So-called “disrupters”—political movements, technological developments, and so on—will, by definition, inconvenience or hurt some people, even as they help others. What about cryptocurrencies, lionized by some for their socioeconomic benefits and criticized by others for their associated energy costs via computers and electricity? Here are some of the numbers.
The University of Cambridge Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index (CBECI), which regularly updates Bitcoin and Ethereum energy consumption demands, estimates annual energy consumption at 143.6 TWh for Bitcoin and 6.7 GWh for Ethereum.
The energy consumption of a single Bitcoin transaction (703.25 kWh) is vastly greater than that of 100,000 VISA credit card transactions (148.63 kWh), Statistica says.
In a September 23, 2022, article, EarthJustice stated that “the cryptocurrency mining industry already uses half the electricity of the entire global banking sector.”
In a joint study with the Sierra Club, EarthJustice estimated that 38% of Bitcoin is mined in the US.
The study also estimated that “in the year prior to July 2022, Bitcoin consumed around 36 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity,” equaling all the electricity consumed in that period by Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island together.
Admitting the limitations of relying on “top-down” estimates of the electricity consumption of cryptocurrency mining in the US, EarthJustice says that their results “imply that the industry was responsible for an excess 27.4 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) between mid-2021 and 2022—or three times as much as emitted by the largest coal plant in the U.S. in 2021.”
Dell reports that annual Bitcoin mining energy consumption is “equivalent to 0.4%–0.9% of global consumption, according to estimates in a report released by the Biden Administration. Such a range exceeds the global share of countries like Argentina and Australia.
Despite efforts by the crypto industry to cut energy consumption, Dell sees these numbers posing a threat to international pledges to get to zero emissions by 2050.