The bitcoin community is reacting harshly and incredulously to a planned ad campaign by Ripple co-founder and chairman Chris Larsen and Greenpeace USA that would advocate a code change to reduce the largest cryptocurrency’s energy use.
The Wall Street Journal first reported the news late on Monday. Larsen confirmed the campaign and explained his thinking on Tuesday, tweeting out a subsequent report by Bloomberg along with some comments.
The campaign aims to change bitcoin’s proof-of-work (PoW) consensus algorithm, which requires vast amounts of energy. Larsen is putting $5 million into the ad campaign, which is dubbed “Change the Code, Not the Climate” and set to roll out over the next month, according to Bloomberg. The campaign will run ads in leading publications such as the New York Times, Politico and The Wall Street Journal, and some of the ads will take aim at bitcoin’s most famous supporters like Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey and Fidelity CEO Abby Johnson, according to the Journal.
The chances of such a measure being implemented from the top down, without widespread consensus, are dubious, however. The campaign assumes “that about 50 key miners, crypto exchanges and core developers have the power to change Bitcoin’s code,” Bloomberg reported. But an attempt five years ago to make a major change to the software failed, despite the backing of some of the largest startups in the industry, due to user backlash.
On Twitter, Larsen recognized efforts efforts from miners Gryphon Mining, Argo Blockchain (ARGO) and Riot Blockchain (RIOT) to use renewable energy, but said many other miners “are repurposing old coal & gas plants and not being responsible stewards of the amount of power they’re increasingly using.” Using renewable energy is not a long-term solution because the PoW system incentivizes miners to find the cheapest energy, he argued.
Larsen didn’t specify what system he prefers to replace bitcoin’s PoW, but praised Ethereum’s decision to move to a proof-of-stake (POS) model. Ripple, which is chaired by Larsen (and is fighting allegations from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it sold the XRP cryptocurrency as an unregistered security), will not be involved in the effort, he said.
The reaction from bitcoin proponents was swift and harsh.