Twitter debates the role of renewable energy in Bitcoin mining

The conversation started with Dennis Porter’s tweet. He is a podcast host and self-described Bitcoin advocate. It led to heated discussion about renewable energy, and the role of Bitcoin miners. Porter claimed that Bitcoin (BTC), creates incentives for renewable energy, but Peter Gleick, an environmental scientist, dismissed the assertion as a “self-serving lie.”

When Nic Carter, Castle Island Ventures general partnership and Coin Metrics cofounder, joined the chat, the comments section heated up and he called out Gleick because he allegedly didn’t know anything about energy.

Without telling me, tell me that you don’t know much about energy.
— nic no credentials carter, (@nic__carter), April 4, 2022

Carter then explained how energy markets work, and defended cryptocurrency use in a series of tweets. He first discredited Porter’s assertion that every kilowatt hour (or KWh) of renewable energy is being used productively. Bitcoin diverts this use. He claimed that Porter is incorrect in claiming that every unit is being used. He cited market reports showing negative energy prices and curtailed energy that have “no economically useful use.”

He advised readers about initiatives by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (or ERCOT), which operates Texas’ excess supply. He spoke at the Texas Blockchain Summit last summer, saying that Bitcoin mining could improve the economics for renewable energy projects.

Related: Texas should utilize Bitcoin mining to capture natural gas sucked by Texas: Senator Ted Cruz

Carter says that bitcoin mining has allowed wind and solar plants to absorb any surplus supply that can’t be sold. To mine Bitcoin, any energy that is lost when the generator stops sending electricity to the grid or temporarily shuts down can be used to offset it. He said that there is already a movement among miners who plug in to the grids of wind farms. They can purchase energy during low prices or off-peak periods, and provide better access for households during high demand. He urged his critics not to dismiss the miners, who are currently evaluating how viable the infrastructure is.

Does it make sense that climate scientists should be ignorant about how energy markets function?
— nic no credentials carter, (@nic__carter), April 4, 2022

The thread had over 400 comments. Many commenters supported Carter and Gleick or asked for clarifications. @SGBarbour, a user who creates bitcoin mines, agreed with Porter’s statement that bitcoin miners do not encourage renewables but “help un-sink capital in unstable generation.” Barbour stated that while mining is good, he does not believe it can fix the fact that so much capital has been lost installing unreliable energy generation.

Another user, @jyn_urso, a climate change scientist and Bitcoin advocate recently converted, applauded Carter “laying out yet again another great thread about how energy markets works.” She believes that Bitcoin mining and solutions at the individual and community level can accelerate the transition to renewables and reduce reliance on the political system.

This debate shows that Bitcoin and energy use are widely misunderstood. It is still unclear if Bitcoin is a good way to make use of unused energy. Scientists and advocates for climate change are becoming more open to the possibility that Bitcoin’s energy consumption could lead to renewable energy gains.

After Gleick pointed out Carter’s different academic degrees and energy expertise, Carter changed his Twitter name from ‘nico credentials carter’. Carter’s supporter, another person, poked fun at Gleick’s use of his authority status to prove truth.

Hello, I’m an editor at Wikipedia. This tweet could be used as an example of “argument form authority” cognitive bias page and fallacy page. You have similar qualifications as mine so that might help.
— suddenlyactually (@suddenactually), April 5, 2022

Norway is a country that has set the standard for Bitcoin miners. According to a recent government report, Norway’s electricity mix has been 100% renewable. This gives miners access to cheap, green electricity, particularly hydropower.