Shell’s lubricants arm has agreed to sponsor a Miami Beach Bitcoin conference in 2023 and 2024, with the event getting into trouble in the past for failing to prevent harassment of women.
The Bitcoin 2023 event offers those interested in cryptocurrencies a chance to “celebrate another year of progress towards hyperbitcoinization”. Bitcoin Magazine CEO David Bailey said Shell entering the “bitcoin mining space is a big win for bitcoin”. The magazine organises the conference.
The conference is not without controversy, though. Some attendees have raised allegations about harassment of women at the Miami Beach event, held earlier this year.
Wired reported a “trail of harassment” at the Bitcoin 2022 conference. It reported participants issuing “graphic insults” and sexual references on social media. The report also noted some incidents where attendees made women physically unsafe.
Wired compared the conference to a “bacchanal”, saying the event where attendees were given the impression it was a “place where there are no rules”. Reporters said it had the “freewheeling energy of a bachelor party”.
One of the women who faced harassment was Rachel Siegel. The conference organisers failed to take her concerns seriously. Siegel will not be returning to Bitcoin 2023.
“After everything that happened I’m genuinely scared to be around the organizers and attendees, [I] want nothing to do with them,” she told Energy Voice.
CEO Bailey dismissed criticism of the event at the time as “woke bullshit”. He went on to say “Don’t let a few bad apples color the community”.
I absolutely despise woke bullshit but I want to build a community where everyone feels welcomed and people aren’t harassed over shit they can’t change. Someone on our team engaged with a dumb tweet from our official account. Extremely immature and I’m pissed about it /1
— David Bailey🇵🇷 #FreeZiya_Sadr (@DavidFBailey) April 13, 2022
A Shell representative said Pennzoil-Quaker State Company (Shell Lubricants) has launched a “two-year sponsorship agreement (not a partnership agreement) with BTC Media LLC to sponsor the Bitcoin conference in 2023 and 2024”.
To produce Bitcoin requires the use of substantial – and increasing – computing power.
According to the initial announcement from Bitcoin Magazine, now deleted, Shell officials will attend the conference and talk about improving bitcoin mining through the use of its lubricant and cooling products.
Shell declined to comment specifically on allegations of harassment and impropriety at the Bitcoin 2022 conference.
Bailey said Shell was “just one of the many big-name companies” working on a bitcoin strategy in the next few years. “We’re confident they will be welcomed with open arms at the Bitcoin Conference.”
The Shell official played down the extent of the company’s involvement.
“At this time, Shell Lubricants has not invested in any cryptocurrency but does produce immersion cooling fluids available for data centers. An earlier media release by Bitcoin magazine mischaracterized our involvement with cryptocurrency,” she said.
Shell produces lubricants using its gas-to-liquids (GTL) technology. The company says it designed its Shell Immersion Cooling Fluid S5 X for liquid cooling of data servers.
Shell Lubricants’ Darin Gonzalez said data servers can cut energy costs by using immersion cooling.
BTC Media’s Brandon Green said the cooling fluids helped in the “heat exchange process for ASIC mining”. He did not comment on the issues around sexual harrassment.
A researcher at the University of New Mexico in September criticised bitcoin production. Bitcoin mining, he said, was “becoming dirtier and more damaging to the climate over time. In short, Bitcoin’s environmental footprint is moving in the wrong direction.”
In 2020, the university said, bitcoin consumed 75.4 TWh of electricity. This is more than Austria or Portugal.
Amid the conference’s misogyny problem and the environmental impact of bitcoin, cryptocurrencies are struggling.
Buffeted by macroeconomic forces, and the recent implosion of FTX and Sam Bankman-Fried, bitcoin has dropped to $16,500. In November 2021, bitcoin was trading at $61,543.