It takes a lot of computing power to mine a Bitcoin, but what is the real cost in dollar terms and how might that be arbitraged against the cost of a barrel of crude oil?
Well, the best estimate of the electrical cost of a Bitcoin is $400 minimum. A dozen or so Bitcoins are mined every minute - that’s 1,400 per day, and there will never be more than 21 million allowed. The price of Bitcoin has risen astronomically over the past couple of years, so the electrical cost is more and more worthwhile.
If you decide to go mining, one expert has estimated that running a “rig’, as they are known, for six months (it will run at 1375 watts) will earn you at least a single Bitcoin—that’s over two per year for under $1000 dollars’ worth of electricity (plus, of course, the computing hardware cost). Quite a bargain with Bitcoin at sub $6,000 (£4,500) today.
And how many barrels of oil would you need for a single bitcoin? Today’s spot price for WTI (West Texas Intermediate, the standard measure of quality crude) stands at a mere $54. Nearly 12,000 barrels of oil for a single bitcoin. And with a Bitcoin, you don’t need the storage.
As the demand for currencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum explode, critics are starting to wonder whether they are just being exploited by speculators. Yet, what we are really seeing in the case of higher values for cryptocurrencies is a price being placed on future value or purchasing power. They are turning into a futures market in exactly the same way as commodities are traded in a commodities futures market. Just like barrels of WTI, in fact. But Bitcoin is shooting skywards while crude is bumping along the bottom. Do the math.