I received a PM from a redditor about a old comment
. His PM reads -
So back 10 months ago I posted this comment and you responded with the most reasoned response about the entire Bitcoin network emitting less carbon than a single 747. It made me feel much better about Bitcoin. It also confused me this past few weeks with people posting stories stating that Bitcoin will soon use nearly 0.1% of the world's energy and already consumes more power than every single solar panel in the entire world produces. Those two don't really square, so I looked back and the article you reference was from 2014. I'm curious if you've reevaluated your stance on bitcoin or perhaps have some insight that the current hysteria is just overblown?
Since I've spent the time doing some napkin math (I could be horribly wrong on this, someone please
correct me!), I thought I should make this post public for everone to evaulate my maths and my reasoning.
First, I would just redirect to AA's great clip on the subject - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fExR-IKozOY
As for re-evaluating my position, yes, constantly. Im going to do this really quickly, so unsure of accuracy, but should give a rough ball park. http://www.yousustain.com/footprint/howmuchco2?co2=761+tons
Says its about 761 tons for a 747 to fly 24 hrs. https://www.thebalance.com/how-much-power-does-the-bitcoin-network-use-391280
Claims 1 watt per 1 second gigahash. Comes out to 343 mW per second. Thats 1234800 mW per hour, which equals 29635200 mWh for 24 hrs. The formula used to calculate megawatt-hours is Megawatt hours (MWh) = Megawatts (MW) x Hours (h). In this case, I've used 24 hours since we are comparing to 24 hours of a 747 flying, so 24 MWh. So currently btc mining has a rate of 1,234,800 per MWh.
Putting 29635200000 (previous mWh * 1000 for kWh) into this government calculator
will give you caron comparisons. That calculator claims an equivilent of 2,481,717,074 gallons of gas consumed. Yes, thats nearly 2.5 billion.
To make this comparison more comprehensible.... https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=23&t=10
In 2017, about 143.85 billion gallons (or about 3.40 billion barrels1) of finished motor gasoline were consumed2 in the United States, a daily average of about 391.40 million gallons (or about 9.32 million barrels per day).
This would be equivilent of 6.33 days of gasoline usage in the USA for a single day of mining.
So go go back to our airplane analogy, the carbon calculator says that many mW = 22,055,020 metric tons of carbon emitted.
I do recall looking into the airplane thing back when we were discussing it, and I remember looking at the numbers. Frankly, its impossible to believe those were accurate and im sorry. I should have double checked everything.
According to - https://charts.bitcoin.com/chart/hash-rate
We had around "5EHash" in august of 2017, when that comment was made. We are now at 31EHash, over a 6x fold since that comment was made.
Now that we have the numbers out of the way, some things to consider...
These estimates are based upon the USA's carbon calculators which measures average carbon output based on the varying technologies in the US. According to the wiki
the US only is around 12% (in 2016) for renewable energy.
So in general, our energy is pretty damn dirty and we put out a lot
more carbon than we sequester.
In that AA video, he talks about the geolocation arbitrage used by miners. This makes a lot of sense. If you are going to invest 50-500 million into a mining operation, are you going to do it in a area where it costs 12 cents per hour (US average), or where it costs 3-4 cents per kwH? See - https://www.forbes.com/sites/dominicdudley/2018/01/13/renewable-energy-cost-effective-fossil-fuels-2020/#1c69d08e4ff2
Obviously you are going to massively reduce your operational cost as that is what will lead your investment to become profitable.
Fortunately for us, and the world, many of these arbitrage opportunities are in hydroelectric and geothermal energy areas. These plants are designed to be future proofed, so enterprising mining congolmerates will move to areas where they can secure very cheap energy prices. When these companies are currently using 5-15 GwH for their cities, with 50 GwH capacity, they will happily sell their extra capacity to the mining operation since that is a very favorable economic incentive to all parties.
Another factor to consider is that for every single new ASIC design, they are becoming more energy efficient. So even though the hashrate is jumping, I would say the overall energy used by the network will plateau, if it has not already done so. With GMO and other giants like Samsung entering the mining design fray, this will only speed up energy efficiency.
None of this is intended to be a sidestepping of the facts - Clearly the bitcoin network uses a lot
of energy. And when you have less regulated countries (china, India), it presents opportunities for locals to setup mining operations inside their locality, which then uses dirty energy, increasing carbon outputs.
The amount of carbon emissions per day (22,055,020 metric tons) that is above is obviously not very accurate when you account for these arbitrage opportunties. We know for a fact many of the largest mining colo's are situated near hydroelectric and Geothermal energy plants, which means that they are practically zero
carbon emissions. Since we do not know the location of every miner, due to the decentralized unregulated nature of bitcoin, it is impossible to calculate how much of a reduction of tons of carbon we will get for that calculation.
But even if we are generous, and say 50% of all mining is done on renewables, that still leaves 11 million tons of carbon per day, a pretty staggering amount.
There is also much to hope for with scientists claiming we can be 100% renewable energy across the entire planet
. Such as scientists setting to prove through empiracle data that it is feasible to convert the entire planet to 100% renewables. Though it is probably not realistic that this will happen quickly, or even at all. To give perspective, CFC's have been banned for decades and thought not in use for over a decade, yet recent data has shown levels are increasing
. There will always be industry willing to destroy the world in the future for short term profit now.
We should also weigh the costs and benefits of this massive network. If bitcoin becomes adopted across the world as a currency, which if you look at places like Japan, it clearly is, then this will enable literal billions
of people who are currently unbanked to join into the global financial ecosystem.
The personal financial soverignty that bitcoin brings is of incalcuable value
. Whether the carbon emissions are worth these trade offs is a philosophical question that probably does not have an right or wrong answer.
Then we must also evaluate the carbon impact that the bitcoin network would have if cryptocurrencies were to replace
traditional financial networks. There are some good analysis on the carbon footprint of banks, and bitcoin mining, coindesk has done several articles, see - https://www.coindesk.com/microscope-conclusions-costs-bitcoin/
If we are properly to examine the impact that cryptocurrency carbon emissions have on society, then we should also examine the reduction
of carbon that cryptocurrency networks will have upon the banking sector. This site
Claims AC & Heating results in 47.7 % of the entire USA's electricity usage. This example is just to present a understanding of how much energy these systems use.
How many Banks are there around the world that have their AC on 24/7? I can imagine just that number alone would lead to a staggering level of CO2 emissions. The coindesk article claims 591k bank branches around the world. The above aritcle claims 3.5k watts for a single central air unit. I had a family member that used to run a A/C business and I've been on top of many businesses. A bank will likely have several of those units to keep the place cool, I would estimate between 2-10 depending upon size.
In more good news, Bank branches are declining
, and cryptocurrencies will only accelerate this. Lets hope that bitcoin is the amazon of retail brick and mortor closures.
In conclusion, there is a valid and rational concern as to the amount of power that the bitcoin network brings. And instead of being dismissive, we should recognize the incredible rate at which the bitcoin network is growing on an annual basis. From 4.3EHash to 31EHash over the last year, that is about a 8x fold increase.
Since we can assume that the majority of hashpower is coming online in the last year is likely newer models, these units should be at the current efficiencies. The estimates above should be roughly
accurate based on this information.
This information will only be used by politicians and media congolmerates to spin a very bad negative impression of the bitcoin network. And you know what? Maybe they are right
. Maybe bitcoin is growing into a massive CO2 producing beast that outweighs the benefits that it brings to society.
But how can we reach a consensus on this issue unless we, the hardcore bitcoiners and techophiles, bring the numbers into sunlight and discuss?
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