There is a lot of discussion going around about how much electricity does a typical bitcoin network use. The problem is, of course, that there is no way of measuring the electricity consumption of the whole network. When people are talking about how much power a computer uses, they are usually only referring to the computer’s power consumption while it is on. This means that the number you get from a measurement of power consumption can’t tell you how much energy is used when the computer isn’t on, which is the whole problem.
The electricity consumed by your laptop every day will be different than the electricity consumption of your home when you are not at home. So, the best measurement for how much electricity you’re using would be the amount of electricity you are consuming for the full year. Fortunately, you can find this information for every element in your life, which is why I recommend you looking into my other articles for some more information about what your annual electricity consumption consists of.
The second issue that is often brought up is the greenhouse gas footprint. As you may not know, a large portion of electricity consumed by your computer (and basically every other computer on the planet) is from the burning of fossil fuels. It is estimated that every unit of coal burned produces eight units of carbon dioxide. While this may not seem like a very large amount, it adds up over time. It is estimated that every unit of coal burned makes approximately one megaton of carbon dioxide. While this doesn’t seem like a lot, it adds up to roughly forty percent of all the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere being emitted every year.
While there are many criticisms of how much energy is being consumed by the system, the real problem is how much heat is being produced when a computer is actively mined. The heat is a byproduct of the fact that a lot of electricity is being required to maintain the speed at which the computers generate the transactions. While some have criticized the idea that a deflation scenario will occur because of this, it is unlikely because as the deflation occurs, more people will be able to afford more advanced technologies. In the long run, though, the more efficient solutions will be adopted.
One criticism that has been brought up against bitcoins is the way that the network is structured. Specifically, many complain that it takes a long time to mine their bitcoins. To solve this problem, many programmers have come up with the idea of using a “proof of work” system whereby a user would be awarded a certain number of bitcoins depending on the amount of effort they had put into generating the proof. Basically, this works like this: if somebody produces the longest proof of work, then they win and become the owner of the latest bitcoins. This way of mining is what most people relate to when they talk about how does bitcoins use more electricity per transaction than any other method known to man. While it is true that the proof of work system reduces the overall electricity used, it does not in any way affect the efficiency with which new bitcoins are being mined.
A third criticism revolves around the air pollution that is created by the mining process. While some people do criticize the impact that the mining has on the environment, it should be noted that the emissions from the activity are negligible compared to what can be caused by burning coal or petroleum products. Indeed, there are several environmental groups that have put together an online Eco-friendly Bucket List of items that could be replaced with each of the bitcoins received as a reward for solving complex puzzles. The list contains numerous items such as car tires, plastic wrappers for packaging, plastic bibs, and even organic hayek.