Does money grow on volcanoes? El Salvador explores bitcoin mining

El Salvador President Nayib Bukele speaks during a news conference in San Salvador

(Reuters) -El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele said on Wednesday that he has instructed state-owned geothermal electric firm LaGeo to develop a plan to offer bitcoin mining facilities using renewable energy from the country’s volcanoes.

El Salvador became the first country in the world to adopt bitcoin as legal tender after its Congress approved Bukele’s proposal to embrace the cryptocurrency.

“This is going to evolve fast!” Bukele said on Twitter.

The Central American leader’s announcement has put a spotlight on the environmental impact of cryptocurrencies, which are virtual coins exchanged without middlemen, such as central banks, to purchase goods and services.

The process of extracting the currency from cyberspace, however, requires vast amounts of energy.

The global bitcoin industry’s overall C02 emissions have risen to 60 million tons, equal to the exhaust from about 9 million cars, according to a March report by Bank of America analysts.

Later on Wednesday, Bukele shared a video on his Twitter account showing a powerful plume of what he said was pure water vapor projected into the air from a pipeline.

“Our engineers just informed me that they dug a new well, that will provide approximately 95MW of 100% clean, 0 emissions geothermal energy from our volcanoes,” Bukele said.

“Starting to design a full #Bitcoin mining hub around it,” he added.

Bukele also changed his Twitter profile photo to an edited image of himself with blue laser eyes, a popular internet fad among supporters of cryptocurrency.

His previous photo, updated when he announced his intention to send a bill to make bitcoin legal, featured him with red laser eyes.

(Reporting by Anthony Esposito and Cassandra GarrisonEditing by Marguerita Choy)