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Bitcoin Steadies as Elon Musk Clarifies Tweets; Tesla Holdings in Focus

Tesla CEO Elon Musk renewed his criticism of the world's biggest cryptocurrency late Sunday, but noted that 'to clarify speculation, Tesla has not sold any Bitcoin.'

Bitcoin prices slumped to the lowest levels since early February Monday after Tesla  (TSLA) - Get Tesla Inc. Report CEO Elon Musk hinted in a Twitter exchange that his clean-energy car company could sell all of its holdings in the digital currency. 

In a reply to a cryptocurrency blogger known as @CryptoWhale, who had suggested bitcoin enthusiasts would be even more angry with the Tesla founder "when they find out Tesla dumped the rest of their #Bitcoin holdings", Musk replied "indeed". 

He later noted that, "to clarify speculation", Tesla has not sold any of its $1.5 billion in bitcoin, but nonetheless renewed his criticism of the world's biggest cryptocurrency in a series of exchanges with various bitcoin enthusiasts. 

Bitcoin prices were marked 10.1% lower from their early Sunday highs to trade at $45,385.65 each on the Coindesk exchange Monday, a move that marks a 31.2% slump from the all-time high of $64,829.14 it reached on April 15.

Tesla shares, meanwhile, were marked 1.7% lower in early Monday trading to change hands at $5778.90 each. 

Musk courted anger within the bitcoin community last week when he said Tesla would no longer accept the digital token as payment -- nor add to its $1.5 billion quarter-end holdings -- until developers found a way for it to consume less energy during the mining process.

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Last week Musk, who began accepting bitcoin as payment for Tesla vehicles in March, said he was concerned about the "rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for bitcoin mining and transactions", citing the use of coal to power the controversial process.

Bank of America published a report earlier this year that detailed the heavy environmental cost of bitcoin's complicated settlement procedure, noting that the CO2 emissions required to "mine" each transaction are at similar levels to that of Greece, a top fifty global economy, at around 60 tons.

A single bitcoin transaction, in fact, consumes the same amount of energy as 735,121 transactions from Visa  (V) - Get Visa Inc. Report.

Musk  also polled his 53 million Twitter followers to ask if Tesla should instead accept Dogecoin as a form of payment, adding later that he was "working with developers to improve system transaction efficiency", describing the talks as "potentially promising."

Musk said Tesla would hold onto its current bitcoin holdings -- which generated a $101 million boost to its bottom line last quarter -- but will "use it for transactions as soon as mining transitions to more sustainable energy."

Tesla, which unveiled a purchase of $1.5 billion on February 8 when it published its annual report, noted on April 26 that its 'cash and cash equivalents' stood at $17.1 billion at quarter-end, including its bitcoin holdings.

Under U.S. accounting rules, Tesla's bitcoin holdings must be held as a so-called 'intangible' asset on its corporate balance sheet. That means that, like the value of "goodwill", it can't be increased. However, it can be marked down when bitcoin prices decline, leaving Tesla's stock price at least partly-linked to bitcoin fluctuations.