Tesla board member Kimbal Musk, brother of CEO Elon Musk, said in an interview with TechCrunch onstage at the Ethereum Denver conference that the company was “very ignorant” of the environmental impact of Bitcoin when it announced last year that it would purchase $1.5 billion worth of the cryptocurrency and would plan to allow owners to purchase the company’s vehicles with the cryptocurrency.
“We had no idea what we were doing when we invested in Bitcoin. We had no notion about the environmental impact; we literally had no knowledge. All we knew was that it seemed like a smart method to diversify assets and a solid store of value. In an interview with this reporter, Kimbal Musk remarked, “Of course, it didn’t take long to get a million — I’m not joking, perhaps a million — messages informing us what we were doing to the environment.” “Of course, our company’s mission is to create alternative energy futures, so we were clearly under-informed when we made that decision.”
While Tesla “didn’t necessarily regret” its Bitcoin purchase, Kimbal Musk says he hopes the broader blockchain industry can move to more environmentally friendly infrastructure, noting that his own philanthropic organization Big Green has embraced a crypto-native DAO governance structure running on a less energy-intensive blockchain. “I don’t agree with crypto’s environmental impact, but I admire what it accomplishes.” Onstage, Kimbal Musk stated. “So we just have to figure out how to do it without having this environmental damage… it’s simply not a choice.”
Tesla’s purchase of Bitcoin last year sparked a significant bull run for the cryptocurrency, which was notably reversed months later when the firm announced that, while it did not plan to sell its Bitcoin right away, it would no longer accept Bitcoin as payment for vehicle purchases. “Cryptocurrency is a brilliant idea on many levels, and we believe it has a promising future,” Elon Musk said in a tweet last May, “but it must come at a tremendous cost to the environment.” “Tesla will not be selling bitcoin, and we plan to use it for transactions as soon as mining shifts to more environmentally friendly energy sources.”
While there is still a lot of information missing about how much the Bitcoin mining network relies on renewable energy sources, it is evident how large the network’s energy consumption is. According to Digiconomist’s energy tracker, Bitcoin mining operations’ total annualized energy footprint has nearly doubled since Musk’s tweet in May. According to the site’s estimates, the Bitcoin network emits as much carbon into the environment as Kuwait does on a yearly basis. Since 2004, Kimbal Musk has been a member of Tesla’s board of directors.