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Cryptomining Eats More Energy Than Most Real Mining - Research

Tech enthusiasts have plenty of reasons to dislike cryptocurrency miners. Their demand for GPUs during the Ethereum mining craze astronomically raised graphics card prices, their setups take a cryptocurrency from 'accessible to everyone' to 'you need to invest tens of thousands of dollars to make any money' as soon as it becomes popular, and now it turns out their activities could be worse for Earth than real mining operations.

That claim arrives courtesy of a study in the Nature scientific journal by Max J. Krause and Thabet Tolaymat. The researchers developed a way to determine how much energy various cryptocurrency mining networks are using to generate $1USD worth of value (around 0.77 GBP). Those figures are constantly in flux, given the nature of cryptocurrencies and their worth on exchanges, but they aren't unknowable.

Here's what Krause and Tolaymat said about their findings in the paper's abstract:

"From 1 January 2016 to 30 June 2018, we estimate that mining Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin and Monero consumed an average of 17, 7, 7 and 14 MJ [megajoules, an energy measurement unit] to generate one US$, respectively. Comparatively, conventional mining of aluminium, copper, gold, platinum and rare earth oxides consumed 122, 4, 5, 7 and 9 MJ to generate one US$, respectively, indicating that (with the exception of aluminium) cryptomining consumed more energy than mineral mining to produce an equivalent market value."

And those are just four cryptocurrencies. Other coins have also become popular in recent months, so odds are good that the cryptocurrency market as a whole even more energy. The volatility of cryptocurrency doesn't seem to matter; people are still mining enough to use a lot of energy.

This isn't the first study to warn about the environmental impact of cryptocurrency mining. Another one by the University of Hawaii at Manoa that Nature published on October 29 found that "Bitcoin emissions alone could push global warming above 2 degrees Celsius" in less than 30 years. Based on that study, cryptocurrency mining doesn't just have the ability to make components more expensive; it also has the potential to affect the rate of climate change.

  • shrapnel_indie
    I would like to know who funded these studies.

    EDIT: also note, that the numbers are estimates. At least in the Tom's article, no margin of error is given.

    Not saying that they aren't right, but I'm not saying they are either without more information.
    Reply
  • redgarl
    21461755 said:
    I would like to know who funded these studies.

    EDIT: also note, that the numbers are estimates. At least in the Tom's article, no margin of error is given.

    Not saying that they aren't right, but I'm not saying they are either without more information.

    https://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelle/1105624/cryptomonnaie-hydro-quebec-depassee-par-les-demandes-delectricite
    It is in french, but our government banned any new crypto project on the go because the power consumption was draining all the capacity of some cities.

    We are talking about the biggest hydro-electricity distributor in the world... it is having a huge impact on environment. There is nothing to gain from crypto except the proof of concept.
    Reply
  • mac_angel
    don't blame crypto currency mining on this. Blame the government and their stupidity to get away from fossil fuels and get more involved in renewable energy, clean energy, etc. There are TONNES of ways to produce clean energy, but it's not 'economical'. So they dismiss global warming and everything else because it doesn't pad their wallets. People no longer get into politics to serve the people, they do it to make themselves rich.
    Reply
  • William_X89
    Is any of the impressive processing power being used to mine cryptocurrencies directed towards anything useful or just wasted solving meaningless problems?
    Reply
  • William_X89
    21462257 said:
    don't blame crypto currency mining on this. Blame the government and their stupidity to get away from fossil fuels and get more involved in renewable energy, clean energy, etc. There are TONNES of ways to produce clean energy, but it's not 'economical'. So they dismiss global warming and everything else because it doesn't pad their wallets. People no longer get into politics to serve the people, they do it to make themselves rich.

    Solar and wind has its limitations. If you want to move away from oil and coal on the scale that is necessary you need to invest in nuclear and the greenies throw a fit at that.

    Neither of that changes how cryptocurrency mining is an inherently wasteful endeavour.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    21462418 said:
    Solar and wind has its limitations. If you want to move away from oil and coal on the scale that is necessary you need to invest in nuclear and the greenies throw a fit at that.
    Actually, Solar is the only renewable that can truly scale to meet global energy needs. Wind isn't very economical and has other issues. Not saying it never makes sense, but won't truly scale.

    Nuclear has a fuel problem, in that known deposits would be exhausted mid-century, though I heard that a while ago and I'm not sure what rate of adoption that figure assumed. Nuclear is only a stop gap, until enough solar can be deployed.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    21462023 said:
    It is in french, but our government banned any new crypto project on the go because the power consumption was draining all the capacity of some cities.
    On one hand, I definitely understand this. On the other, I think what's needed is actually more development in crypto, in order to create a currency that's more efficient and scalable.

    Cryptocurrencies will be around for the foreseeable future. That genie can't be put back in the bottle.
    Reply
  • Olle P
    21462612 said:
    Actually, Solar is the only renewable...
    Just to be clear:
    1. Strictly speaking, solar energy isn't renewable. Sun is burning itself out, and once it's burned out there's no more energy coming. It will take some time though, and it's clean.
    2. Every other source of energy we use can trace its roots back to the sun, so solar energy is the only type of energy we have, just given different intermediate types of energy storage.
    Reply
  • SteffanDavies
    21462821 said:
    21462612 said:
    Actually, Solar is the only renewable...
    Just to be clear:
    1. Strictly speaking, solar energy isn't renewable. Sun is burning itself out, and once it's burned out there's no more energy coming. It will take some time though, and it's clean.
    2. Every other source of energy we use can trace its roots back to the sun, so solar energy is the only type of energy we have, just given different intermediate types of energy storage.

    We will all be long gone by the time the sun burns out. It's irrelevant.
    Reply
  • SteffanDavies
    21462409 said:
    Is any of the impressive processing power being used to mine cryptocurrencies directed towards anything useful or just wasted solving meaningless problems?

    Mainly money laundering, anonymous buying and selling (usually illicit) and international transfer of large sums with lower fees.

    Though there are other great ideas that have yet to be implemented into mainstream.
    Reply