Tesla Says It Will No Longer Accept Bitcoin for Car Payments, Citing Fossil Fuel Concerns

Illustration for article titled Tesla Says It Will No Longer Accept Bitcoin for Car Payments, Citing Fossil Fuel Concerns

Photo: Dan Kitwood / Staff (Getty Images)

Tesla has “suspended vehicle purchases using bitcoin,” CEO Elon Musk tweeted on Wednesday night, allegedly out of concern over the “rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for bitcoin mining.”

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In the statement, which quickly went viral, Musk said that while cryptocurrency is a “good idea on many levels,” the resource-intensive nature of Bitcoin mining — which frequently relies on dirty power sources like coal — has caused the company to hit pause on its role in future transactions.

“Tesla will not be selling any Bitcoin and we intend to use it for transactions as soon as mining transitions to more sustainable energy,” Musk wrote. “We are also looking at other cryptocurrencies that use <1% of Bitcoin’s energy/transaction.”

The stress that Bitcoin mining has put on the planet has become undeniable in recent years as the amount of energy required to mine the cryptocurrency has soared. According to the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index, the currency’s energy use recently surpassed the annual footprint of Argentina. Around the world, countries are beginning to take note: In March, China’s Inner Mongolia province unveiled plans to halt all new bitcoin and other cryptocurrency mining ventures in order to reduce electricity consumption for its already beleaguered grid.

But long after the devastating environmental implications associated with Bitcoin became apparent, tech honchos like Musk and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey continued to praise it as an environmentally friendly boon to the future of renewable energy. On April 21 — just one day shy of Earth Day — Dorsey’s company, Square, released a white paper in conjunction with CEO Cathie Wood’s ARK Invest that made a convoluted argument for an ecosystem in which “solar/wind, batteries, and bitcoin mining co-exist to form a green grid that runs almost exclusively on renewable energy.” Dorsey retweeted the claims, and Musk simply replied, “True.”

So it’s odd, to say the least, that less than a month after touting Bitcoin’s green bonafides, Musk would be realigning his company’s balance sheets in the name of saving the environment from dirty, fossil fuel-boosting crypto. It’s certainly something that he himself has a vested interest in: In a February SEC filing, it was revealed that Tesla had bought $1.5 billion worth of bitcoin, and was mulling plans to invest in more crypto coins down the line.

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The prominent vote of confidence from Tesla sent share prices for the most popular cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin and Musk’s personal favorite, Dogecoin, skyrocketing at the time of the announcement. Then last week, after a cringeworthy Saturday Night Live appearance where Musk referred to Dogecoin as a “hustle,” prices abruptly dipped again, to the tune of about a third.

Whatever Musk’s intentions are, it’s at least abundantly clear by now that the system is rigged so that when he says jump, the stock prices jump — or vice-versa. Seems like my guy is anti–Italian American Wario-laughing all the way to the bank.

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Mark Zuckerberg Reveals Goat Named Bitcoin but Will Zuck Kill and Eat His Crypto Creature?

Illustration for article titled Mark Zuckerberg Reveals Goat Named Bitcoin but Will Zuck Kill and Eat His Crypto Creature?

Image: AP/Lucasfilm Ltd/AP

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted a photo of his two goats on Monday, and the crypto world got pretty excited after hearing the names of Zuck’s four-legged friends: Max and Bitcoin. But are Max and Bitcoin pets or something a bit darker?

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Obviously, cryptocurrency enthusiasts are trying to decipher whether Zuck’s announcement means the Silicon Valley billionaire is betting big on bitcoin, a move that might surprise bitcoin backers since Facebook wants to launch its own currency soon. Facebook’s long-stalled Diem digital durrency, formerly known as Libra and derisively called Zuck Bucks, could be trialed by the end of the year.

But we at Gizmodo have a more pertinent question than anything involving Zuck’s thoughts on the future of Monopoly money. We just want to know whether Zuckerberg will kill and eat Bitcoin.

It’s not a ridiculous question if you remember a story from just a couple of years ago about what Zuck has done with his goats in the past.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey revealed to Rolling Stone magazine back in January 2019 that Zuckerberg once killed a goat and served it during a dinner Dorsey attended. The incident happened back in 2011, when Zuckerberg had made a personal pledge to only eat animals he had personally killed.

From Rolling Stone in 2019:

[Rolling Stone]: What was your most memorable encounter with Zuckerberg?
[Jack Dorsey]: Well, there was a year when he was only eating what he was killing. He made goat for me for dinner. He killed the goat.

In front of you?
No. He killed it before. I guess he kills it. He kills it with a laser gun and then the knife. Then they send it to the butcher.

A . . . laser gun?
I don’t know. A stun gun. They stun it, and then he knifed it. Then they send it to a butcher. Evidently in Palo Alto there’s a rule or regulation that you can have six livestock on any lot of land, so he had six goats at the time. I go, “We’re eating the goat you killed?” He said, “Yeah.” I said, “Have you eaten goat before?” He’s like, “Yeah, I love it.” I’m like, “What else are we having?” “Salad.” I said, “Where is the goat?” “It’s in the oven.” Then we waited for about 30 minutes. He’s like, “I think it’s done now.” We go in the dining room. He puts the goat down. It was cold. That was memorable. I don’t know if it went back in the oven. I just ate my salad.

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Dorsey’s explanation caused plenty of confusion over what kind of “laser gun” Zuck might have on his premises. And we never really got a satisfactory answer about whether the wealthy have special goat-killing guns that the rest of humanity has yet to learn about. But that’s not important right now.

The important question is whether Bitcoin’s days are numbered. Bitcoin the goat, not bitcoin the cryptocurrency. Well, either one at this point, given bitcoin the cryptocurrency’s trajectory.

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Do you have inside knowledge of Bitcoin the goat and whether he’s a pet or will soon wind up as food? Drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you.

New Bill Would Ban Bitcoin Mining Across New York State for Three Years

Illustration for article titled New Bill Would Ban Bitcoin Mining Across New York State for Three Years

Photo: Martin Bureau (Getty Images)

A new bill that hit the New York state senate on Monday is aiming to put a multi-year pause on crypto mining operations across the state until authorities can fully suss out what that mining is doing to the climate and local environment. Bill 6486 is being spearheaded by state Sen. Kevin Parker, who had previously sponsored other bills to help the state meet its climate goals.

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Bitcoin mining has come under increasing scrutiny for the staggering carbon footprint tied to electricity use to keep operations running 24/7. An analysis by Digiconomist puts the global mining footprint at around 53 megatons of carbon dioxide annually, equivalent to all of Sweden’s emissions. Upstate New York has recently become a hotbed of mining activity, and there could be more mines in the works.

While Parker’s bill will likely go through a few edits before it (hopefully) gets passed, in its current state, it would institute a three-year moratorium on mining operations. During that period, officials would try to measure the greenhouse gas emissions tied to mining as well as the impacts on local wildlife, water, and air quality. Per the bill, the results of that assessment would be publicly issued and be subject to a roughly four-month comment period. That would allow for public input as lawmakers weigh regulations, of which there are more than a few they could implement to crack down on bitcoin-related pollution.

Small upstate towns, notably Dresden and Alcoa, are where mining operations have taken hold in recent years. There, bitcoin-hungry profiteers have repurposed decrepit power plants that haunt these towns into crypto mining operations. In some cases, the plants provide some power to the grid while using the rest to run their mining operations. They’ve been turning profits for the plant’s new owners and raised more than a few eyebrows among environmental advocates.

Last month, Dresden’s Greenidge power plant announced plans to drastically expand its operation with four new single-story buildings, each planned to house nothing but the power-guzzling servers that this type of mining mandates, spread wall to wall. The owners plan to double its capacity by the end of the year, and boost the plant’s capacity to 500 megawatts by 2025.

The review process in the new bill would mirror what we saw in the state more than a decade ago around fracking, said Roger Downs, the conservation director for the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club. Back in 2008, now-former Gov. David Paterson ordered an environmental review into the effects of fracking. What followed was a six-year window where groups on both sides argued the pros and the many, many cons, among them health hazards, rampant environmental damage, and irreversible wildlife harm. At the tail end of 2014, Gov. Andrew Cuomo formally banned the practice throughout the state, and that ban was codified into the state budget again last year. 

“In this case, it’s an objective study on all the impacts of cryptocurrency,” Downs said. “At the end, there’ll be recommendations on how the state should regulate it, or if the state should allow it at all.”

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Studies show that mining comes with a pretty hefty impact even as the bitcoin price keeps on surging. (And in fact, that may be one reason for the surge in carbon emissions as speculators jump into the market.) While the likes of Jack Dorsey and Elon Musk have falsely claimed bitcoin is good, actually, for the climate, the preponderance of evidence suggests otherwise.

Some regional governments have banned mining, notably Inner Mongolia, China, a hotbed for mining. Plattsburgh, New York became the first city in the state to ban mining back in 2018. But it’s not a coincidence that New York is suddenly becoming a bitcoin mining hotspot. Ironically, Downs pointed to the recently passed Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act or CLCPA as one of the lynchpins for this new surge in activity across the state’s bitcoin enthusiasts.

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“With the new climate law, we’re clearly trending away from fossil fuel generation and trying to build renewables,” he said, pointing out that the final coal-powered plant in New York officially closed last year. “And we’ve had decades of losses in manufacturing capacity, so those big hulking power plants are no longer needed.”

Yet as the new bill points out, “[c]ryptocurrency mining threatens not only New York’s climate goals, under the CLCPA, but also global energy policy, such as the Paris Agreement.”

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The bitcoin boom is just the result of people “taking advantage” of what amounts to miles and miles of unused real estate, Downs went on. “And taking advantage of it for something that’s very carbon-intensive, but slips through the cracks in our regulations.”

Ethereum Surges to $3,200, Making Its Creator the Youngest Crypto Billionaire

Illustration for article titled Ethereum Surges to $3,200, Making Its Creator the Youngest Crypto Billionaire

Photo: Jack Taylor (Getty Images)

Amidst an ongoing crypto surge, Ether soared to new market heights Monday, becoming one of the priciest cryptocurrencies in circulation. The Ethereum blockchain-based token is now worth around $3,200, making its total market capitalization higher than Bank of America, Paypal, and Nestle.

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The new valuation has also made Ether’s creator, the 27-year-old Russian-Canadian computer programmer Vitalik Buterin, the world’s youngest crypto billionaire. At the age of 19, Buterin helped create the Ethereum blockchain and has served as a manager of the blockchain since 2013.

Ether, which is the second-largest cryptocurrency next to Bitcoin, has seen a meteoric rise in value over the past year. Some twelve months ago, the coin was trading at $210. As of last week, it sat at $2,500. As of today, it has quadrupled in value for the year so far and at least one analyst is now suggesting the coin could go as high as $5,000 by the end of the week.

The coin’s run is due in part to Ethereum’s role in launching the NFT craze currently sweeping the Internet. Investors, some skilled but many unskilled, have flocked to the Ethereum platform over the last several months to take part in the buying and selling of digital art tokens, the likes of which have generated billions of dollars.

At the same time, the U.S. is also currently undergoing a surge in crypto investment, even as authorities worldwide attempt to crack down on its proliferation. The combined value of the crypto industry now ranks at $2.3 trillion, more than “$100 billion more than the market cap of Apple,” the Independent reports. Bitcoin still represents the largest share of the market by a significant margin, though some financial analysts interpret Ether’s recent gains as an example of how decentralized finance may become more ubiquitous in the near future.

This New App Lets You Turn Anything and Everything Into an NFT

A digital display device featuring Beeple’s artwork that was sold via Christie’s auction house.

A digital display device featuring Beeple’s artwork that was sold via Christie’s auction house.
Photo: mundissima (Shutterstock)

Despite the fact that a majority of Americans still don’t know what an NFT is, the non-fungibles have really taken over the country—burrowing their way into our wallets and also, apparently, our hearts.

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America’s confusion likely stems from the fact that NFTs can be pretty much anything. Since the designation refers to a technical process by which a digital file is minted on the blockchain and transformed into a crypto asset, lots of stuff can qualify—so long as it goes through that process. So while the list of non-fungibles has included highfalutin content like postmodern murals and digital art videos, it has also included images of toilet paper, Gucci Mane’s sneakers, and something called a Pringles CryptoCrisp.

Well, if you have an iPhone, now you can turn practically anything into a unique, one-of-a-kind digital token. A new app is out that, by its own admission, lets you turn “every idea” into an NFT. It’s called S!NG, and it is the first and only free iOS app designed to let you create as many NFTs as you want. Where previously you would have had to pay a crypto exchange to get your asset minted, S!NG does all the minting for you, free of charge.

Founded by ex-Apple executive Geoff Osler, the company has sought to make its product really easy to use, too: it has a point-and-click function—so it’s basically as simple as taking a picture or making a recording on your phone to create them. You can also upload files. A spokesperson for the company laid it down like this:

S!NG allows anyone to create a gas-free NFT. Picture, sound bite, file, etc. Upload or point and shoot; once loaded up, the file is time-stamped on the Ethereum blockchain and therefore minted as an NFT.

That “gas-free” part is important, as it refers to the fees that are associated with minting NFTs. On most NFT exchange platforms, users are responsible for paying a “gas” fee, which covers the cost of actually creating the crypto asset. These can be pretty pricy, so it’s a good thing that S!NG lets you off the hook.

As the name of the app might suggest, it’s being marketed to artists and musicians. A video on the company’s website claims that S!NG wants to use NFTs to protect creators from intellectual property theft—which is an interesting idea. The thinking here seems to be that because the non-fungibles designate specific ownership over a unique digital asset, they can preclude you from getting your song lyrics or digital recording copied and legally foisted away from you. Thus, the website claims S!NG is the “easiest way to put a stamp on an idea, label it as your own, convert to an NFT and stored in a centralized portfolio,” also adding that the app is a space where ideas can be shared “confidently and hesitation free, without having to lawyer up.” In other words, it’s like that old trick of sending yourself a certified letter to copyright text or song lyrics: it works, but only barely.

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While this all sounds pretty good, the flip side is that it makes S!NG sound almost like a notepad app, where every note becomes an NFT. When you consider the ecological toll that NFTs purportedly are wreaking on the world, maybe it’s not a great idea to make every thought you jot down a non-fungible? Then again, people are apparently working on this problem, so maybe we can assume it’ll be a short-lived issue.

Putting all that aside, the fact that the app has made NFT-creation so accessible is pretty wild, any way you slice it. The startup just completed its’ second round of private financing in March, and seems to be well on its way to becoming a very widely used product. The app’s designers have made it clear that accessibility is what they’re really offering here—which is a good thing to offer when you’re dealing with a poorly understood phenomenon.

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“There is no learning curve or background in crypto needed to use our platform,” said the company’s spokesperson. “If you can take a picture, you can create an NFT.”

Facebook’s Long-Stalled Digital Currency Could be Tested This Year: Report

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Financial Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Oct. 23, 2019.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Financial Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Oct. 23, 2019.
Photo: Susan Walsh (AP)

Facebook hopes to launch a trial of its long-stalled digital currency project by the end of this year, according to a new report from CNBC. The currency, first announced in 2019 as Libra and then renamed Diem after some bad publicity, will now be pegged to the U.S. dollar, provided the tech giant can actually get it off the ground this time.

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Facebook first announced plans for the digital currency in June of 2019 and was hit with immediate backlash from governments and consumer groups around the world that worried what would happen if a huge tech monopoly like Facebook competed with the world’s largest currencies. Facebook has roughly 2.8 billion active users on a planet of 7.9 billion people.

Facebook’s plan in 2019 was to launch the “blockchain” currency by early 2020, something that obviously didn’t happen after the tech company’s partner organizations like PayPal and eBay started to pull out after the wave of negative press.

But CNBC, and whoever leaked this Facebook news to the financial outlet, seem to hint that Facebook is taking a much more cautious approach this time, even if details are still extremely scarce.

From CNBC:

The Diem Association, the Switzerland-based nonprofit which oversees diem’s development, is aiming to launch a pilot with a single stablecoin pegged to the U.S. dollar in 2021, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The person, who preferred to remain anonymous as the details haven’t yet been made public, said this pilot will be small in scale, focusing largely on transactions between individual consumers. There may also be an option for users to buy goods and purchases, the person added. However, there is no confirmed date for the launch and timing could therefore change.

What the hell is the Diem Association? It appears to be the next iteration of the Calibra Association, the supposedly independent organization set up by Facebook to oversee the currency back when it was called Libra.

When reached for comment about the CNBC story, Facebook’s Head of Communications for Australia, Antonia Sanda told Gizmodo by email, “looks like this could be a leak as there are no official announcements from the Diem site, but I’ll leave that for the Diem team to confirm.”

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Sanda provided Diem’s email address and wrote, “We now send all media queries direct to the Diem organisation, as it is separate from FB […] if you’d like to contact their team direct.” Gizmodo has not yet heard back from Diem but will update this post if we do.

Governments around the world are setting up committees and task forces to examine the pros and cons of creating their own digital currencies, with China, Japan, and the UK announcing their own explorations in recent months. And it’s no secret that cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether have gained traction in recent years, with large companies like PayPal starting to get in on the action. PayPal announced last month it was launching a way for consumers to pay using cryptocurrencies at millions of retailers, handing the merchant fiat during the transaction.

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But will Facebook’s digital currency flourish after already experiencing one very embarrassing false start? Only time will tell. But you can bet that government regulators will be keeping a close eye on Facebook’s plans for the future of money, especially since most world leaders think CEO Mark Zuckerberg already has too much power.

Congressman Brad Sherman even told Zuck in a July 2019 hearing that his new digital currency—which Sherman mockingly called “Zuck Bucks”—could cause the next 9/11, apparently referring to the possibility that criminals would use Facebook’s new currency for illegal activities. And when that’s your starting point of conversation with politicians who could help decide the fate of your new business idea, it’s tough to see it getting very far.

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Signal Is Adding a New Privacy-Focused Payments Feature

Illustration for article titled Signal Is Adding a New Privacy-Focused Payments Feature

Graphic: Signal

Most of us might be familiar with Signal as the privacy-preserving messaging app of choice, but the company is expanding into a new frontier: payments.

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Signal announced on Tuesday that as a part of its latest beta, it’s adding support for a new Signal Payments feature that allows Signal users to send “privacy focused payments as easily as sending or receiving a message.

These payments are only going to be available to Android and iOS Signal users in the UK during this beta, and will use one specific payment network: MobileCoin, an open-source cryptocurrency that is itself still a prototype, according to the MobileCoin GitHub repo. The same page notes that the MobileCoin Wallet that someone would need in order to send these payments back and forth isn’t yet available for download by anyone in the U.S. As Wired notes, however, this is a new feature that the company wants to expand globally once it’s out of its infancy.

Unlike other popular texting apps that also offer a payment component—like, say, Facebook Messenger—MobileCoin doesn’t rely on funneling money from a user’s bank account in order to function. Instead, it’s a currency that lives on the blockchain, allowing payments made over MobileCoin to bypass the banking systems that routinely work with major data brokers in order to pawn off people’s transaction data.

It’s worth noting here that Signal CEO Moxie Marlinspike has pretty close ties to this new crypto, acting as a behind-the-scenes advisor on the project since 2017.

“With Signal, we didn’t invent cryptography. We’re just making it accessible to people who didn’t want to cut and paste a lot of gobbledegook every time they sent a message,” Marlinspike told Wired.

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“I see a lot of parallels with this,” he went on, referencing payments. “We’re not inventing private payments. Privacy-preserving cryptocurrencies have existed for years and will continue to exist. What we’re doing is just, again, a part of trying to make that accessible to ordinary people.”

Signal’s blog notes that folks in the UK can give MobileCoin a whirl by converting other cryptocurrencies to MobileCoin’s own MOB currency using the FTX crypto exchange. The company added that along with more countries, it plans to expand its beta to other exchanges “soon.”

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TikTok Influencer Apologizes After Promoting Scam ‘Mando’ Cryptocurrency

The now-deleted website for a scam cryptocurrency called Mando

The now-deleted website for a scam cryptocurrency called Mando
Screenshot: MandoToken.com/YouTube

Matt Lorion, a 17-year-old TikTok influencer known for promoting cryptocurrencies online, has released a new video apologizing for a Star Wars-themed scam he promoted. Last week, Lorion sang the praises of a new cryptocurrency called Mando that turned out to be a pump-and-dump scam. But Lorion says he had no idea it was a fraud.

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“The other day I promoted a cryptocurrency named Mando, which… the developers pretty much scammed everyone, including me,” Lorion said in the TikTok video.

“Some of you guys invested into Mando, and also myself, I had $10,000 invested. All of it is gone now,” Lorion continued.

The website for the Mando cryptocurrency was registered a week ago today on March 25 and featured plenty of images from the hit Disney+ show “The Mandalorian”—images all used without permission, of course.

The website is currently a shell of its former self, stripped of the instructions on how to “buy” this new cryptocurrency through a website called PancakeSwap.

The Twitter account, which has also been deleted, had another method of “buying” Mando tokens, which was captured by users on 4Chan last week who wondered whether it was a scam.

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The MandoToken.com site wasn’t even online long enough to be indexed by Google or the Wayback Machine, but a cryptocurrency YouTuber captured images from the website in a video from March 27. The images show the promotion of a “pre-sale” where people could buy-in to this new memecoin.

The Mando cryptocurrency’s website before it was pulled offline

The Mando cryptocurrency’s website before it was pulled offline
Screenshot: YouTube

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Whoever was behind Mando released a “white paper” filled with unverifiable claims about how the token had been tested. Lorion claims in the video that he lost $10,000 of his own money in the scam, but that could not be verified independently on Thursday.

“So to make sure that something like this doesn’t happen again, my management team is going to get in contact with every single developer before I promote a cryptocurrency,” Lorion said in his apology video.

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“We’re going to do background checks and we’re going to make sure that everything we’re promoting is 100% legit and in it for the long term. And I just want to clarify, from here on out, whenever I promote a cryptocurrency, this is just me showing light to the crypto,” Lorion said. “You guys want to do your own research and make sure that you are putting in money into something that you believe in long-term.”

Lorion’s latest video is about a new cryptocurrency called Elongate, which he acknowledges that people think is yet another scam. But Lorion swears this coin is legit and he’s even gotten involved to prove just how not-scammy it is. The Elongate currency is based on a tweet from billionaire Elon Musk, who said that if he’s ever in a scandal he’d like it to be known as Elongate.

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One of Lorion’s videos on Elongate has over 4 million views, something that has obviously excited other people who have invested in the crypto after hearing about it on TikTok or Reddit. Lorion did not respond to a request for comment sent through Instagram.

Illustration for article titled TikTok Influencer Apologizes After Promoting Scam 'Mando' Cryptocurrency

Screenshot: Poocoin

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It’s difficult to differentiate between a pump-and-dump scheme and virtually everything else in the crypto world right now since the entire world of cryptocurrencies depends on people having faith in the system. When people make off with the real money and leave others holding nothing—zero dollars and zero cents—that erodes faith in the future of other things like bitcoin and ether, even if they’re not explicitly short-term “scams” in the traditional sense of the word.

“I can’t even put into words how crappy I feel right now and how sorry I am for what happened,” Lorion said. “Thank you guys for understanding and something like this is not going to be happening again.”

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Carbon Offsets for NFTs Don’t Address the Deeper Problem

The NFT space has a ballooning carbon problem. But rather than address emissions head-on, platforms may be turning to at best, self-deception and at worst, greenwashing by relying on carbon offsets.

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Over the weekend, the platform Nifty Gateway ran an auction dubbed the #CarbonDrop that was, it said, “inspired around climate change.” The auction included a Beeple piece that went for $6 million along with a host of other artists whose work sold for an additional $600,000. The proceeds benefited the Open Earth Foundation, a nonprofit focused on using the blockchain for climate accountability and tracking emissions. To deal with the estimated 500 tons of emissions associated with the auction, the artists were all given carbon offsets. The problem with these offsets is that they don’t actually reduce emissions, they just—as the name says—offset them through activities like planting trees.

Some research and reporting also indicate that offsets may even fail in that regard. A ProPublica investigation found that a number of forestry projects in Brazil actually led to a decrease in forest cover. Climate change itself can upend even the best-intentioned and designed forest offsets; in Oregon this summer, forests set aside for offsets caught on fire, sending carbon into the atmosphere instead of sequestering it.

Yet, in tweets about the auction, Tyler Winklevoss—one of the Winklevoss twins, owners of Nifty Gateway—declared victory, saying that the “entire NFT industry is now carbon negative thanks to The Carbon Drop,” which is a lie. He also noted that Nifty Gateway is “carbon negative by 42x,” which means absolutely nothing but sure sounds nice. What this framing does do, though, is give the platform an excuse to delay taking part in actions that could meaningfully reduce emissions.

While some lucky (and rich) buyers now own some art and a nonprofit has some serious coin to help their mission, there’s a real risk that how the auction was conducted obscures the bigger problems with the platforms undergirding the crypto art and the technology in general.

Nifty Gateway is the second-most polluting NFT platform out there, according to multiple lines of research. An analysis by artist Kyle McDonald put Nifty Gateway’s carbon emissions through March 22 at 13,170 tons, second only to Open Sea. Nifty Gateway sits atop the Ethereum blockchain, a platform that allows artists (or others) to mint tokens that can be tied as a sort of certificate of authenticity to nearly anything, including digital art. Ethereum relies on proof of work, a process that ends up wasting loads of energy as a bunch of computers around the world work to mine the next block by solving a problem. Ethereum’s developers have claimed to have a fix in the works for years to reduce its impact by switching to a different method called proof of stake, yet the shift continues to be delayed.

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Carbon pollution is a zero-sum problem we can’t offset our way out of. Yes, some offsets may be necessary for hard-to-decarbonize sectors like cement production or aviation. But to stave off the worst impacts of climate change, the real work of decarbonization needs to start now, including around NFTs. And while individual artists can do their best to counterbalance their impact, the reality is that a systemic shift needs to happen, and it’s unclear how this weekend’s auction addresses that.

“They’re falling right into the trap the fossil fuel industry has laid, relying on an old way of producing energy and a fantastical approach to mitigating emissions instead of, as a fairly nascent technology and industry, finding a new way,” Jesse Bragg, the media director of the nonprofit Corporate Accountability, said of Nifty Gateway. “There are plenty of options to do what they’re doing in a much less harmful way. Instead, they’re doing what a lot of corporations are doing: Rely fossil fuel infrastructure and then rely on offsets to greenwash their image.”

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None of this is a knock on the artists who participated, nor the buyers, nor those offering the offsets and clearly believe in them.

“Carbon offsets get a lot of scrutiny, and rightfully so, on their transparency and end-to-end verification,” said Josh Bijak, the CTO of Creol, and in a very Silicon Valley twist, also a project lead at distributed graphics firm Render Token, which sponsored the auction. “So we just basically said, OK, let’s add one more on layer to it,” by making NFTs for them so they could be verifiable with a unique token.

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But offsets do not do the work needed for the scale of the problem. And the problem transcends individuals or even NFTs alone. NFTs are only a small sum of Ethereum’s estimated 13.89 megatons of annual carbon pollution, a total that slots the network just ahead of oil-rich Bahrain, according to Digiconomist.

There’s certainly an argument to be made that artists should withhold their labor until these problems are addressed. Artist Joanie Lemercier was slated to have work in the auction, but backed out citing Nifty Gateway’s reversal on implementing a change in how transactions occur that would’ve reduced the climate impact. Yet the auction went on, and more high-profile drops continue by the day, with promises of offsets becoming more common.

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Public pressure could turn the heat on platforms that use Ethereum to advocate for change or switch to less damaging crypto networks. Cryptocurrency traders could threaten to divest from carbon-intensive currencies unless conditions for less ecological damage they want to see are met. But ultimately, as with anything climate-related, it requires collective action. That may seem anathema to the notoriously libertarian-leaning cryptocurrency space, but failing to fight together for solutions could mean the destruction of the one thing we all have in common.

Creator Shuts Down Popular Crypto Art Carbon Calculator for ‘Abuse and Harassment’

Illustration for article titled Creator Shuts Down Popular Crypto Art Carbon Calculator for 'Abuse and Harassment'

Photo: Lukas Schulze (Getty Images)

Cryptoart.wtf, the popular crypto art carbon calculator that allowed us to see the real impact the NFT buying craze is having on our poor planet, is shutting down. Its creator, Memo Akten, stated that he decided to take the site down after information from it was used “as a tool for abuse and harassment.” 

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In a message to the site posted on Friday, Akten said he believed that information on the ecological costs of crypto art should be available to the public, just as similar information is available for flying, iPhone manufacturing and use, or watching Netflix. Akten, an artist and computer scientist, did not specify the kinds of abuse and harassment that led him to shut down the site, although one might deduce that he was referencing the blaming of artists selling crypto artwork based on the message.

“I support artists, and we should support each other,” Akten wrote. “Our conversations should not be around comparing individuals to each other, comparing you to them, or me to you. Instead, I believe we have a responsibility to be critical of businesses whose values are opposed to the values that we wish to see moving forward, while simultaneously we work towards building and supporting equitable platforms that avoid senseless damage to our planet.”

Gizmodo reached out to Akten to ask for comment on the closure of Cryptoart.wtf. We’ll make sure to update this blog if we hear back.

For those unaware, Cryptoart.wtf allowed users to track the carbon emissions associated with any NFT, which stands for “non-fungible token,” or the current popular pieces of digital art right now. When you buy an NFT, the transaction is recorded and certified on a public ledger known as a blockchain. The token is unique and can therefore not be exchanged for something identical or similar. What you get when you purchase an NFT, therefore, isn’t even the artwork itself. Rather, you get a “proof of ownership” of the real thing.

The above would all be fine and dandy if the mere process weren’t putting more stress on our planet. See, processing a transaction on a blockchain—most crypto art is being sold on the Ethereum blockchain, which uses ether as its cryptocurrency—requires the work of a lot of computers all around the world. These computers compete against each other to solve complex math problems in order to generate accurate records of the transactions that can’t be changed, a practice also known as mining.

The computer that finishes first wins, earning its owner a ton of money. The other computers, meanwhile, basically did work and wasted energy for nothing.

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That’s where Cryptoart.wtf came in. Per the calculator, processing Grimes’ recent sale of 303 editions of a short video called Earth as NFTs for $7,500 each cost 122,416 kilowatt-hours of electricity. In layman’s terms, the energy used was the equivalent of a European Union resident’s average total electricity consumption over 34 years, or 79 tons of carbon dioxide.

However, a transaction doesn’t even need to be big to generate a worrying amount of pollution. Gizmodo sold an NFT of a tweet of a recently adopted cat named Larry earlier this week for $50 in ether. The transaction used the equivalent of 11 kilowatt-hours, per Cryptoart.wtf, or the average electrical use of a European Union resident for an entire day.

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It’s imperative that we have an important conversation about NFTs and their carbon pollution problem. As we’ve stated before, blaming artists isn’t the answer. This is a bigger problem that no one person can solve on their own. In addition, it’s also not as simple as planting trees, which are common carbon offset projects employed by polluters.

“CryptoArt is a tiny part of global emissions. Our actions in this space is a reflection of the mindset that we need in our efforts for larger-scale systemic change,” Akten wrote.

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