Parade Costs Too Much

Staff & Wire Reports

President Donald Trump salutes on his arrival on Air Force One at Morristown Municipal Airport in Morristown, N.J., Friday, Aug. 17, 2018, en route to Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Donald Trump salutes on his arrival on Air Force One at Morristown Municipal Airport in Morristown, N.J., Friday, Aug. 17, 2018, en route to Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Donald Trump poses for photographs while greeting members of the military on the tarmac upon his arrival on Air Force One at Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton, N.Y., Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. Trump traveled to New York for a campaign fundraiser with supporters and will then travel to Bedminster, N.J, to spend the weekend at his private golf resort. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

FILE - In this Jan. 20, 2017, file photo, military units participate in the inaugural parade from the Capitol to the White House in Washington, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. A U.S. official says the 2018 Veterans Day military parade ordered up by President Donald Trump would cost about $92 million _ more than three times the maximum initial estimate. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

Trump military parade plans unravel over costs


Associated Press

Monday, August 20

WASHINGTON (AP) — The cancellation of President Donald Trump’s Veterans Day parade came swiftly when senior White House and Pentagon leaders saw the estimated $92 million price tag play out in public, setting off a chaotic volley of tweets and accusations between the president and the mayor of the nation’s capital.

The drama that unfolded Thursday and Friday also highlighted, not for the first time, a disconnect between the Pentagon and the White House when it comes to turning some of Trump’s more mercurial ideas into reality.

While Defense Secretary Jim Mattis dismissed the price estimate for the parade as fiction — likening the report of it as the work of someone who had been smoking pot — Trump wasn’t denying the projected costs. He was lashing out at Washington, D.C., politicians he claimed were to blame for the sky-high price.

“When asked to give us a price for holding a great celebratory military parade, they wanted a number so ridiculously high that I cancelled it. Never let someone hold you up!” Trump tweeted.

He held out hope of holding the parade next year instead, and said this year he would travel to Paris for events marking the centennial of the end of fighting in World War I, which falls on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. “Now we can buy some more jet fighters!” he added.

Despite Trump blaming municipal authorities for the high estimate, the bulk of the cost was the $50 million Pentagon portion that would cover military aircraft, equipment, personnel and other support. The remaining $42 million would cover costs borne by the city and other agencies and largely involved security costs.

The Republican president’s finger-pointing set off a social media spat with D.C.’s Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser. She shot back on Twitter Friday that she was the one who “finally got thru to the reality star in the White House with the realities ($21.6M) of parades/events/demonstrations in Trump America (sad).”

District of Columbia officials called the price-gouging charge by Trump “patently false.” A city official said the $21.6 million estimate of the costs the city would incur was their “best stab at it,” since they did not know what the exact route would be or how long it would last. The official, who wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said there had been little interaction with the Pentagon and few details provided.

Trump decided he wanted a military parade in Washington after he attended France’s Bastille Day celebration in the center of Paris last year. Several months later Trump praised the French parade, saying, “We’re going to have to try and top it.”

It was a demand that drew criticism not just from Trump’s political opponents but some Republicans too. As the Pentagon began planning for the U.S. version, the cost became a politically charged issue — as did the prospect of streets in the nation’s capital being churned up by tank treads.

According to officials familiar with the unfolding events, senior Pentagon leaders were briefed Wednesday about the parade costs. But officials said the estimates were still preliminary and so were not submitted to Mattis or Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private meetings and conversations.

When details came out publicly Thursday, senior White House officials, including Chief of Staff John Kelly, were angry about the $92 million amount, which was more than triple early estimates of $10 million to $30 million by the White House budget director. It’s not clear when Trump was told, but the order to cancel the parade came quickly and was made by the end of the work day. The Pentagon announced the decision just before 8 p.m.

Throughout the day, multiple U.S. officials had confirmed the $92 million estimate that was put together by the interagency parade planning group. And Pentagon officials did not push back or at any point suggest the reporting was wrong.

Still, when asked about the price Thursday evening, Mattis excoriated the media and said he had seen no such estimate.

“I’m not dignifying that number ($92 million) with a reply. I would discount that, and anybody who said (that number), I’ll almost guarantee you one thing: They probably said, ‘I need to stay anonymous.’ No kidding, because you look like an idiot. And No. 2, whoever wrote it needs to get better sources. I’ll just leave it at that,” Mattis told reporters traveling with him.

He said that whoever leaked the number to the press was “probably smoking something that is legal in my state but not in most” — a reference to his home state of Washington, where marijuana use is legal.

Mattis’ comments came hours after the estimate was made public, and not long after the cancellation decision was made — giving his staff plenty of time to ensure he was made aware of the planning estimate’s accuracy.

One reason for the political sensitivity was that Trump himself had boasted that the cancellation of a major military exercise with South Korea amid easing tensions with North Korea would save the U.S. “a tremendous amount of money.” The Pentagon later said the Korea drills, which typically take place every August, would have cost $14 million — an amount dwarfed by the estimated cost of the parade.

The cancellation of those drills, like Trump’s demand for a parade, initially caught the Defense Department unawares. Mattis was also widely viewed as being unenthusiastic about the president’s plans to set up a Space Force as a new branch of the military — but as in the other cases, he has toed the line of the commander in chief.

The parade was expected to include troops from all five armed services — the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard — as well as units in period uniforms representing earlier times in the nation’s history. It also was expected to involve a number of military aircraft flyovers, which can carry significant costs in personnel, aircraft and support.

A Pentagon planning memo released in March said the parade would feature a “heavy air component,” likely including older, vintage aircraft. It also said there would be “wheeled vehicles only, no tanks — consideration must be given to minimize damage to local infrastructure.” Big, heavy tanks could tear up streets in the District of Columbia.


Associated Press writer Ashraf Khalil contributed to this report.

The Conversation

Dangerous stereotypes stalk black college athletes

August 20, 2018

Joseph Cooper

Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership, University of Connecticut

Disclosure statement

Joseph Cooper does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


University of Connecticut provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

If you go strictly by the official account, heatstroke was the cause of death for University of Maryland football player Jordan McNair. McNair died earlier this year following a grueling practice in which training staff failed to properly diagnose and treat his condition.

But there’s another culprit – or at least a contributing factor – that should not be overlooked.

As I argue in my forthcoming book – “From Exploitation Back to Empowerment: Black Male Holistic (Under) Development Through Sport and (Mis) Education” – what threatens black college athletes such as McNair is not just the brutal treatment to which they are subjected on the field.

Rather, it is a long-standing and deadly stereotype in American society that views black males as subhuman and superhuman all at once.

This stereotype, which is complex and has many layers, holds that black male athletes have superior athletic abilities that enable them to excel at high levels in sports such as football. The stereotype also holds that black males have a distinct physicality that allows them to endure extreme amounts of pain.

This is the same myth that was used to justify the enslavement and mistreatment of black people in America from before the Civil War through today’s era of mass incarceration. In fact, a case can be made that there are many parallels between the exploitation of black student-athletes today and how black labor was exploited during American slavery.

McNair also appears to have fallen victim to a sports culture in the U.S. that promotes a win-at-all-costs mentality. This culture also places an inordinate amount of emphasis on generating revenue. And it represents a damaging view of masculinity.

I make these arguments as a scholar who focuses on the nexus between sport, education, race and culture.

Perceptions of black strength

I assert that black males in general, and black student-athletes in particular, are viewed primarily as physical beings – sometimes seen as “beasts” and the like. This dehumanizes them in ways that threaten their well-being.

Although such terms as “beasts” are widely embraced in mainstream culture and in some instances by black athletes themselves, such as Marshawn Lynch, whose “Beast Mode” clothing line is drawn from his nickname, these terms are still harmful. This is especially the case in sports, where masculinity is equated with toughness, playing through pain and not giving up.

Former Raven John Urschel opens up about retirement, concussions, football and math.

It may be true that these ideas are applied to male athletes in general. But these views impact black males even more due to their unique experiences in the United States. Just as they did during the days of chattel slavery, I argue that deeply embedded stereotypes about the physical capacity of black individuals to endure pain results in their perpetual mistreatment in the sports arena.

The stereotypes about black males’ work ethic in sports like football and basketball has resulted in their higher incidences of cardiac deaths.

Not valued for intellect

Black student-athletes are also subject to educational neglect. Consider, for instance, the various academic scandals in big-time college sports. Some of these scandals involved cases in which black male athletes were found to be illiterate, but still allowed to compete in their respective sports and generate millions of dollars for the institutions.

Black males are often deemed as intellectually inferior and morally deficient. For example, black males are disproportionately more likely to be enrolled in special education courses versus gifted courses in the K-12 education system. They are also less likely than their white peers to have their race and gender associated with being intelligent or academic achievement.

For black male athletes, the dumb jock stereotype is commonplace and reinforced by the fact that they are more likely to be admitted to college academically unprepared, more likely to be enrolled in perceived “easy” or less rigorous courses so that they can remain eligible to play sports, and less likely to graduate compared to their peers.

Despite this academic neglect, black males continue to constitute a majority of the participants on football and men’s basketball teams, 55 and 56 percent, respectively, in big-time college sports. This highlights how they are more valued for their athletic abilities than for their academic promise.

This is what enables sports organizers and coaches to present college sports to black males as a viable way to make it in society.

The view of black males as super-human is present in arenas other than sports. It lurks behind many of the police killings of black men of late. This was highlighted in the infamous police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, when police officer Darren Wilson described the 18-year-old Brown as a “demon” and “Hulk Hogan”-like.

Beyond the glitz and glamour

This type of pathological labeling applies in football. Black males’ physicality is exploited. For example, at the University of Alabama, where head coach Nick Saban is paid US$11.1 million per year, black males represent 80 percent of the starters on the team. Yet, not only are black male student-athletes not equitably compensated based on market value for their athletic abilities, they also graduate at a lower rate – 59 percent – compared to 71 percent for their athlete peers and 67 percent for the general student body. Thus, they are simultaneously academically underserved and athletically exploited in terms of economic compensation.

With both stereotypes – subhuman and superhuman – in play, black males within sport and beyond are systematically dehumanized and consequently deprived of the love, care and attention that should come with their humanity.

The large amounts of money being generated in college football, along with the increased commercialization and celebrity flair associated with the sport, creates an illusion of fun, American grit and a unique brand of entertainment.

But behind all the glitz and glamour are factors that contribute to the exploitation of athletes. These factors also result in undetected or undeserved – and entirely preventable – long-term health problems such as depression and high blood pressure, and in some instances, deaths.

The need for reform

In terms of medical coverage, colleges are not required to assist college athletes beyond their athletic eligibility years even though injuries they suffer in college can affect them for the rest of their lives.

Over the past several decades, organizations such as the National College Players’ Association have advocated for increased medical coverage and protections for college athletes. The founder of the NCPA, former UCLA player Ramogi Huma, established the advocacy group after he discovered that the NCAA prevented UCLA from paying medical expenses from injuries that occurred during summer workouts.

University of Maryland President Wallace Loh recently stated that the university had accepted “legal and moral” responsibility in the death of Maryland football player Jordan McNair. That’s a step in the right direction.

An acceptance of responsibility is not enough, though. Serious systemic reform and a change in culture is needed. These changes must address racism and racist stereotypes that lead to mistreatment of black athletes.

U.S. society must also confront its unhealthy obsession with sports glory, commercialism and overall neglect of athletes’ rights and well-being.

One important reform that should be adopted immediately to benefit all college athletes is to require all medical staff for teams be independent from coaches’ and athletic department authority. This was something reportedly proposed and rejected at the University of Maryland.

There should also be an advocacy group separate from the NCAA to help college athletes negotiate with the colleges they attend for improved working conditions related to safety and their overall well-being. This includes an improved academic experience, mental health support, and help with making the transition to their life after sports.

From OSU

Aug. 17, 2018

University shares update related to football program

The independent working group directing the investigation involving Urban Meyer announced today that the investigation will be completed on Sunday, as planned. The investigators will then prepare a report for the working group to be delivered next week.

Following receipt, the working group will share the report with the Board of Trustees in an executive session to be held next week. As required by law, public notice of the meeting will be released at least 24 hours in advance. Following deliberations with the board, and appropriate time for consideration, President Michael V. Drake will announce his decision.

Ohio State’s Board of Trustees had formed a special, independent working group to direct this investigation. Former Ohio House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson serves as chair of the working group. The investigation is being led by former Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Mary Jo White. White is a senior chair with the national law firm Debevoise & Plimpton and is also a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Which states are doing the most to overcome gender inequality?

With Women’s Equality Day coming up on August 26th, wanted to take a look at which states are closest to wage equality. We found that states that are closer to pay equality also have a higher number of women-owned business startups as well. See our full report here for all of our findings and correlations. F

Interesting data we found:

Seven states are the closest to overcoming gender wage gaps. Top states include New York, California, Florida, Texas, Virginia, Vermont and the District of Columbia.

The top two states overall are California and New York. California ranked #1 for women creating new businesses and second for wage equality at $0.88 for every $1 a white male earns. New York was first for wage equality at $0.89 and #4 for new business creation by women. Not only is it an ethical and moral priority to pay equally, there’s an economic incentive as well.

In the US overall, women still make just $0.80 on the dollar for what white men make. This is even worse for women of color—Hispanic and black women earn 54 cents and 63 cents to the dollar, respectively, of what white men take home in the United States.

Women account for more than 40% of new business owners, showing that women are showing their entrepreneurial spirit more and more.

Utah and Louisiana have the highest wage gap. Women make $.70 on the dollar in both states.

California, unsurprisingly, has the highest business creation at 125,294. Alaska has the lowest business creation at 1,402.

Methodology for ranking: The data team at analyzed data from the AAUW and US Census data. We also pulled data reported by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics for “business births” which is the BLS term for business creation

We still have a long ways to go before we reach complete equality, especially when it comes to pay gaps, social issues, and respect in general. However, the numbers don’t lie. More women than ever are breaking into the entrepreneurial sphere, and that deserves recognition.

2 in 5 Teens Report Texting While Driving

Nationwide Children’s Hospital

Columbus – 07/20/2018

Cellphone use while driving has been estimated to increase crash risk by 2-9 times and texting while driving may be especially risky because it involves three types of driver distraction: visual (eyes off the road), manual (hands off the wheel), and cognitive (attention away from driving). A new study led by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital examined individual- and state-level factors associated with texting while driving among teens. The study, done in conjunction with researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and The Ohio State University, looked at Youth Risk Behavior Survey data from 35 states.

The study, published today in Journal of Adolescent Health , found that nearly 2 in 5 teen drivers age 14 years and older had texted while driving at least once in the month prior to the survey, despite the fact that 34 of 35 states in the study ban text messaging for drivers 21 years and younger. Texting while driving prevalence varied by state, from 26% in Maryland to 64% in South Dakota. More teens texted while driving in states with a lower minimum learner’s permit age and in states where a larger percentage of students drove. White teens were more likely to text while driving than students of all other races/ethnicities. Texting while driving prevalence doubled between ages 15 and 16 years, and it continued to increase substantially for ages 17 years and up.

“The increase in texting while driving at the age when teens can legally begin unsupervised driving was not surprising,” said Motao Zhu, MD, MS, PhD, the study’s lead author and Principal Investigator in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “Graduated driver licensing laws could have an impact on texting while driving behavior: the earlier teens start driving, the earlier they start texting while driving.” The five states where more than 50% of teen drivers reported texting while driving had a learner’s permit age of 15 years or younger.

Teens who engage in other risky driving behaviors were also more likely to text while driving. Teen drivers who didn’t regularly wear seatbelts were 21% more likely to text while driving compared to frequent seatbelt users. Teens who reported drinking and driving were almost twice as likely to text while driving compared to those who did not.

“Risky driving behavior is known to be much less common with an adult in the car,” said Ruth Shults, MPH, PhD, formerly, senior epidemiologist with the CDC’s Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention. “The association between age and texting while driving highlights the need for parents to pay attention to their child’s texting while driving throughout the teen years – not just when their children are learning to drive.”

The data from this study is likely an underestimate of teen drivers’ cellphone use. The survey question asked specifically about “texting and emailing while driving,” and therefore does not measure the full range of ways that teens use their cellphones while driving, including answering or placing a phone call, accessing social media, playing music, and using other apps. It’s also possible that students who took the survey considered reading a text or email to be different from writing or sending a message. And some may not have considered texting while their vehicle was stopped at a light as texting while driving. All these could lead to underreporting of the behavior. Parents can help limit their teens’ texting while driving behavior by doing the following:

Be a good role model. Teens are more likely to use their cellphones while driving if they see their parents doing it. If having your cellphone on and within reach while driving is tempting, put it on silent so you won’t hear notifications. Try putting it in the trunk or backseat compartment or locking it in the glove box so you can’t reach it while driving. If you cannot or do not want to put your cellphone away completely, ask a passenger to make and answer calls, read and reply to texts, or look at the calendar as you make plans.

Be patient. If you know your teen is driving, wait until he arrives before you text or call. Teens report that they are more likely to respond to a call or text while driving if it is from a parent, close friend, or boyfriend/girlfriend.

Set clear rules about prohibiting all cellphone use while driving. Make sure to communicate those rules clearly and enforce them.

Continue to monitor new drivers. Keep riding with your teen even after he gets his license. Compliment your teen’s safe driving behaviors and remind him of the rules when he makes poor decisions.

Take advantage of built-in features. Many phones have a driving mode you can turn on to disable texting, calling, or other functions while in motion. Consider having your teen use this mode or installing an app – some of which will send immediate notifications to parents – with a similar purpose.

Data from this study came from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, an anonymous, voluntary, and biennial self-report survey designed to monitor the prevalence of critical health risk behaviors among high school students. For this study, researchers analyzed 2015 state YRBS data from the 35 states that conducted a survey, included the “texting while driving” question, and had an overall response rate of at least 60%.

The Center for Injury Research and Policy (CIRP) of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital works globally to reduce injury-related pediatric death and disabilities. With innovative research at its core, CIRP works to continually improve the scientific understanding of the epidemiology, biomechanics, prevention, acute treatment and rehabilitation of injuries. CIRP serves as a pioneer by translating cutting edge injury research into education, policy, and advances in clinical care. For related injury prevention materials or to learn more about CIRP, visit

The Conversation

Tons of plastic trash enter the Great Lakes every year – where does it go?

August 20, 2018


Matthew J. Hoffman

Associate Professor of Mathematical Sciences, Rochester Institute of Technology

Christy Tyler

Associate Professor of Environmental Science, Rochester Institute of Technology

Disclosure statement

The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


Rochester Institute of Technology

Rochester Institute of Technology provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

Awareness is rising worldwide about the scourge of ocean plastic pollution, from Earth Day 2018 events to the cover of National Geographic magazine. But few people realize that similar concentrations of plastic pollution are accumulating in lakes and rivers. One recent study found microplastic particles – fragments measuring less then five millimeters – in globally sourced tap water and beer brewed with water from the Great Lakes.

According to recent estimates, over 8 million tons of plastic enter the oceans every year. Using that study’s calculations of how much plastic pollution per person enters the water in coastal regions, one of us (Matthew Hoffman) has estimated that around 10,000 tons of plastic enter the Great Lakes annually. Now we are analyzing where it accumulates and how it may affect aquatic life.

No garbage patches, but lots of scrap on beaches

Plastic enters the Great Lakes in many ways. People on the shore and on boats throw litter in the water. Microplastic pollution also comes from wastewater treatment plants, stormwater and agricultural runoff. Some plastic fibers become airborne – possibly from clothing or building materials weathering outdoors – and are probably deposited into the lakes directly from the air.

Sampling natural water bodies for plastic particles is time-consuming and can be done on only a small fraction of any given river or lake. To augment actual sampling, researchers can use computational models to map how plastic pollution will move once it enters the water. In the ocean, these models show how plastic accumulates in particular locations around the globe, including the Arctic.

When plastic pollution was initially found in the Great Lakes, many observers feared that it could accumulate in large floating garbage patches, like those created by ocean currents. However, when we used our computational models to predict how plastic pollution would move around in the surface waters of Lake Erie, we found that temporary accumulation regions formed but did not persist as they do in the ocean. In Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes, strong winds break up the accumulation regions.

Three-dimensional transport simulations of particle movement in Lake Erie, based on water current models developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Subsequent simulations have also found no evidence for a Great Lakes garbage patch. Initially this seems like good news. But we know that a lot of plastic is entering the lakes. If it is not accumulating at their centers, where is it?

Using our models, we created maps that predict the average surface distribution of Great Lakes plastic pollution. They show that most of it ends up closer to shore. This helps to explain why so much plastic is found on Great Lakes beaches: In 2017 alone, volunteers with the Alliance for the Great Lakes collected more than 16 tons of plastic at beach cleanups. If more plastic is ending up near shore, where more wildlife is located and where we obtain our drinking water, is that really a better outcome than a garbage patch?

Searching for missing plastic

We estimate that over four tons of microplastic are floating in Lake Erie. This figure is only a small fraction of the approximately 2,500 tons of plastic that we estimate enter the Lake each year. Similarly, researchers have found that their estimates of how much plastic is floating at the ocean’s surface account for only around 1 percent of estimated input. Plastic pollution has adverse effects on many organisms, and to predict which ecosystems and organisms are most affected, it is essential to understand where it is going.

We have begun using more advanced computer models to map the three-dimensional distribution of plastic pollution in the Great Lakes. Assuming that plastic simply moves with currents, we see that a large proportion of it is predicted to sink to lake bottoms. Mapping plastic pollution this way begins to shed light on exposure risks for different species, based on where in the lake they live.

According to our initial simulations, much of the plastic is expected to sink. This prediction is supported by sediment samples collected from the bottom of the Great Lakes, which can contain high concentrations of plastic.

Three-dimensional transport simulation in Lake Erie. Particle color represents depth below the water surface: the bluer the particle, the deeper it is.

In a real lake, plastic does not just move with the current. It also can float or sink, based on its size and density. As a particle floats and is “weathered” by sun and waves, breaks into smaller particles, and becomes colonized by bacteria and other microorganisms, its ability to sink will change.

Better understanding of the processes that affect plastic transport will enable us to generate more accurate models of how it moves through the water. In addition, we know little so far about how plastic is removed from the water as it lands on the bottom or the beach, or is ingested by organisms.

Prediction informs prevention

Developing a complete picture of how plastic pollution travels through waterways, and which habitats are most at risk, is crucial for conceiving and testing possible solutions. If we can accurately track different types of plastic pollution after they enter the water, we can focus on the types that end up in sensitive habitats and predict their ultimate fate.

Of course, preventing plastic from entering our waterways in the first place is the best way to eliminate the problem. But by determining which plastics are more toxic and also more likely to come into contact with sensitive organisms, or end up in our water supply, we can target the “worst of the worst.” With this information, government agencies and conservation groups can develop specific community education programs, target cleanup efforts and work with industries to develop alternatives to products that contain these materials.

Stop worrying about how much energy bitcoin uses

August 20, 2018

Katrina Kelly-Pitou

Research Associate in Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Pittsburgh

Disclosure statement

Katrina Kelly-Pitou receives funding from RK Mellon Foundation.


University of Pittsburgh

University of Pittsburgh provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

The word “bitcoin” is as likely to garnish feverish excitement as it is glaring criticism. The financial community sees speculative promise in the form of trade that currently has little to no regulation. Meanwhile, others argue that it’s a distraction that detracts from the overall longevity of U.S. financial institutions.

Bitcoin’s energy consumption has become a recent talking point in the debate. A Forbes article published May 30 indicates that bitcoin dramatically increases global energy consumption – and that electricity is its “Achilles heel.”

I am a researcher who studies clean energy technology, specifically the transition toward decarbonized energy systems. I think that the conversation around bitcoin and energy has been oversimplified.

New technologies – such as data centers, computers and before them trains, planes and automobiles – are often energy-intensive. Over time, all of these have become more efficient, a natural progression of any technology: Saving energy equates to saving costs.

By talking specifically about just the consumption of energy alone, I believe many fail to understand one of the most basic benefits of renewable energy systems. Electricity production can increase while still maintaining a minimal impact on the environment. Rather than focusing on how much energy bitcoin uses, the discussion should center around who indeed is producing it – and where their power comes from.

Counting consumption

Unlocking a bitcoin requires an intense amount of computational power. Think of bitcoin as sort of a hidden currency code, where its value is derived by solving a programmable puzzle. Getting through this puzzle requires computer brainpower.

Electricity is 90 percent of the cost to mine bitcoin. As such, bitcoin mining uses an exorbitant amount of power: somewhere between an estimated 30 terrawatt hours alone in 2017 alone. That’s as much electricity as it takes to power the entire nation of Ireland in one year.

Indeed, this is a lot, but not exorbitant. Banking consumes an estimated 100 terrawatts of power annually. If bitcoin technology were to mature by more than 100 times its current market size, it would still equal only 2 percent of all energy consumption.

Power sources

Bitcoin is certainly consuming an increasing amount of power worldwide, but is it increasing the world’s carbon consumption? Bitcoin miners have traditionally set up shop in China, where coal supplies 60 percent of the nation’s electricity.

Now, bitcoin mining is exploding in areas with cheap power, like the Pacific Northwest. Power there is mainly cheap due to the massive availability of hydropower, a low-carbon resource.

Bitcoin mining in China, with a largely fossil-based electricity source, may indeed be problematic. China is already one of the world’s major contributors of carbon emissions. However, bitcoin mining in Oregon? Not the same thing. Not all types of energy generation are equal in their impact on the environment, nor does the world uniformly rely on the same types of generation across states and markets.

In Europe, for example, Iceland is becoming a popular place for bitcoin mining. That nation relies on nearly 100 percent renewable energy for its production. An abundant supply of geothermal and hydropower energy makes bitcoiners’ power demand cheap and nearly irrelevant.

Similarly, in the hydropower-driven Pacific Northwest, miners can still expect to turn a profit without contributing heavily to carbon emissions.

The right discussion

Like many other aspects of the energy industry, bitcoin is not necessarily a “bad guy.” It’s simply a new, and vaguely understood, industry.

The discussion about energy consumption and bitcoin is, I believe, unfair without discussing the energy intensity of new technologies overall, specifically in data centers.

Rather than discussing the energy consumption of bitcoin generally, people should be discussing the carbon production of bitcoin, and understanding whether certain mining towns are adding to an already large environmental burden.

Although there has been extensive discussion in the media of bitcoin’s energy consumption, I’m not aware of any studies that actually calculate the comparative carbon footprint of the bitcoin process.

Global electricity consumption is going up overall. The U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts that world use will increase nearly 28 percent over the next two decades. But increasing energy consumption is bad only if we aren’t shifting toward less carbon-dense power production. So far, it seems that only miners are currently shifting toward cleaner parts of the world.

So perhaps people should quit criticizing bitcoin for its energy intensity and start criticizing states and nations for still providing new industries with dirty power supplies instead.

President Donald Trump salutes on his arrival on Air Force One at Morristown Municipal Airport in Morristown, N.J., Friday, Aug. 17, 2018, en route to Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) Donald Trump salutes on his arrival on Air Force One at Morristown Municipal Airport in Morristown, N.J., Friday, Aug. 17, 2018, en route to Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Donald Trump poses for photographs while greeting members of the military on the tarmac upon his arrival on Air Force One at Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton, N.Y., Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. Trump traveled to New York for a campaign fundraiser with supporters and will then travel to Bedminster, N.J, to spend the weekend at his private golf resort. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) Donald Trump poses for photographs while greeting members of the military on the tarmac upon his arrival on Air Force One at Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton, N.Y., Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. Trump traveled to New York for a campaign fundraiser with supporters and will then travel to Bedminster, N.J, to spend the weekend at his private golf resort. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

FILE – In this Jan. 20, 2017, file photo, military units participate in the inaugural parade from the Capitol to the White House in Washington, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. A U.S. official says the 2018 Veterans Day military parade ordered up by President Donald Trump would cost about $92 million _ more than three times the maximum initial estimate. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File) – In this Jan. 20, 2017, file photo, military units participate in the inaugural parade from the Capitol to the White House in Washington, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. A U.S. official says the 2018 Veterans Day military parade ordered up by President Donald Trump would cost about $92 million _ more than three times the maximum initial estimate. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

Staff & Wire Reports