Marty Bent: Bitcoiners Must Fight for Energy Narrative

"There's no energy problem. Bitcoin is the energy solution."

May 24, 2021 at 8:27 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 1:00 p.m. UTC

“There's no energy problem. Bitcoin is the energy solution,” said Marty Bent, co-founder of Great American Mining and host of "Tales from the Crypt" podcast, to end the panel on “Reframing Bitcoin's Energy: ESG, Time Preference and Public Perception” at Consensus 2021.

Moderated by Zack Voell, research and content director at Compass Mining, the discussion revolved around the role of carbon credits and the responsibility of bitcoin miners to lead the way in energy innovation.

Bent slammed the “energy hysterics” who criticize bitcoin’s energy consumption while ignoring similar or greater problems with favored industries such as wind turbine construction.

Both Bent and Ethan Vera, CFO of mining pool Luxor, were critical of the practice of buying carbon credits as a way to “green” the bitcoin mining industry.

“Miners are being forced in many cases to change their renewable energy source by carbon offsets to position themselves a certain way. Crafting narratives is taking up a lot of mindshare from executives that otherwise would be focused on building out more and better businesses,” said Vera.

“ESG is a complete accounting scam that gives subsidies and carbon credits to companies that just masquerade,” Bent said, referring to environmental, social and governance criteria. Meanwhile, bitcoin is “getting picked on.” 

“People don't care about energy consumption,” said Bent. “They care about control.”

In the end, however, Vera took a more relaxed view. Bitcoin mining has "seized the spotlight again and suddenly we’re getting targeted. Time will pass it onto something else. We just need to wait this out.”

'With great power comes great responsibility'

Tad Piper, CFO of Compute North, stepped even further away from Bent’s adversarial position. He pointed out that bitcoin miners have an opportunity and even a responsibility to support the transition to a cleaner grid. “With great power comes great responsibility.”

“I’m not sure I agree [about] the invisible hand of the man taking over the financial world,” he added.

As he broke it down, there are simply different ways to sustain the power grid during the energy transition. Rather than investing billions in battery banks as California is doing, trying to transition towards variable demand could be a better solution for a stable energy grid. Data centers like the Bitcoin network, which can be switched on and off as required, could provide that variability. 

But Piper went on the attack when it came to Elon Musk. He speculated that the Tesla CEO’s recent change of tack on bitcoin mining's energy use might mean he has realized that data centers can compete with his main business – batteries – as a solution to the power grid’s impending problems.

What really matters is going out and building free market-based businesses to solve these problems in real life.

The high energy consumption of bitcoin mining has attracted increasing media attention recently. Last week, Greenpeace announced it would stop taking donations in bitcoin because of its energy use and particularly its fossil fuel use. Earlier this month, Musk said Tesla would no longer accept bitcoin payments, for the same reason.

CoinDesk published an opinion piece last month on the environmental impact of bitcoin mining, titled "Does Bitcoin Have an Energy Problem?" The author, George Kaloudis, points out that around 40% of energy used in bitcoin mining comes from renewable sources, roughly double their share of global energy use.

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