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Elon Musk’s carbon comments will be ‘changing point’ for bitcoin: Gryphon CEO

·Producer
·4 min read
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Bitcoin’s (BTC-USD) price continued its free fall on Wednesday morning, down 15% to about $37,000 per coin by noon EDT. The cryptocurrency has dropped nearly 40% since Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk first bashed the fossil fuel emissions from bitcoin’s mining process a week ago.

“I believe what he said will be a changing point for the way bitcoin is perceived. He is casting a spotlight on energy use for … bitcoin, which is relevant. And it is making companies such as ourselves more relevant, and more on the forefront,” Gryphon Digital Mining CEO Robert Chang told Yahoo Finance Live on Tuesday.

Indeed, the race for carbon-free bitcoin mining has already begun.

Founded in early 2021, Gryphon Digital Mining operates completely free of carbon emissions by using hydropower. The company raised $14 million in April to move forward with the project and recently signed the Crypto Climate Accord, which is striving for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for all signatories by 2040 and net zero emissions from electricity consumption by 2030. Though signatories haven’t piled on yet, the accord is rumored to have around 45 supporters.

SpaceX founder and Tesla CEO Elon Musk holds a helmet as he visits the construction site of Tesla's gigafactory in Gruenheide, near Berlin, Germany, May 17, 2021. REUTERS/Michele Tantussi     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
SpaceX founder and Tesla CEO Elon Musk holds a helmet as he visits the construction site of Tesla's gigafactory in Gruenheide, near Berlin, Germany, May 17, 2021. REUTERS/Michele Tantussi TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

“(Reaching carbon-free mining is) doable now I believe,” Chang said. “For example we were able to find 100% renewable energy through hydro right off the bat, so why can't others? I think partially because the thinking process is for some reason that if it's renewable, it has to be more expensive and that's certainly not the case.”

The company is led by Chang and several other prominent executives, including founder and president, Dan Tolhurst, who held senior strategy roles at Disney and Netflix, as well as independent chairperson of the board, Brittany Kaiser, the famed whistleblower of Cambridge Analytica. Chang likes where his company is positioned as the bitcoin discussion shifts to sustainability.

Chang's comments come after Musk tweeted on May 12 that the electric vehicle maker had suspended vehicle purchases using bitcoin. "We are concerned about rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for bitcoin mining and transactions, especially coal, which has the worst emissions of any fuel," Musk wrote.

The next day, Musk reiterated his commitment to cryptocurrencies while still noting his environmental concerns.

'We should look at the utility of bitcoin'

Still, Chang noted that while bitcoin’s emissions are large, they aren’t out of this world.

A Decrypt article from March equated bitcoin’s carbon emissions to the average electricity consumption of 9 million homes in one year. Still, the world carbon emissions are 620 times that of bitcoin’s, per Decrypt. Chang argued in a recent blog that bitcoin’s emissions are closer to acceptable when considering the overall value of the currency in the same way the U.S. has accepted energy consumption to print the dollar.

“I think we're looking at it the wrong way in that we should look at the utility of bitcoin as opposed to focusing so much on the cost of it,” Chang told Yahoo Finance.

Chang likened the bitcoin carbon emissions concerns to the invention of cars. In the early 20th Century, cars emitted far more fossil fuels into the atmosphere than the product’s travel predecessor — the horse and carriage — but people accepted cars’ convenience. As car models slowly shift to the electronic vehicle space, bitcoin is following a similar trajectory.

That’s why Musk’s comments aren’t bad for the industry in the long term and could even be good for carbon-free mining companies, according to Chang.

“Companies that (have carbon-free mining) will start to be getting a premium in the eyes of investors and the eyes of people looking to buy bitcoin,” Chang said.

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Josh Schafer is a producer for Yahoo Finance.

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