Cambridge University suggests bitcoin mining now consumes more electricity than the entire country of Argentina, following the results of an energy tracker.
The digital cryptocurrency exists entirely online and has no physical form or association with a real-life bank. Bitcoin is obtained through mining. Bitcoin mining uses powerful computer components, in particular graphics cards, to verify bitcoin transactions. Users are awarded bitcoin based on their contributions. Bitcoin mining has exploded recently given the increase in bitcoin value. Miners are putting together dedicated computing rigs to generate bitcoin. There is only a set amount of bitcoin in the world and once it’s all mined no more is created.
The Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index tracked the energy draw of bitcoin mining. It provides a “best-guess estimate” that is compared to other electricity uses to highlight how much power bitcoin mining consumes.
The latest updates suggest that bitcoin mining consumes 121.36 terawatt-hours’ worth of electricity per year. This number is higher than the average energy consumption of the country of Argentina. It also means bitcoin mining is close to using as much energy as Norway. When classified as a country, bitcoin is the 30th most-power-consuming in the world, consuming roughly 0.5% of the world’s electricity production.
While bitcoin is the most popular and well-known cryptocurrency, it isn’t the only one that miners are going after. There are over 1,650 cryptocurrencies available, including Ethereum and Dogecoin. All these coins are hoping for the same success as Bitcoin and it’s likely more coins will soon enter the market given all the media attention on cryptocurrency.
The bad news is that there’s no endpoint in sight for all this. Experts suggest crypto-mining, and the associated energy consumption, will continue unless bitcoin drops in price significantly. Hardware companies are also under pressure to create more powerful cards to suit miners. Given that a high quality mining rig uses as many graphics cards as possible, the environmental impact of cryptocurrency is only going to get worse.