Tesla has made a big investment in Bitcoin (after, perhaps ironically, its CEO Elon Musk pumped Dogecoin to a notable high with a series of tweets), AP News reports. And we do mean big: $1.5 billion. Nor is it a symbolic gesture, since the carmaker will also accept Bitcoin as payment. Bitcoin values soared on the news, and is up about 15 percent at the time of this writing.
Bitcoin is the most prominent of a number of virtual currencies out there, and like Tesla itself, it has had a bit of a rollercoaster ride since its debut. In 2017, it hit a high of roughly $19,000, then tumbled the following year to the mid-$3,000s. Starting late last year, the currency (along with the stock market as a whole) has gained serious traction. Values were hovering in the $11,000 range as recently as October. Now, it’s hit an all-time high.
As the most prominent EV-maker around, Tesla has always had some green credibility along with its high-tech image. The Bitcoin move burnishes the latter, but has implications for the former that are troubling. Bitcoin “mining” is highly energy-intensive, and because energy is taken from the grid, that usage generally creates a carbon footprint—especially mining that occurs in China, which powers much of its grid with coal. By some estimates, the total carbon footprint of global Bitcoin mining rivals that of small nations or large cities. Elon Musk, and Tesla’s, promotion and acceptance of the currency—which has already had a sizable impact in value—could certainly lead to more mining activities, and a larger carbon impact.
What, if anything, Tesla plans to do to mitigate this issue is unclear. We’ve reached out to the company and will report back if an answer is received.
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