The World Economic Forum (WEF) has recently released a video highlighting the growing problem of methane emissions released by industrial processes such as oil extraction as well as landfills. The video also mentioned the excessive energy demands of modern data centers, which can benefit from stranded gas and help the environment. The main focus of the video was the startup company Crusoe Energy Systems currently "on a mission to align the future of computing with the future of the climate."
As its official website states, "Crusoe has pioneered an infrastructure that taps into stranded energy - methane being flared or excess production from clean and renewable sources - to power the compute resources we need to drive our shared progress and reduce its environmental impact."
Although the video did not directly point it out, many Twitter users quickly realized that the so-called "data centers" were Bitcoin miners. The startup's website cites blockchain and cryptocurrencies as one of the main industries that benefit from gas flaring. In addition, Crusoe's website also uses the graphics depicting Bitcoin logo. The startup mentions artificial intelligence, deep learning, and computationally intensive research as other use cases for flared gas.
Crusoe also reported interesting statistics about gas flaring, claiming that the amount of methane wasted each year would be enough to power entire Africa, while the current energy consumption of data centers is almost equal to that of Germany.
Although the video presented the information in a fairly straightforward manner, it caused great confusion in the crypto community and among Bitcoin opponents.
Is WEF talking about Bitcoin?
The first controversy sparked by the video from the WEF is whether it actually shows Bitcoin data centers or not.
"Not once it's named Bitcoin in the video. I highly doubt that data centers include Bitcoin mining plants. That's not their goal," Twitter user Theresearchpaper.eth wrote in a comment on the video.
At the same time, many Twitter users claim that the so-called "data centers" from the video are undoubtedly Bitcoin miners. According to various sources, these claims seem to apply to Crusoe Energy, which turns out to be a Bitcoin miner that acquired another mining facility Great American Mining (GAM) in October 2022, increasing its mining capacity by 9% with 125 modular data centers powered by flare gas.
Bitcoin is already taking advantage of stranded natural gas
It appears that the idea of using stranded natural gas to power data centers did not necessarily belong to Crusoe, although the video does not explicitly make such a claim.
Ted Cruz, the United States senator from Texas, acknowledged the potential of Bitcoin mining to solve the problem of natural gas flaring in 2021.
"Fifty percent of the natural gas in this country that is flared is being flared in the Permian right now in West Texas. I think that is an enormous opportunity for Bitcoin because that's right now energy that is just being wasted. It's being wasted because there is no transmission equipment to get that natural gas where it could be used the way natural gas would ordinarily be employed; it's just being burned," Cruz said at the Texas Blockchain Summit.
Unfortunately, the concept of leveraging stranded gas was widely rejected in the past, but some miners have embraced the technology and made immense profits. For example, Brent Whitehead and Matt Lohstroh began using stranded gas for Bitcoin mining in 2019, when the possibility of combining cryptocurrency mining with oil production seemed too exotic to the crypto community.
The investment in their company Giga, which sets up shipping containers with thousands of miners and generates electricity from the natural gas on the site, earned Whitehead and Lohstroh $4 million in 2021. The entrepreneurs told media outlet CNBC that their estimated revenue for 2022 would be around $20 million.
The WEF vs. Bitcoin
Finally, many crypto users were surprised to see the promotion of the Bitcoin mining company from the WEF, which has been known for its opposition to the oldest cryptocurrency.
While some Bitcoin supporters were delighted with WEF 's change of heart, others found it "fishy" and warned other crypto users not to trust it.
In fact, the World Economic Forum's recent activities may be an indication of its increasingly positive perception of cryptocurrencies. For example, in its November 2022 report, the WFS noted that a majority of Democrats and Republicans agree that "crypto represents the future of finance." The report also said that "Americans overwhelmingly say they want the US government to establish clear rules for crypto" and "Americans also see cryptocurrency as a means to create a more equitable economy."
Still, the underlying intent of the WEF could be directed to centralized blockchains. The WEF launched its Platform for Shaping the Future of Blockchain and Digital Assets ostensibly to promote "the responsible use of blockchain" and "ensure equity, interoperability, transparency, and trust." In practice, however, the platform focuses on helping central banks "build, pilot and scale innovative policy frameworks to guide the implementation of blockchain, with a focus on central bank digital currencies," which is obviously not in line with Bitcoin's decentralized philosophy.