10 thoughts on “The time to divest from Bitcoin is now

  1. Hear, hear on crypto. Footnote: a marvellously addled piece of whataboutery here, comparing crypto’s carbon footprint with that of legacy banking, which actually provides several useful services on a large scale: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/05/28/money-is-an-environmental-energetic-burden-a-brief-overview-of-banking-bitcoin-pivx/
    My rejoinder in the comment thread is unprintable here,

    Niggle. JQ in the linked article: “Alternatives to metallurgical coal, used in steelmaking, are in an early stage of development,” No, a *very advanced* state of development.

    1. DRI using fossil gas feedstock is used already, mainly in India, to make >100mt tonnes of ion a year. (Wikipedia). The gas is first reformed to a mixture of CO and hydrogen, which does half the work of ore reduction. Steelmakers know for sure the chemistry of pure hydrogen DRI works at scale.

    2. Following the success of the Hybrit pilot hydrogen DRI plant in northern Sweden, several heavyweight players have announced commercial – not pilot – investments: ore miner LKAB, and steelmakers SSAB, Arcelor-Mittal, and ThyssenKrupp. Not minnows! SSAB has even announced a full transition goal, and plans to shutter its first blast furnace by 2025. Other major players, including ore giants Vale and BHP, are looking hard at the technology, along with other big fish steelmakers like Kobe and Baowu. (I leave out the links, which you can run down easily on Google with [name of company]+”hydrogen DRI”.)

    3. The considerable certainties left in the low-carbon steel transition are not technical any more but in economics and public policy (eg early stage cross-subsidies). The steelmakers (apart from ThyssenKrupp) do not apparently plan to get into the green hydrogen business themselves, but oil companies are piling in, so a good supply is likely. The price depends on future economies of scale in electrolysers – sound technology since 1800 – ,and the extent of new hydrogen markets beyond fertiliser (existing) and steel (pretty sure thing), My amateur guess is that hydrogen will secure shipping, maybe in the form of ammonia, but land and air transport will stay with batteries and long-term storage will be disappointment in terms of annual consumption. If the poor oil companies over-invest and lose money, the steelmakers will have lots of chap hydrogen and will transition faster.

  2. PS: Buried in a thorough and generally depressing report by Lauri Myllyvirta.on China’s still growing emissions (https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-chinas-carbon-emissions-grow-at-fastest-rate-for-more-than-a-decade), some surprisingly good news on steel:

    “While emissions from China’s steel sector have been increasing rapidly in recent years, ambitious emissions reduction targets are being put in place for the industry. These targets would involve the sector’s CO2 emissions peaking before 2025 and falling 30% from the peak by 2030.[…] The plan to cut steel emissions is mainly predicated on a major increase in electric steelmaking from scrap metal, potentially reaching almost 40% of steel output by 2030.”

    This is of course bad news for Australian metallurgical coal exporters: For them it makes no difference if the cut in Chinese blast furnace ironmaking comes from hydrogen DRI, fossil gas DRI, or growth in steel recycling (usually the cheapest option but constrained by the supply of scrap). The drop will be faster if Beijing decides to rein in old-style growth from construction and to accelerate the shift to a high tech and services model. Xi still dithers.

  3. An interesting question is when do China’s accumulative total historical emissions exceed those of the USA? This cross-over point cannot be far away. When I am permitted to be upright more than 15 minutes in the hour I might research it. I suspect at the gargantuan and exponential rate of China’s emissions this point will be before 2030.

    At that point China will of course claim the moral right, by which they will really mean the national interest and geostrategic right to exceed the USA’s historical cumulative per capita emissions. And of course China will then proceed to do so In this. They will be no different from any political system and population of any great power and empire throughout history. This is unless renewable energy makes a huge difference very quickly and they find another way to do things. However, the total wastes and biosystem disruptions from such a huge footprint for China, on top of what everyone else has done and are still doing, will certainly push the entire earth biosphere system over the edge. In all probability it is already in freefall.

  4. With regards to steel making, I’ll mention Brazil used to produce large amounts of steel using charcoal rather than coal. This may not make a comeback even with a high carbon price given the competition, but it is still an option.

  5. Ronald: IIRC charcoal was the standard fuel/reducer in iron making till about 1700, when Britain ran out of trees. The forced switch to coal lowered quality, as coal is contaminated with arsenic, mercury and other crud, while charcoal is pure carbon. Scrap is even worse, as it comes with bits of plastic, used condoms and body parts from Mafia executions. But good enough for rebar, though carmakers prefer virgin.

  6. JW – the main ‘contaminant’ in coal is sulphur, which makes iron brittle. The breakthrough was converting the coal to coke, along the same lines as making wood into charcoal. And far from just good enough for rebar, nearly as much steel is made from scrap as from virgin ore – it’s over half in the EU, and a third in the US. The body parts are not a problem – they boil off (and the bones would add carbon); it’s more the other metals.

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