Stop Worrying About How Much Energy Bitcoin Uses

August 24, 2018 / by Cathy Zollo

Bitcoin critics like to point to the cryptocurrency’s energy usage as an argument against its rise to prominence in the global economy. We are not sure of their true agenda, but we have said from the beginning that, when criticizing Bitcoin in this way, critics have to be honest.

Many are not. They trot out the “Bitcoin uses as much energy as a small country” argument with zero nuance and without providing details about the actual carbon footprint of Bitcoin or the energy expenditure of the current financial system. Energy comes from many sources, as most people know, and some are cleaner than others.

As well, Bitcoin miners are profit driven, so they always have an eye toward reducing costs. If you consider that 90 percent of a miner’s cost is energy, it makes sense that they would seek greater efficiencies in how they power their computers and cool them. We wrote about a Texas operation earlier this week that uses much more efficient liquid cooling, thus saving 90 percent of energy costs and only needing to run air conditioning in the three hottest months of the year.

Yes, Bitcoin miners in China who largely use fossil fuels to power their operations are a problem. But miners in the American Northwest, who use hydroelectric power, and miners in Northern Europe, who use geothermal and other clean energy, are not. Those facts are often left out of any discussion about Bitcoin’s energy usage.

And it’s only going to get more efficient. It’s a bottom line thing, maybe not an environmental sustainability effort, but the effect is the same. And it might just be both.