Bitcoin consumes more energy than whole Switzerland, study says

Jul 05, 2019405

Bitcoin production already consumes 59.19 TWh of electricity per year - more than Switzerland (58.46 TWh), Greece (56.89 TWh) and Israel (55 TWh), for example. It shows a tool developed by the University of Cambridge and that estimates in real time the amount of electric power dedicated to cryptomade.


Bitcoins can be "mined" by computers that solve mathematical equations in order to reveal specific codes. The critpomoeda algorithm is designed to make it increasingly difficult to solve. Therefore, creating bitcoins always requires more computational power and, consequently, electrical energy.


Because bitcoins mining is dynamic and depends on a number of factors, such as computational power, cost of electric power and the network algorithm itself, the Cambridge University tool only estimates the electricity consumed. As new currencies are generated or computing progresses, the system updates its calculations.


The Cambridge tool helps put the size of the problem into perspective. The energy given to bitcoins is equivalent to 0.24% of all electricity produced in the world.


All the energy generated by water sources is sufficient to feed 70 times the bitcoins network. Already the energy produced by solar and wind, is enough to sustain 24 times the network. Finally, that of biofuels would support 10 times the bitcoins network.


"We want to use the comparisons that define the narrative," Michel Rauchs, one of the creators of the tool, told the BBC. "Visitors can decide for themselves whether this seems big or small," he says.


Is bitcoin an environmental problem?


The electric consumption of the currency may be small today, but if it continues to grow, it could be a big problem. In November 2018, Nature magazine revealed that the energy used to produce bitcoin is more than twice as high as copper, gold or platinum. The Digiconomist page calculates that a transaction with bitcoin consumes 340,000 times more than one with a credit card.


Another study, also published in Nature, indicates that if bitcoins become as popular as credit cards, carbon dioxide emissions to generate all that energy will make the Earth's temperature rise by 2 degrees Celsius in three decades - more than acceptable, according to the signatories of the Paris Agreement.


There is still the problem of disposal. At 2 pm this Thursday, July 4, a bitcoin was worth more than $ 11,000. The high value-added of the currency attracts investors willing to contribute in sheds, replete with computers designed only to mine bitcoins, in places with cheap electric energy, as in Paraguay.


Many of these computers, when deactivated, are disposed of in regular trash. There is still no process of disassembling the machine. The parts can not be reused.


Coin advocates, such as Andreas Antonopoulos, author of the book "Internet of Money," argue, however, that bitcoin can encourage the use of clean energy. According to him, it is possible to set up mines near renewable energy plants with surplus production to convert electricity into cash.


In addition, crypto-coin advocates and researchers also debate more efficient models for the production of bitcoins so that, in the long run, they consume less energy.

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