‘Shark Tank’ investor Kevin O’Leary hated Bitcoin for years. Now he thinks it’s going to ‘save the world’

April 8, 2022, 9:00 AM UTC

This week, Shark Tank investor Kevin O’Leary joined countless other Bitcoiners at the Bitcoin 2022 conference in Miami. 

But just a short time ago, O’Leary called Bitcoin a “giant nothing-burger,” “worthless,” and “garbage.”

His opinions have since changed—and rather dramatically.

“Bitcoin mining is going to save the world,” O’Leary said during his keynote convention speech on Wednesday. 

A major criticism of the cryptocurrency is that it’s energy-intensive and bad for the environment. But O’Leary believes that’s where the opportunity lies. 

The entrepreneur told Fortune that he envisions a future in which Bitcoin mines are powered by hydroelectric or nuclear power. He plans to invest in transmission lines that connect them—and says they have the potential to power neighboring communities along the way. 

“One of the biggest investment opportunities I’ve ever had”

At the end of March, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced plans to enact a proposal mandating public companies to tell their shareholders and the federal government how they affect the climate. It hasn’t gone into effect yet. 

Bitcoin currently operates on a proof-of-work model, in which miners must race to complete complex puzzles in order to validate transactions on the blockchain, and earn coins. This requires a lot of power, which is why its environmental impact is often criticized.

Currently, the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance estimates that Bitcoin uses slightly more energy a year than the country of Norway, at 142.4 terawatt hours compared to 124.3 terawatt hours respectively. It also estimates that roughly 39% of Bitcoin mining uses sustainable energy sources, such as hydroelectric, solar, nuclear or wind power.

O’Leary believes that the SEC proposal and further regulation, rather than sounding a death knell for companies that invest in Bitcoin, will result in Bitcoin mining operations using more climate-friendly power. And he’s certain that green Bitcoin mining will become “one of the biggest investment opportunities I’ve ever had.”

“Whether you agree with ESG [Environmental, Social, and Governance] mandates or whether you agree with what’s been proposed by the SEC, you can’t ignore it,” he said. “So you’ve got to deal with it. The way I’m dealing with it is with hydro and nuclear power.”

O’Leary is hopeful that people will build Bitcoin mining centers that use hydroelectric or nuclear power to operate in what he calls the “Norway model.” One would find a location with an abundance of hydroelectricity, pay for a transmission line to be set up, and use it to build a Bitcoin mining center. That line could in turn provide extra electricity to neighboring communities.  

Some communities might not want this built, O’Leary acknowledges. But he told Fortune he has already invested in hydro-powered bitcoin mining, and plans to continue to do so. 

“I’m gonna spend the next 10 years doing this,” he said.

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