Can mining bitcoins harm the environment?

Apr 15, 2013 at 1:15 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 10, 2021 at 10:38 a.m. UTC

A lot of attention has been focused in recent years on the energy and carbon footprint of the internet. The giant server farms that drive the world’s web activities need to get their power from somewhere and – as environmental groups frequently point out – that power still tends to come from sources like coal-fired power plants.

Compared to the mighty impacts of Google and Facebook, among others, you might think that bitcoin mining creates little more than a blip in global carbon emissions. However, as stats from blockchain.info show, bitcoin mining over a 24-hour period can currently consume almost $150,000 worth of electricity.

“The trade-off here is that as virtual value is created, real-world value is used up,” Bloomberg reports, adding that a day’s worth of bitcoin mining uses enough electricity to power some 31,000 US homes. “If the dreams of Bitcoin proponents are realized, and the currency is adopted for widespread commerce, the power demands of bitcoin mines would rise dramatically.”

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