Friday, October 20, 2017 [Tweets] [Favorites]

The Ridiculous Amount of Energy It Takes to Run Bitcoin

Peter Fairley (via Hacker News):

The ever-expanding racks of processors used by miners already consume as much electricity as a small city. It’s a problem that experts say is bad and getting worse.

[…]

The Bitcoin leech sucking on the world’s power grids has been held in check, so far, by rapid gains in the energy efficiency of mining hardware. But energy and blockchain analysts are worried about the possibility of a perfect storm: Those efficiency gains are slowing while bitcoin value is rising fast—and its potential transaction growth is immense.

[…]

Developers of blockchains for such disparate applications as health care management and solar-power trading see Bitcoin’s energy-intensive design as a nonstarter and are now crafting more sustainable blockchains.

Update (2018-12-27): Drew Millard (via Nick Heer):

In his testimony, Narayanan estimates that Bitcoin mining now uses about five gigawatts of electricity per day (in May, estimates of Bitcoin power consumption were about half of that). He adds that when you’ve got a computer racing with all its might to earn a free Bitcoin, it’s going to be running hot as hell, which means you’re probably using even more electricity to keep the computer cool so it doesn’t die and/or burn down your entire mining center, which probably makes the overall cost associated with mining even higher.

3 Comments

Mining definitely takes a lot of energy, but it's easily quantifiable. How much energy is used to mint and secure (banks' data centers, armored trucks, etc) the USD? I don't know how to measure or estimate that exactly but if there are estimates it would be really useful to do a comparison.

It's cringe-inducing how awful this is from multiple perspectives (sustainability, social equity, etc...)

@Kevin: A comparison would be interesting if BTC were comparable to USD on the basic requirements of a currency, such as security, optional anonymity, widespread acceptance, transaction speed, and no dramatic fluctuations in value over the short- and long-term. Unfortunately, BTC fails all of these criteria.

The glaring exacerbation of economic inequality promised by crypto-currencies is just icing on the cake. The early/easy mining always goes to people who have the spare time to pay attention to this stuff and the spare cash to buy mining CPUs/GPUs/ASICs and pay the power bills.

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