption affect consumer preferences and, if so, what impact could that have on energy consumption and waste streams for consumer products?
- How does the libertarian goal of self-sovereignty influence the lens through which people view their environmentally relevant personal health and lifestyle choices?
- How does the availability of credible information affect Bitcoin adoption?
- How does Bitcoin adoption directly and indirectly affect freedom, innovation, prosperity, and societal flourishing?
- Does using bitcoin make a person unpatriotic?
3.9. Inflation and Discount Rate
- How does, and could, Bitcoin help control inflation and reduce the discount rate?
- How would Bitcoin’s impact on discount rates differentially affect high-, medium-, and low-income households and nations?
- How would low discount rates affect the quantity and quality of goods and services sold in an economy, and would it result in lower aggregate energy use, household consumption, and carbon emissions?
- Would liberals, who may tend to favor inflationary fiscal policies, be more likely to adopt Bitcoin if it helped lower discount rates and increased the financial viability of long-run mitigation efforts?
3.10. Adaptive Capacity
- How does Bitcoin adoption affect the resiliency and adaptive capacity of households, communities, firms, and governments?
- How could decisions by government to constrain or encourage Bitcoin adoption affect the country’s capacity to adapt to social and environmental change over the long run?
- When and how do government monetary and fiscal policies affect the capacity of households and communities to mitigate against, or adapt to, environmental change?
- How and why do organizations with differing worldviews and core values cooperate to advance or oppose Bitcoin mining and adoption?
- How and why does Bitcoin mining and adoption become politically polarized when it has the potential to address issues that both conservatives and liberals prioritize?
- What role have BlackRock and other large institutional investors played in the development of the global ESG narrative and how do the company’s actions affect Bitcoin’s institutional adoption?
- How can Bitcoin skeptics become more ‘solution agnostic’ if and when credible evidence points to the potential for Bitcoin mining and adoption to help control climate change?
- How can Bitcoin mining and adoption be framed in terms of modern sustainability and degrowth narratives?
- To what extent do Bitcoin critics and advocates have undisclosed conflicts of interest that would compromise the credibility and legitimacy of their messaging?
- What are the financial, human, and social costs arising from cryptocurrency scams or investors’ confusion over the purpose and capabilities of altcoins relative to Bitcoin?
3.12. Knowledge Creation and Communication
- How can credible scientific evidence be created, synthesized, and effectively communicated to skeptical Bitcoiners and Bitcoin skeptics?
- How can a systematic research program on Bitcoin’s net energy use and ESG impacts be structured, funded, and incentivized?
- How can Bitcoin research results be framed and disseminated to ensure that key findings are available for integration in international energy and climate change syntheses?
- How and why do academic researchers, industry researchers, and policymakers differ in how they prioritize Bitcoin energy use and ESG research needs?
- What measures could synergize industry–academic–government collaboration in Bitcoin research projects?
- How can the Bitcoin narrative best be framed so that its net effect on energy use and ESG impacts is effectively communicated to the public, investors, and policymakers?
- How best can knowledge brokers facilitate communication between decision-makers and Bitcoin researchers?
- What resources could best help communications professionals to ensure the veracity of their reporting on Bitcoin’s energy use and ESG impact?
- How can Bitcoin’s core purpose and features best be communicated to people who see little or no utility in Bitcoin?
3.13. Social Impacts
- How much money can be saved by expatriate workers using international Bitcoin remittance services, and how do those savings impact poverty alleviation, resilience, and wealth inequity in their home countries?
- How could Bitcoin adoption affect the ability of the world’s unbanked to access financial services and how would that impact poverty and household well-being?
- How does Bitcoin enhance and unlock human capital globally, and what effects would that have on poverty alleviation?
- How best can Bitcoin be used to empower women?
- How can Bitcoin adoption affect the capacity of individuals and organizations to escape, cope with, or challenge repressive political regimes?
- How does Bitcoin mining and adoption influence human migration, rural regeneration, and regional economic development?
- Under which circumstances and in which regions could Bitcoin mining displace existing industries, and what are the net economic and ESG impacts of displacement?
- How can Bitcoin be used to enhance the ability of donors and charities to operate more efficiently and better achieve their philanthropic goals?
- How best can Bitcoin be used to reduce losses due to administrative costs, theft, and graft along the foreign aid and disaster relief funding supply lines?
- What are the benefits and dangers to vulnerable households and communities from a ‘Bitcoin adoption experiment’?
4.1. Taking Bitcoin Seriously in Policy Analyses
4.2. Advancing Research on Bitcoin’s ESG Impacts
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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Rudd, M.A. 100 Important Questions about Bitcoin’s Energy Use and ESG Impacts. Challenges 2023, 14, 1. https://doi.org/10.3390/challe14010001
Rudd MA. 100 Important Questions about Bitcoin’s Energy Use and ESG Impacts. Challenges. 2023; 14(1):1. https://doi.org/10.3390/challe14010001Chicago/Turabian Style
Rudd, Murray A. 2023. "100 Important Questions about Bitcoin’s Energy Use and ESG Impacts" Challenges 14, no. 1: 1. https://doi.org/10.3390/challe14010001