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Bitcoin Power The Almighty Buck

Nobody Knows How Much Energy Bitcoin Is Using (vice.com) 161

dmoberhaus writes: A new report published in 'Joule' today claims Bitcoin may use up to 0.5% of the world's energy by the end of this year. We often hear about how bad Bitcoin is for the environment -- it already uses the same amount of energy as the country of Ireland -- but these numbers are usually just the /minimum/ amount of energy the network must be using. The actual amount of energy used by the Bitcoin network is likely substantially higher, but getting an accurate reading on that energy level is hard. The only researcher trying to quantify Bitcoin's energy use spoke to Motherboard about opening Bitcoin's 'black box.'

Nobody Knows How Much Energy Bitcoin Is Using

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  • Especially considering web page scripting running stuff in ways as anti-efficient as you can get, relying on millons of copies to keep up with the Joneses.

    Still, if it helps drive green generation, well, that's right in line with supply and demand.

  • Bitcoin is the same push of technology somewhat comparable to the very early car prototype that actually worked, which is MB model 1886, https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com] Both prototypes are operational. Both are not really good at how energy is consumed. Both have a capacity that is realy low However, both deliver from point A to B. Also, they both served a prototype, a grandaddy for the future models. MB 1886 still runs they way it has been designed 130 years ago and Bitcoin will run they way it is des
    • by jythie ( 914043 )
      The problem with BTC is that it is designed to use as much power as possible, with an arms race of whoever is willing to throw more power at it getting a bigger slice of the cumulative pie. It can not get any less power intensive because there is a financial incentive to out spend your competitors.
      • And not just outspend competitors - you also have to outspend fraudsters trying to create a large enough consensus for fake transactions.

  • More importantly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bobstreo ( 1320787 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2018 @01:31PM (#56621556)

    how much bandwidth does it consume?

    You can always toss some solar panels and a powerbank into your cabin in the woods to mine.

    I know there are concerted efforts to thermal map grow sites, and bitcoin miners are starting to be of interest.

    The power company knows how much electricity you're using, and they can figure out from your billing information if you're doing something "extra"

  • How much power is being saved due to heating uses that aren't necessary? Ultimately a computer turns electrons into heat while doing some useful stuff (like playing cat videos) while doing it. The heat is no less for playing the cat video. So a computer is effectively the same as a resistive heater like a space heater is. So if a computer is a space heater which turns its power almost entirely into heat, it must be offsetting heating needs some of the time and increasing cooling needs other times.

  • Sure, Bitcoin (especially mining) use a lot of energy, but how does it compare to other currency?

      - How much energy are used to print/make money and get the raw materia?
      - How much energy is used to store money? (Bank and others)
      - How much energy is used to do transaction with money?
      - What about Wall Street?
    etc.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Not just money. How much energy is wasted by people watching funny cat movies, playing games, or any other kind of unproductive entertainment ?

      • And how much energy is wasted by space aliens flying around Alpha Centauri in their rocket ships?

        Oh wait, I think you, I, and the GP have maybe lost sight of anything remotely on-topic or relevant to the discussion at hand.

    • by jythie ( 914043 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2018 @01:58PM (#56621754)
      The major difference is that with all those other examples there is no arms race for power usage. The more energy you sink into mining the bigger the payoff you get, and the system can support essentially an infinite amount of energy input. So energy usage will always scale up to match energy cost, while in those other domains energy usage is a cost that only drives down profit.
    • Sure, Bitcoin (especially mining) use a lot of energy, but how does it compare to other currency?

      - How much energy are used to print/make money and get the raw materia?

      - How much energy is used to store money? (Bank and others)

      - How much energy is used to do transaction with money?

      - What about Wall Street?
      etc.

      On a per transaction level? I tiny fraction of what Bitcoin does and with plenty of room to spare.

  • For 300 bitcoins I'll tell you how much.

  • I'm sure Bitcoin seemed like a good idea at the time but the thought of the human race's death being hastened due to a made-up currency for drug dealers and launderers is hard to swallow.
  • Sweet Mercy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by American AC in Paris ( 230456 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2018 @02:13PM (#56621830) Homepage

    That a nifty thought experiment from 2008 now uses a measurable and rapidly increasing percentage of global energy output should be cause enough for geekdom to feel ashamed of itself.

    That the end result of this energy use is ensuring we can maintain FSM-knows-how-many simultaneous copies of a rapidly-growing 167 GB file for the purposes of maintaining a fraud-rife, impractical-to-use, and highly volatile digital currency should have us cowering in our basements and refusing to ever show our faces in polite society again.

    wait

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sexconker ( 1179573 )

      Who cares? Let the energy costs adjust and fix it naturally. As for storage, you don't need to store the whole blockchain as a mere user.

      • Who cares? Let the energy costs adjust and fix it naturally. As for storage, you don't need to store the whole blockchain as a mere user.

        Lots of people care, sexconker. There's every reason to not want to spend huge amounts of power generation on something that is, for all intents and purposes, an intangible speculative investment used by a very small number of people.

        Generating all this energy has real-world consequences. It create huge amounts of real-world physical waste. It creates huge amounts of real-world air pollution. Worse, it does all this by design: there's no way to make Bitcoin more energy efficient, as every gain in energy eff

        • Who cares? Let the energy costs adjust and fix it naturally. As for storage, you don't need to store the whole blockchain as a mere user.

          Lots of people care, sexconker. There's every reason to not want to spend huge amounts of power generation on something that is, for all intents and purposes, an intangible speculative investment used by a very small number of people.

          You haven't shown who cares or that there are lots of those who do.

          Further, I don't think we should spend huge amounts of power generation on sporting events. Does that mean others should care? Does it mean sports stadiums should be shut down? What if I get "lots of people" to say they care like I do?

          Or maybe, just maybe, people can buy electricity and do what they want with it.

  • by Rick Schumann ( 4662797 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2018 @02:36PM (#56621982) Journal
    There may have been all of 15 minutes right at the beginning that it wasn't cancerous, but after that it was cancer 24/7/365. Just kill it all off and make it go away.
  • writing and reading about Bitcoin...

  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2018 @03:07PM (#56622174)

    Should we talk about how much energy is wasted building and maintaining heavily fortified bank buildings that warehouse large stacks of colorful paper? Or why the US is still minting fucking pennies?

    When comparing standard currency to cryptocurrency, traditional proprietors of legal tender have zero room to talk about overhead or waste. At least bitcoin doesn't have to exist as physical tender, and we've done fucking nothing to minimize or eliminate the massive burden of printing and minting cash, regardless of the popularity of electronic transactions. The US Mint spends billions every year just in metals and materials costs.

    • Yawn, read the thread. This has already been debunked. Bitcoin still uses more: people smarter than you have done the math.

      The same infrastructure fiat needs,
      Bitcoin needs that and some, it's a no brainer.

      • Yawn, read the thread. This has already been debunked.

        When TFA title starts with "Nobody Knows", I'd say there hasn't been a damn thing truly "debunked". Bullshit comparisons to Christmas lights sure isn't doing it.

        Bitcoin still uses more: people smarter than you have done the math.

        The same infrastructure fiat needs, Bitcoin needs that and some, it's a no brainer.

        Fiat currency and Bitcoin uses the same infrastructure? Care to explain exactly how bitcoin requires physical banks? Or requires a multi-billion dollar organization (US Mint) to print and mint the currency? Not to mention the fact that traditional currency is often backed by precious metals, so let's add traditional mining to the mix too. Hell,

    • I'm too lazy to do math I am completely positive will come out in favor of my argument, but that isn't going to stop me from spelling it out for you.
      Yes, we should talk about that.
      However, that money, spent for that volume of economic transactions, is a fucking miniscule fraction of what it is for BTC.
      I'm not sure you appreciate how much power .5% of the world's power generation is.
      If you scaled BTC up to say, the world's economic throughput in transactions, we'd all die of heat stroke before the centur
    • by American AC in Paris ( 230456 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2018 @05:07PM (#56622922) Homepage

      Should we talk about how much energy is wasted building and maintaining heavily fortified bank buildings that warehouse large stacks of colorful paper? Or why the US is still minting fucking pennies?

      Oh, hey, I agree! Minting pennies is stupid, and we should stop doing it! Paper money is also pretty limited in its utility, and we should try to find ways to minimize it! We could probably find lots of ways to make fiat currency more energy efficient overall, and we should!

      We can find and implement these efficiencies this without causing the collapse of the entire currency. We can find ways to make classical fiat money more energy efficient. Energy costs are not intrinsic to the value of fiat currency. All it takes is political will--tough, sure, but far from impossible.

      Bitcoin, on the other hand, is defined by energy cost. We literally can not make Bitcoin more energy efficient.

      Bitcoin is designed to require maximal energy usage. So long as the energy cost of mining a block is lower than the value of that block, it's worth it to spend the energy. So long as the number of nodes increases, the energy cost per transaction will increase. So long as the length of the blockchain increases, the energy cost per transaction will increase.

      In other words: so long as Bitcoin continues to be a viable currency, its energy costs will only increase.

      The only way to make Bitcoin more energy efficient is to fork it to a model that doesn't tie value to energy costs. Good luck convincing the world of Bitcoin to do that. You'd have an easier time killing the quarter, let alone the penny.

      • Considering the fact you can mine bitcoins via special cloud mining services, I wouldn't say that it always consumes as much energy as mentioned above. For example, I have a friend who tries to make a living off crypto and to maximize his income he uses hashflare codes such as these http://hashflare-redeem-code.n... [hashflare-...m-code.net] for his contract and it works quite well for him. Basically he kills 2 birds with one stone, no extra costs for electricity and consistent profit from his contract.
  • It's simple:

    You take the difficulty and current block rate to determine an estimate of the current hashrate (you can also get this info from pools that share).
    You could also add 1% or 2% for wasted work (stale shares, for example) and other overhead.
    Then you take the best ASIC you can find and get the hash/Watt conversion. Then cut that in half that since much of the network will be powered by older shit.

    Then you take your hashrate and divide by your ASIC efficiency and bingo bango, you've got an estimate

  • Then again new debt (all fiat currencies) are spent into things which cause environmental damage too.

  • What about electronic games? Come to that, does anyone know how much energy is being consume simply for entertainment?

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