Bitcoin was introduced to the world in 2017 and has been the subject of criticism from newspapers, professors, and mainstream media from day one. Allegations of being a Ponzi scheme, of being used only by criminals, and predictions of impending bankruptcy have continued for years.
For just over a year, however, Bitcoin has become such a popular and recognized asset even in the traditional world, and even the accusations have evolved. The attacks on BTC have therefore evolved from “it can’t work” to “pollutes too much.”
Premise: calculating the consumption of the Bitcoin network is not easy. The number of mining devices is not easily estimated as there is no register of miners, devices with different consumption are used and which should not be confused with the mining of other cryptocurrencies.
Let’s start with the fundamental data. The most reliable estimates presented speak of an energy consumption equal to 0.004% of the energy used by the whole world (data referred to 2021).
So, where does this myth of energy waste come from? You have often read headlines such as “Bitcoin consumes more than entire nations,” thus comparing a global protocol like BTC with a country of million inhabitants.
This accusation could be called an inadequate comparison, but in this article, we will analyze the matter even more in-depth.
Calculating the energy consumption of the Bitcoin network is not the only aspect to consider, as most BTC mining uses renewable sources (hydroelectric, solar, nuclear, geothermal) and therefore have little impact in terms of pollution.
Bitcoin mining is an industry that has brought both new jobs and technological innovations. In recent years, it has also been discovered that not only does Bitcoin mining already use abundant renewable sources, but it even improved many processes in the energy sector.
Many sources capable of producing large quantities of green energy are located in remote locations, leading governments to finance complicated and expensive infrastructures for the transport of this energy to cities and industrial areas or even to give up their use.
Bitcoin allows you to use energy that humans have never been able to use simply by placing a mining farm close to the energy source (a volcano or an ocean platform that exploits the tides are just two examples), then transferring the mined BTCs to a miner wallet in any part of the globe.
This is just one of the ways Bitcoin helps the energy sector: some companies are using mining to reduce emissions from gas flaring, the activity of burning excess natural gas extracted along with oil.
When we talk about energy consumption, two similar elements are compared, but what could we compare Bitcoin to? If we define Bitcoin as a currency, we would have to calculate, in order to have a reliable term of comparison, the consumption of the banking sector and of all the systems that today allow fiat currencies to survive, including the same nation-states without which fiat currencies could not exist as there would be no enforcement of the legal tender.
Calculating consumption in the banking sector is certainly not easy, it would be necessary to estimate the consumption of hundreds of thousands of employees who go to their offices every day as well as to the systems managed by Central Banks.
When we talk about the consumption of Bitcoin, a completely wrong “energy cost per transaction” is often indicated for several reasons.
- A Bitcoin transaction is not comparable to a traditional transaction because it could correspond to a batch payment , i.e. a payment to tens, hundreds or thousands of users. This type of payments are used for example by exchanges during withdrawals to users’ wallets to save network fees and speed up confirmation times.
- Bitcoin is a protocol that works by levels just like the Internet (TCP/IP) and the blockchain is the settlement layer , i.e. the most secure and expensive level on which to transmit a payment and is comparable to Fedwire (the settlement layer with which the 12 banks American power plants transmit money to other financial entities). The Fedwire network now allows about 800,000 transfers per day while Bitcoin has come to have about 1.2 million outputs (recipients of transactions).
- Bitcoin transactions may contain a notarization, token transfer, or other non-monetary functions.
Another erroneous reasoning that we often read is the belief that the consumption of the Bitcoin network is directly proportional to the number of its users.
The adoption of Bitcoin as a payment tool for millions of individuals is growing fast, but the estimated consumption per transaction peaked in the third quarter of 2020 at 183 kWh/tx and has fallen as low as 6.5 kWh/tx in the first quarter of 2021.
In this article we have dealt with only a part of this interesting and broad topic that would require hours of in-depth study to be seriously studied. However, we are sure that now your ideas are clearer.