Stop worrying about how much energy mining Bitcoin uses, the title to a recent article written for The Conversation, you can find the original article for yourself, here.
Should we stop worrying?
Well according to Katrina Kelly-Pitou, yes we should.
Bitcoin mining is a heavily inefficient function. Mining uses up an awful lot of power and therefore costs a lot to do. Moreover, because of the high energy use, the carbon footprint of a mined Bitcoin is frankly huge. Many have said it and there’s evidence to back it up, Bitcoin mining is a curse on the planet. Kelly-Pitou disagrees though, making some very positive and thought provoking points in the process.
According to Kelly-Pitou:
“New technologies – such as data centers, computers and before them trains, planes and automobiles – are often energy-intensive. Over time, all of these have become more efficient, a natural progression of any technology: Saving energy equates to saving costs. By talking specifically about just the consumption of energy alone, I believe many fail to understand one of the most basic benefits of renewable energy systems. Electricity production can increase while still maintaining a minimal impact on the environment. Rather than focusing on how much energy bitcoin uses, the discussion should center around who indeed is producing it – and where their power comes from.”
In short, this whole argument could draw to a close if responsible Bitcoin mining firms actually took the responsibility to start mining by using renewable energy. It’s interesting and frankly, it’s true. Moreover, Kelly-Pitou discusses this idea of novel technologies and that actually, when a technology is in its early stages it is horribly inefficient. The environmental impact of a product can’t be measured and fixed until it has been around for a while and therefore Kelly-Pitou seems to suggest that as Bitcoin matures and as its technology develops, naturally its energy consumption will be reduced, not only to save money, but in turn, to save the environment too.
According to Kelly-Pitou:
“Like many other aspects of the energy industry, bitcoin is not necessarily a ‘bad guy.’ It’s simply a new, and vaguely understood, industry. The discussion about energy consumption and bitcoin is, I believe, unfair without discussing the energy intensity of new technologies overall, specifically in data centers.”
“Rather than discussing the energy consumption of bitcoin generally, people should be discussing the carbon production of bitcoin, and understanding whether certain mining towns are adding to an already large environmental burden. So perhaps people should quit criticizing bitcoin for its energy intensity and start criticizing states and nations for still providing new industries with dirty power supplies instead.”
Power providers need to take responsibility
Kelly-Pitou is arguing that it is easy to blame Bitcoin for its inefficiency, however the damage done to the environment by Bitcoin isn’t the fault of Bitcoin, its actually down to the grids and the companies that provide us with dirty and tainted power. If the global consensus leaned towards the production of clean energy, Bitcoin mining could become entirely carbon neutral, now that’s an exciting prospect.
By focusing on the environmental impact of Bitcoin, we are at risk of continuing to tarnish the currency, making future adoption a far more difficult goal to achieve. Instead, let’s put pressure on the energy suppliers and let’s try and encourage miners to try and use clean energy when they can. The carbon footprint of Bitcoin can be reduced over time, the real enemy however is those in the industry that are refusing to let it happen.