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Cryptocurrency and energy consumption debate

TechCrunch | Leigh Cuen | Mar 21, 2021

crypto energy consumption debate - Cryptocurrency and energy consumption debateEnergy consumption has become the latest flashpoint for cryptocurrency. Critics decry it as an energy hog while proponents hail it for being less intensive than the current global economy.

One such critic, DigiEconomist founder Alex de Vries, said he’s “never seen anything that is as inefficient as bitcoin.”

On the other side of the debate, research by ARK Investment Management found the Bitcoin ecosystem consumes less than 10% of the energy required for the traditional banking system. While it’s true the banking system serves far more people, cryptocurrency is still maturing and, like any industry, the early infrastructure stage is particularly intensive.

The cryptocurrency mining industry, which garnered almost $1.4 billion in February 2021 alone, is not yet unusually terrible for the environment compared to other aspects of modern life in an industrialized society. Even de Vries told TechCrunch that if eco-conscious regulators “took all possible actions against Bitcoin, it’s unlikely you’d get all governments to go along with that” mining regulation.

“Ideally, change comes from within,” de Vries said, adding he hopes Bitcoin Core developers will alter the software to require less computational energy. “I think Bitcoin consumes half as much energy as all the world’s data centers at the moment.”

According to the University of Cambridge’s bitcoin electricity consumption index, bitcoin miners are expected to consume roughly 130 Terawatt-hours of energy (TWh), which is roughly 0.6% of global electricity consumption. This puts the bitcoin economy on par with the carbon dioxide emissions of a small, developing nation like Sri Lanka or Jordan. Jordan, in particular, is home to 10 million people. It’s impossible to say how many people use bitcoin every month, and they certainly use it less often than residents in Amman use Jordanian dinars. But CoinMetrics data indicates more than 1 million bitcoin addresses are active, daily, out of up to 106 million accounts active in the past decade, as tallied by the exchange Crypto.com.

See:  How This Billionaire-Backed Crypto Startup Gets Paid To Not Mine Bitcoin

“We get the total population of unique bitcoin (BTC) and ether (ETH) users by counting the total number of addresses from listed exchanges, subtracting addresses owned by the same users on multiple exchanges,” said a Crypto.com spokesperson. “We then further reduce this number by accounting for users who own both ETH and BTC.”

That’s a lot of people using these financial networks. Plus, many bitcoin mining businesses rely on environmentally friendly energy sources like hydropower and capturing natural gas leaks from oil fields. A mining industry veteran, Compass Mining COO Thomas Heller, said Chinese hydropower mines in Sichuan and Yunnan get cheaper electricity during the wet season. They continue to use hydropower all year, he added, although it’s less profitable during the annual dry season.

“The electricity price outside of May to October [wet season] is much more expensive,” Heller said. “However, some farms do have water supply in other parts of the year.”

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