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Bitcoin could cost us our clean-energy future
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-12-06 20:19:46

The total energy use of this web of hardware is huge - an estimated 31 terawatt-hours per year. More than 150 individual countries in the world consume less energy annually. And that power-hungry network is currently increasing its energy use every day by about 450 gigawatt-hours, roughly the same amount of electricity the entire country of Haiti uses in a year.

[...]

In just a few months from now, at bitcoin's current growth rate, the electricity demanded by the cryptocurrency network will start to outstrip what's available, requiring new energy-generating plants. And with the climate conscious racing to replace fossil fuel-base plants with renewable energy sources, new stress on the grid means more facilities using dirty technologies. By July 2019, the bitcoin network will require more electricity than the entire United States currently uses. By February 2020, it will use as much electricity as the entire world does today.

This is an unsustainable trajectory. It simply can't continue.

Not only is bitcoin tulips, but it's also incredibly bad for our planet. These energy numbers are insanity.

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That is the problem with Bitcoin in general
By Lennie on 2017-12-06 20:50:41
Bitcoin technically is not moving forward. It's stagnant and hasn't improved much. There is no way they can make proper decisions. People just seem to not be able to work together. No governance (and I'm not talking about government here. Just finding ways to agree on what should be done and how).

Other than the brand name and being first and the biggest 'marketcap' I'm not sure why Bitcoin is still in the race.

Edited 2017-12-06 20:52 UTC
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Power cost money
By Earl C Pottinger on 2017-12-06 21:13:20
Did the authour account for the money needed for the power to do this mining?

If it takes as much power as they project the cost of doing the mining will become greater than the money made from the mining.

After-all, the power has to come from somewhere but even wind and solar is not free!
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RE: That is the problem with Bitcoin in general
By WorknMan on 2017-12-06 21:30:06
> There is no way they can make proper decisions. People just seem to not be able to work together.

This is a pretty universal problem though, isn't it? How many open source projects have been forked over the years, because developers couldn't agree on something or other? Hundreds? Thousands?
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Comparison
By jessesmith on 2017-12-06 21:31:10
I wonder how the energy numbers compare to something like YouTube usage, or NSA data storage or World of Warcraft. People only seem to be interested in these numbers and their environmental impact because "Bitcoin" is in the title.

I'd like to draw attention to one telling blub in one of the linked articles where they talk about trying to estimate energy consumption: "Even though the total network hashrate can easily be calculated, it is impossible to tell what this means in terms of energy consumption as there is no central register with all active machines (and their exact power consumption)." So take the figures presented in the Grist article with a big grain of salt.

Edited 2017-12-06 21:37 UTC
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Scalability
By Alfman on 2017-12-07 00:22:25
This has been a known problem with bitcoin's "proof of work" model for years. It's only just now that people are beginning to get the impact of it though.

There are other crypto coins models that don't require wasting energy, "proof of stake" for example:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pro...

Alas there's no silver bullet as these require varying tradeoffs and even privileged nodes.

We had a fairly long discussion about this stuff not long ago:
http://www.osnews.com/thread?651...

In my last post I actually suggested that crypto currencies might be eliminated all together in favor of multiparty peer to peer bartering. I'm curious what people have to say about that?
http://www.osnews.com/thread?651...
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RE: Comparison
By Alfman on 2017-12-07 00:28:10
jessesmith,

> I wonder how the energy numbers compare to something like YouTube usage, or NSA data storage or World of Warcraft. People only seem to be interested in these numbers and their environmental impact because "Bitcoin" is in the title.

It's been compared to visa's energy costs in processing credit card transactions:

https://motherboard.vice.com/en_u...

> Computer cooling firm Allied Control estimates the total power consumption of the Bitcoin network at 250 to 500 Megawatts. Looking at the total hashrate, which is the number of calculations the network can perform per second, and applying a generous miner efficiency of 0.6 watts per gigahash, we can estimate our own back-of-the-envelope Bitcoin network constant power draw at just under 215 MW, although this figure is always in flux (it's important to note that many of the variables in my calculation are constantly changing slightly). That's around enough zap to power 173,000 average American households' daily electricity usage.

With about 110,000 transactions per day, that works out to 1.57 households daily usage of electricity per Bitcoin transaction. Yes, every time you buy something in Bitcoin, you could be using as much electricity as 1.57 American families do in a day.

...

According to Network Computing, the VISA network can process more than 80 billion transactions per year or 2,537 transactions per second, using two mirrored data centers, each capable of running the entire network. The larger data center is currently pulling enough power for 25,000 households' daily electricity, so we'll double that to account for VISA's total draw. In 2013, VISA's investor reports say the company processed 58.5 billion transactions.

Working off these (admittedly imperfect) figures, each VISA transaction consumes around 0.0003 household's daily electricity use. That makes Bitcoin about 5,033 times more energy intensive, per transaction, than VISA, at current usage levels.

Of course, VISA runs call centers, offices, and a whole lot else on electricity as well, which isn't counted in this comparison. But those hardly matter due to the extreme difference between the two figures.



Sure you can fudge some numbers hear and there, but objectively, I think it'll be hard to argue bitcoin doesn't have a problem.
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RE: Comparison
By JLF65 on 2017-12-07 01:14:45
I dug into it a little and found one comparison that put it into the proper perspective. All the bitcoin mining in the world per year uses ALMOST as much energy as we burn on Christmas lights here in the US. So is it actually an issue that we need to address right now? If it is, then doesn't that mean there are other issues just as pressing that must be addressed right now?
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RE[2]: Comparison
By Brendan on 2017-12-07 02:37:58
Hi,

> I dug into it a little and found one comparison that put it into the proper perspective. All the bitcoin mining in the world per year uses ALMOST as much energy as we burn on Christmas lights here in the US. So is it actually an issue that we need to address right now? If it is, then doesn't that mean there are other issues just as pressing that must be addressed right now?

I agree - sooner or later, the Christmas lights issue should also be addressed (and not just the power consumption, but the cost of manufacturing the lights, etc too). I'm mean honestly, are some stupid flashing lights really "necessary" (Jesus didn't have any!), or is it just gullible consumers being sucked in by companies telling them to buy more useless crap?

Fortunately Christmas lights aren't 365 days per year though, so I guess that issue can wait while we fix bitcoin mining.

- Brendan

Edited 2017-12-07 02:38 UTC
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RE[2]: Comparison
By Alfman on 2017-12-07 02:38:52
JLF65,

> I dug into it a little and found one comparison that put it into the proper perspective. All the bitcoin mining in the world per year uses ALMOST as much energy as we burn on Christmas lights here in the US. So is it actually an issue that we need to address right now? If it is, then doesn't that mean there are other issues just as pressing that must be addressed right now?


The main problem is that it gets worse as bitcoins become more popular and valuable. On the one hand, we could cap the rewards & fees to miners to lessen the incentives to build more and more data centers for mining bitcoins. But on the other, having many competing data centers is absolute crucial to bitcoin's security. So for security reasons you'd want those data centers being built, but from an environmental perspective, it's quite wasteful.

Edited 2017-12-07 02:41 UTC
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Bitcoin is worthless
By agentj on 2017-12-07 05:17:23
I think instead of delegalising bitcoin, it should be completely legal to "steal" - it's not physical so you can create a copy without destroying original and it's not controlled/protected by any government so why they should care if someone copies your digits ? After all it is merely a number. If you dig for diamonds, gold, copper, etc. you still need lots of energy, but you get very useful physical resources to create millions of things. What is bitcoin useful for ? Not a god damn thing. At most it has value of toilet paper you can print that number on. When you can get salary in bitcoin and pay for you bills or at a grocery store then it might have some use. Why idiots who "lose" the bitcoin cry so much that they lost x amount of USD ? If one looses gold, cash or work of art they will think about these items not their value, so it shows even in one's mind bitcoin ain't worth shit.
Permalink - Score: 2

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