Methane: The Green Dark Horse

Methane’s Toxicity

Methane, a major component of natural gas, is a hydrocarbon composed of four hydrogen atoms and one carbon atom. It is also a greenhouse gas, meaning that its presence in the atmosphere affects the climate. Manmade methane emission sources include landfills, oil- and natural gas-related structures, certain agricultural technologies, coal mining, and other industrial activity.

It is a widespread misconception that carbon dioxide is the most toxic gas that humanity releases into the atmosphere. In fact, methane is over twenty-five times more effective than carbon dioxide at imprisoning heat in the atmosphere. During the past two-hundred years, methane presence in our atmosphere has increased by over 100% due to manmade technologies.

Almost fifty percent of all anthropogenic methane outflow is driven by the United States, India, Brazil, China, Nigeria, Russia, and Mexico.

Why have Methane Emissions not been Solved?

Methane capture is a notoriously difficult solution to implement. This is unfortunate, since it would be both extremely profitable and enormously beneficial for our relationship with the environment.

There are three primary reasons that methane capture isn’t widespread.

First of all, many of the common industries that do release methane as a byproduct do not regard those emissions as a potential energy source. This could be due to the fact that these industries are already producing energy as their actual product, and so have little interest in harnessing a secondary energy source. For example coal mining companies are already in the business of working towards energy production, and so they do not have an interest in turning methane gas into an additional productive asset.

Secondly, developing countries may not have the technology, wealth, or knowledge required to harness methane emissions. In many ways, some of these countries find themselves in the same circumstances that the Western world did several decades ago: building society upon energy sources who side effect is to release greenhouse gases, but without the resources to mitigate said side effect.

Finally, many polities do not offer a friendly enough atmosphere to potential entrepreneurs who might solve methane emissions.

Methane Acceleration

Methane hadn’t been much of a concern to environmental activists in the past. However, methane emissions have sped up over the last fifteen years. Scientists do not fully understand what has caused this acceleration, but given methane’s potency, it is clearly a problem to be solved. In fact, if methane emissions continue to increase, any progress we make on reducing carbon dioxide emissions could be canceled out.

Fortunately, a scalable solution to methane emissions has emerged in recent years. Bitcoin mining can operate anywhere, anytime, does not care which energy it uses as input, and can turn on and off as necessary.

Bitcoin Mining as the Solution

The White House recently released a report titled ‘Climate and Energy Implications of Crypto-Assets in the United States’. To be sure, there was plenty in the report for Bitcoiners to dislike. But the White House at least seems open to learning more about the industry.

One significant aspect of the report was its positive remarks about the potential of crypto (read: Bitcoin) mining to curb methane emissions.

As they write, “While the EPA and the Department of the Interior have proposed new rules to reduce methane for oil and natural gas operations, crypto-asset mining operations that capture vented methane to produce electricity can yield positive results for the climate, by converting the potent methane to [carbon dioxide] during combustion,” the report said. “Mining operations, though, could potentially be more reliable and more efficient at converting methane to CO2.”

Two major pieces of knowledge are entering our collective consciousness:

  1. Methane is more toxic than carbon dioxide.
  2. Bitcoin mining is the only scalable technology that can curb methane emissions.

Bitcoin mining will become more and more associated with helping the environment in people’s minds. The arguments about proof-of-work versus proof-of-stake will fade into a distant memory, as it will be Bitcoin miners connected to various energy sources, and not any other cryptocurrency’s hardware.

Bitcoin mining is here to stay, and we’ll thank it for shrinking our methane problem from a storm to a sneeze.

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