Bitcoin: An Environmental Disaster


Bitcoin is also an environmental disaster, using on the order of 1 gigawatt (GW) (that’s a billion watts) according to a 2013 and 2014 paper[62][63] Estimates would be about 7 GW by end of 2015 as the paper[62] shows approximately power use scales linearly with mining difficulty and mining difficulty in December 2015 is about 7 times the difficulty than when the paper is published (remember, mining each Bitcoin is more difficult than the previous one.) For comparison, the entire nation of Ireland runs about 3 GW average. The network cost per transaction (of any size) is around $20 of electricity.[64] (Thus, Bitcoin runs on libertarians externalising their costs to others.[65]) If only they’d based it on protein folding.[66] The actual processing done by the miners could be done by a Raspberry Pi; the only reason to waste gigajoules a day is to keep it distributed without trust between actors. It turns out trust is vastly more efficient.


[62] ↑ 62.0 62.1 Bitcoin power consumption is estimated at between 0.1 and 10 GW average over 2014; Ireland consumed around 3 GW average. O’Dwyer and Malone. “Bitcoin Mining and its Energy Footprint.” Presented at ISSC 2014 / CIICT 2014, Limerick, June 26–27 2014.

[63] ↑ 982MWh per day in 2013: Bitcoin’s Environmental Problem, CleanTechnica

[64] ↑ $20 in October 2014; peak was $90/transaction in January 2014. (NASDAQ charges way less in comparison per transaction, indicated by the fact that your broker makes money with said commissions.)

[65] ↑ Then comes the argument that in a libertarian world everyone would have generated their own power and those who want to make more money would “invest in infrastructures” and keep their tools of trade in working order.

[66] ↑ Someone did come up with CureCoin, which rewards both ASICs securing the blockchain and CPU/GPU protein folding. Note that protein folding doesn’t have the same security properties hashes have.



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