Out of the innovations that we have seen since the internet age, you can make a reasonable argument that cryptocurrency is the most groundbreaking. Finance has largely resisted change, but virtual currencies — born via the blockchain architecture — broke through the wall. Indeed, the sector has not only disrupted the economy but left global central bankers scrambling for an answer.
Further, regular folks love cryptocurrency assets. One primary advantage that it has over traditional assets like stocks and bonds is that the digital markets are always trading. There is no stopping for breaks, holidays or natural disasters. Godzilla could rampage the world and so long as internet access and willing traders are available, virtual currencies will move forward without skipping a beat.
But cryptos like Bitcoin (CCC:BTC-USD) are not universally loved for a critical reason: they consume a ton of energy and BTC is by far the biggest culprit. Based on information from the University of Cambridge’s Bitcoin electricity consumption index, BTC miners consume roughly 130 Terawatt-hours of energy. That’s approximately 0.6% of global electricity consumption, a simply staggering amount.
Because Bitcoin is becoming a store of value rather than a utilitarian cryptocurrency, you can make the argument that its awful inefficiency aligns with its newfound purpose. However, that logic will not fly with those who are thinking about environmental sustainability. With millennials and Generation Z increasingly worried about the planet’s health, it serves everyone’s interest to turn virtual currencies green.
In fact, an initiative exists called the Crypto Climate Accord, which aims to transition the cryptocurrency industry (all blockchains) to 100% renewable energy. If this proposal gains traction, this could theoretically expand the crypto investing sector’s base. Here are the blockchain reward tokens that could enjoy significant benefits:
- Ethereum (CCC:ETH-USD)
- Bitcoin Cash (CCC:BCH-USD)
- Litecoin (CCC:LTC-USD)
- Monero (CCC:XMR-USD)
- Zcash (CCC:ZEC-USD)
- DigiByte (CCC:DGB-USD)
- Ripple (CCC:XRP-USD)
Now, I think we have to be realistic: clean crypto is likely not going to happen anytime soon because most blockchains use proof-of-work protocols for the mining process, which is energy intensive. By taking small steps, though, we could change the relationship between cryptocurrency and the environment. And that may bring in legions of Earth-centric investors.
Cryptocurrency With Potential to Go Green: Ethereum (ETH)
Among cryptocurrency assets to buy for those concerned about the environment, Ethereum arguably makes the most compelling case. With its present proof-of-work architecture, ETH tokens consume a considerable amount of energy. According to the article, Energy Consumption of Cryptocurrencies Beyond Bitcoin, which has been republished by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, Ethereum has a rate network power of 719.1 kilowatts.
While that’s only 17% of the rate power of Bitcoin, it’s easily the top power consuming alternative cryptocurrency (altcoin). However, the development team behind Ethereum are steadily working to transition its architecture to proof-of-stake. Indeed, there’s significant progress being made in this department, which could see ETH consuming far less energy than before.
By far less, I’m talking about a 100-fold reduction in energy per transaction. Granted, the cryptocurrency is not quite there yet. But Rome wasn’t built in a day. Furthermore, Ethereum is incredibly viable, ranking as the second-most valuable virtual currency, with a present market capitalization of nearly $279 billion.
Look, you can be all about the environment but even go-green folks want a different type of green. Therefore, I consider ETH to be the most promising cryptocurrency if it can “clean up” its act.
Bitcoin Cash (BCH)
Under the Energy Consumption article I referenced above, Bitcoin Cash consumes a relatively large amount of energy, with rated power of 153.4 kW. Of course, that’s nothing compared to what Bitcoin imposes. Still, the original cryptocurrency is inherently inefficient, which has long bugged proponents of BTC. As you’ll recall, Bitcoin Cash is a hard fork of Bitcoin, designed to solve many of the first token’s administrative issues.
Naturally, the debate to hard fork Bitcoin was a bitter one. To me, the argument stemmed from a critical conflict regarding the purpose of BTC. Frankly, as a store of value, it’s great that Bitcoin is so gosh darn inefficient. After all, part of the allure of precious metals is that they’re difficult to extract. If BTC became too efficient, it might lose its upward mobility.
At the same time, if you felt that Bitcoin should be utilitarian, then the original blockchain’s inefficiency presented insurmountable challenges. As a peer-to-peer payment platform, Bitcoin Cash is faster and more efficient. Now, if we could find a way to holistically reduce its carbon footprint, BCH would also be appealing to environmentalists.
In the dawn of the cryptocurrency age, only two digital coins existed: Bitcoin and Litecoin. Early on, astute programmers recognized that while BTC and the blockchain concept were exceptionally revolutionary, the original token had a massive efficiency problem. Later, as Bitcoin ceased to be trading for around $10 but to $100 and later $1,000 — not to mention where it is now — denominationally, BTC became unfeasible.
True, you have automatic calculations built into cryptocurrency transactions but still, paying 0.000079 BTC for a loaf of bread is ridiculous. And I don’t know about you but I’m very paranoid about making crypto transaction errors. Get that decimal point wrong and you’re talking about a serious nominal error.
Today, Litecoin is about $320 and is fast approaching its all-time daily average record of around $350. Therefore, it’s not quite as friendly for small transactions as it used to be. Nevertheless, its purpose as a quick and convenient P2P platform remains intact.
Litecoin has a rated power of 164.8 kW, which is among the highest compared to other altcoins. But its combo of utility and upside potential makes it intriguing for eco-friendly investors.
The bad boy of cryptocurrency assets, Monero is a fascinating digital token to consider. You know all those stories about virtual currencies being the platform of choice to transact wealth in exchange for nefarious activities? They’re usually referring to the XMR coin.
While Bitcoin gets a bad rap for enabling high crime to go anonymous, today’s criminals prefer to use something else. I’m not saying that BTC isn’t ever used for terrible transactions. But the harsh reality is that Bitcoin’s transactions are public knowledge. Some of the specific details are of course anonymous, but there’s enough of a paper trail with BTC that it discourages criminal activity.
With Monero, its underlying blockchain architecture obfuscates even the most mundane transaction details. That’s why the IRS several months ago offered money for anyone that could crack open the Monero blockchain. This in turn led to XMR’s development team responding with a major update to its system.
But Monero isn’t just useful for crimes — not that I would know or anything. A lot of folks want to use cryptocurrency to decouple from the grid. Monero allows them to do just that. Therefore, if it can become a bit more carbon friendly, XMR could snag new fans.
Another intriguing cryptocurrency asset that didn’t get much mainstream press coverage is Zcash. Currently ranked 51 in terms of crypto market capitalization, it’s understandable that ZEC tokens have fallen by the wayside. Nevertheless, this under-the-radar attribute has served the digital coin quite well.
Back in January of this year, I featured Zcash. At the time, the token was trading hands for around $100. At time of writing, it’s over $200 — it was actually approaching $300 until the crypto market experienced a severe bout of volatility. Still, that’s not a bad return for something that doesn’t get much attention.
Moving forward, I like the concept of Zcash — a secure, discrete cryptocurrency that doesn’t publicly broadcast its transaction data on a public ledger. This makes it similar to Monero. But the difference is that the team behind Zcash allows for selective disclosures for compliance and audit purposes. Surely, this will endear ZEC to federal authorities a lot more than other cryptos.
But will Zcash endear itself to environmentalists? Technically, its blockchain is very efficient and has a relatively low rated network power of 49 kW. Therefore, it’s much more feasible for ZEC to use renewable energy sources.
One of the lesser-known cryptocurrency assets, DigiByte is nevertheless incredibly popular with the social media crowd. As you might imagine, it has been very profitable. Several weeks ago, DigiByte appeared to languish around the 6 cent to 7 cent level. Now, each unit costs around 11 cents, though it had hit 17 cents before the volatility hit.
Aside from its incredible profitability (at least as of the time of writing), DigiByte’s open-source blockchain and asset creation platform is one of the most secure systems available. Additionally, it’s powerful and efficient, able to make countless numbers of transactions without skipping a beat. Of course, this remains one of the biggest criticisms of Bitcoin. The original cryptocurrency is too clunky to be effectively functional.
True to form, DigiByte doesn’t impose nearly as much of a carbon footprint as other virtual currencies. It has a rated power of 2.6 kW, which is far lower than the blockchain reward tokens mentioned above. While I’m not going to say that DGB will be a top 10 crypto anytime soon, its architecture does align very well with the broader go-green sentiment.
Although most cryptocurrency assets are mineable, Ripple from day one was among the earliest examples of non-mineable tokens. In other words, rather than being a decentralized platform, it appears like a centralized one by virtue of the inability for miners to participate in the supply/demand equation. Therefore, it’s a moot point whether its mining protocol is energy intensive or not.
Also, what turns off some investors from XRP is Ripple Labs and the Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit. As I’m sure you’ve heard, the SEC alleges that the XRP token is not a cryptocurrency but rather a security. Thus, Ripple Labs should have registered it as such. Of course, the company is vigorously fighting the allegations. And based on the soaring price of XRP, many apparently believe Ripple will emerge victorious.
I’m not going to dive into this argument at this juncture. What I will say is that according to research by TRG Datacenters, XRP is the most environmentally friendly cryptocurrency in terms of energy consumption per transaction at only 0.0079 kW.
I’m not sure if that’s enough for green advocates to take a risky bet with XRP considering the SEC lawsuit. Nevertheless, the minimal carbon footprint is a major plus.
On the date of publication, Josh Enomoto held a long position in BTC, ETH, BCH, LTC, DGB and XRP.
A former senior business analyst for Sony Electronics, Josh Enomoto has helped broker major contracts with Fortune Global 500 companies. Over the past several years, he has delivered unique, critical insights for the investment markets, as well as various other industries including legal, construction management, and healthcare.