Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Bitcoin Power Cloud Databases Network Networking The Almighty Buck The Internet News Science Technology

Bitcoin Could Consume As Much Electricity As Denmark By 2020 (boingboing.net) 170

JustAnotherOldGuy writes: The numbers are very back-of-the-envelope and assume a worst case: widespread adoption of Bitcoin and not much improvement in Bitcoin mining activity, along with long replacement cycles for older, less efficient mining rigs. But even the best case [scenario] has Bitcoin consuming a shocking amount of electricity. [As mentioned in a report from Motherboard,] "The results show that in an optimistic scenario, the increase in electricity consumption of the Bitcoin network compared to now is not shocking, from around 350 MW to around 417 MW, but still on the order of one small power station. If things play out a little less favorably, however, the Bitcoin network may draw over 14 Gigawatts of electricity by 2020, equivalent to the total power generation capacity of a small country, like Denmark for example.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Bitcoin Could Consume As Much Electricity As Denmark By 2020

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 31, 2016 @08:29PM (#51819707)
    Cost 0.
  • Bitcoin. Heaven will direct it.
  • by qubezz ( 520511 ) on Thursday March 31, 2016 @08:33PM (#51819725)
    The Bitcoin mining reward halves every four years, making it less profitable in the future. Nearly 75% of Bitcoins that will ever exist have already been mined. Saying that miners will collectively be spending 30x more on electricity to mine 1/4 the Bitcoins they earn now is ludicrous.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The value of the remaining bitcoins keeps increasing which offsets the decreasing value.

      ^^^^

      Already disputed and debunked :)

      • by supremebob ( 574732 ) <themejunky.geocities@com> on Thursday March 31, 2016 @09:08PM (#51819897) Journal

        Bitcoin really hasn't increased in value over the past few years. The price spiked at over $1,000 a coin in late 2013, and then plummeted. Right now, it's still around $400 a coin, even though it's a hell of a lot harder now to "mine" one than it was 3 years ago.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by dbIII ( 701233 )
          It being "mined" by malware these days so the cost gets shifted. It was obvious from near the start that such a thing was going to happen and a few people even posted here about that a few years ago. I could say "I told you so" but somebody else with far more understanding of bitcoin than I told me first.
          • by religionofpeas ( 4511805 ) on Friday April 01, 2016 @12:02AM (#51820587)

            It being "mined" by malware these days so the cost gets shifted.

            No, nearly all bitcoins are mined by specialized chips.

            • by dbIII ( 701233 )
              Are you suggesting that the utorrent bitcoin mining malware and similar things are something I made up or are you attempting to distract and change the topic away from malware?
            • so much computing power but so painfully single-purpose. it makes me angry we can't repurpose the hardware for something useful when this craziness is over. it sure would be nice if the function these ASICs are built for could be used for something like protein folding simulation.

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

            Even the malware guys have stopped bothering to mine it now. A PC with a high end GPU set to run at 100% 24/7 (as if the owner wouldn't notice the fan noise and extreme slow-down in their games) your 100MH/sec will net you a revenue of about $0.05/year.

            The only practical way to mine Bitcoin these days is with a dedicated ASIC miner.

        • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

          How much electricity do you spend to mine one bitcoin?

      • Plus, by the very laws of capitalism it's almost certain that people will continually up their mining operations in order to account for dwindling returns. They will want to make sure that as fewer bitcoins are handed out, they themselves do not feel that decrease. So even though this growth might be offset somewhat by the decline of smaller mining operations, it is likely that larger operations will grow exponentially. (Disclaimer: I base this prediction upon human nature, not upon a strong understanding o
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Did anyone else read this article? He doesn't even factor in a comparison to Visa's settlement bunker in New Jersey, nor does it consider the implications once mining rewards have run out. How is this marked as "troll"? This is plain economics and was argued for a very very long time when Proof of Stake was first purposed.

      Once rewards are gone, there will be few operators left, and just like the precious metals industry, they will settle on an agreed rate, keeping the network safe and using only enough comp

    • Doesn't that also mean that it doesn't suffer inflation as easily as other currencies though? The fact that there's no government that can fire up a printing press and devalue the existing money supply suggests that relative to other currencies it would better retain value over time.

      Also, although Moore's law is slowing down, the flip side of doubling transistor density is that you can get the same performance you previously got at about half of the power cost.

      Between those two effects, it makes me th
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by hjf ( 703092 )

        This is very much a problem. Most people see inflation as a negative thing. The negative thing here is the limited supply of wealth. A currency like Bitcoin which can't be devaluated is terrible: it's the end game of capitalism. It will become a game of "winner takes all"... much like most rich countries own most of the wealth in the world. With bitcoin, they literally would.

        • by tsotha ( 720379 )

          This is very much a problem. Most people see inflation as a negative thing. The negative thing here is the limited supply of wealth.

          No. Currency is only very loosely connected to wealth. Changing the amount of outstanding currency has no effect on wealth at all; it just changes the amount of wealth represented by each unit of currency. Like any good currency, bitcoins are divisible. It's just a number, so if it costs 1 bitcoin to buy a loaf of bread today and .01 to buy a loaf twenty years from now, th

          • Bitcoin may not be divisible enough, though. It takes 2000 Satoshis to equal 1 cent today, but that can only halve 11 times before reaching parity. With deflationary trending of BTC and inflationary trending of the USD, that may happen relatively quickly -- certainly less than 100 years. At some point, 1 Satoshi is worth more than the least expensive items, and then it's utility as currency decreases.

            • by tsotha ( 720379 )

              That's a question of protocol, though, which can be updated without affecting the underlying currency.

      • The problem with a non-inflation currency is wealth increases by technology. Technology is simply the discovery of new techniques to produce the same goods in less labor time: we now expend about 1/2.5 as much total aggregate human labor making food as we did in 1950, and Americans spend 12% of their income on food instead of 30%. Essentially, there are fewer people making food per person, and fewer people making food per unit food produced.

        That means a currency can only remain non-deflationary if we k

    • Mining does not just generate new bitcoins. Saying that users of bitcoin will accept transactions being verified at 1/120th the rate rather than pay transaction fees is ludicrous.

    • by MrL0G1C ( 867445 )

      For the sake of the environment, they should allow the last 25% of the bitcoins to be mined quicker, I presume that is possible as it seems that these things are decided arbitrarily.

    • by MrKaos ( 858439 )
      Wow, 100 insightful, never seen that before. Everything looks binary.
    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      The Bitcoin mining reward halves every four years, making it less profitable in the future. Nearly 75% of Bitcoins that will ever exist have already been mined. Saying that miners will collectively be spending 30x more on electricity to mine 1/4 the Bitcoins they earn now is ludicrous.

      That's where the second phase of bitcoin kicks in - mining is required in order to lock down the block chain from modification. So miners are rewarded a certain rate for validating the blockchain - they're not mining new bitc

  • by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Thursday March 31, 2016 @08:36PM (#51819741)

    compared to the energy draw for computation for everything else, it's not worth worrying about bitcoin cycles. Even the draw for the systems that track traditional currency will completely dwarf it.

    • by forand ( 530402 )
      Do you have numbers to back up your assertions? Are you comparing it to ALL aspects of "traditional currency?" According to wikipedia [wikipedia.org] 350 MW is approximately 1% of ALL US power usage. That seems rather a lot to me to be going to something that has zero physical benefit.
      • by dbIII ( 701233 )
        It sounds like extrapolating a curve instead of considering what the graph represents in the first place. Bitcoin would need to be incredibly popular for that to happen. Of course the price that bitcoins attract from enthusiasts varies based on hype such as articles like these so it is in the best interests of those in the scam^H^H^H scheme to keep up the puff pieces and media attention.
      • MW is energy, let's talk power.

        The world's information systems pull 1.5 petawatt-hours of power, and banking and financial systems is one percent of that. Compared to 1.2 terrawatt-hours bitcoin use.

  • You could be using those cycles to crunch the cure for cancer.

    • You could be using those cycles to crunch the cure for cancer.

      I've been saying that for years, how completely stupid the Biocoin system is if you care about the environment.

      But I keep getting shouted down, "oh no, it's fine, so what, I have a computer anyway, it isn't that big a deal".

      Yea, wanna bet?

      • For a time, GPU Grid [gpugrid.net] went from folding proteins with volunteer's GPUs to using volunteer's GPUs for mining bitcoin to fund their research. That's when I stopped contributing my hardware for their efforts. Haven't been over there in a while, so I don't know if they're still mining instead of folding or not.
    • Is the cure for cancer a purely computational problem? Do we have the formula and just need to "solve for X" to cure it?

      I think you have a weird pop culture idea of how science works, we're not wildly scribbling on a chalk board followed by an announcement of EUREKA!

      • Using computation to find "the cure for cancer" is putting it too simply.

        Nevertheless, one promising approach to treating cancer is to sequence the genome of a patient's healthy cells and tumour cells, and compare the genomes. Determining the difference can speed up the choice of what drugs to use to treat the cancer.

        Sequencing systems do not read an entire genome's DNA from one end to the other. They break it into multiple fragments that are tens or hundreds of bases long, read the fragments, and then reas

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 31, 2016 @08:39PM (#51819761)

    From now on, we measure power consumption by the Denmark!

  • How does this compare to how much electricity CitiBank or Bank of America uses?
    • There are 12.4M bitcoins, valued at something like $400 each. That means that the bitcoin network is tracking something like $5B in value. This is three orders of magnitude smaller than the value tracked by the computer systems of those major banks, even if all of their computing power were needed for the task. In reality, the vast proportion of that power is spent predicting the most effective enterprises in which to invest that value. Even accepting that high-frequency trading is of dubious economic benef

      • by hjf ( 703092 )

        let's be realistic: most of the power used by big banks is air conditioning and lighting for their offices...

    • The mining industry in South Africa consumes about 3,000 MW. Most of this is for mining gold.

      • At least gold has a few practical uses. It's just too rare and expensive to use for most of them.

        The world really needs more platinum. Specifically, I need cheap platinum so I can build a science project involving making lots of hydrogen.

  • This is the most pointless waste of electricity I've heard of yet. Electricity isn't free, and the fuel expenditures devoted to utterly pointless virtual currency is astonishing. Humanity has sunk to a new low of wasteful activity.

    Bitcoin needs to go away. It was never IMHO a good idea and this revelation makes it even more stupid and pointless.

    • Re:Huge Waste (Score:4, Insightful)

      by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Thursday March 31, 2016 @09:11PM (#51819907)

      Humanity has sunk to a new low of wasteful activity.

      That should be reserved for making ethanol from corn. A tax subsidy encourages the production of more corn ethanol, despite the fact that corn isn't a surplus crop. (South Americans make ethanol from surplus sugar canes.) Farmers like ethanol because it raises the price on corn, but rising corn prices also filter through the rest of the food chain from livestock feed to processed foods. Groceries are more expensive to benefit a few farmers and ethanol producers. This is one of the reasons why Senator Ted Cruz is against the tax subsidies.

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )
        Yes that really is a good example of taking a good idea of turning waste into fuel and turning it into utter insanity of burning food for the sake of wealth of a lobby group and some votes. See the tariff on sugar for another example where expensive corn syrup replaces expensive protected local sugar that can't compete with either the corn or the cheap sugar from the rest of the world.
      • by Burz ( 138833 )

        No. Ethanol at least reduces smog (it is a replacement for MTBE). Bitcoin produces smog and greenhouse gases and little else.

    • Every other currency also uses tons of electricity. The Bank of London does not hand carry over paper pounds to exchange for paper dollars, this is all done electronically. Banks are constantly manipulating and forecasting, and I don't hear people complaining about the electricity use for speculation.

      • Those banks track orders of magnitude higher volumes of currency and yet use orders of magnitude less power than bitcoin consumes. The truly sad part though is they could have actually used bitcoin to benefit mankind, their are all sorts of distributed computing projects that need processing power, they could have simply awarded the coins based on contribution to one of those projects.
        • It's not that simple. There are requirements for the computationally-intense function that few tasks meet:
          - Must be slow to compute.
          - Must be fast to verify.
          - Must be adjustable in slowness.
          - Must be verifiable without anything other than the block and protocol specification.
          - Completed solution must be very small in storage requirements.

      • by hjf ( 703092 )

        I don't think you realize that banks, DO INDEED move truckloads of cash. If I give you a check for $5M dollars, it's not just bytes moving around in a database. Banks often swap actual, physical money.

        They're crooks. And they treat each other like crooks. No bank trusts another bank.

      • Every other currency also uses tons of electricity.

        Yes, but we have to have these currencies. We don't have to have bitcoins, and they use up way more electricity than already established currencies that're electronically moved around.

        Just seems to me to be utterly wasteful and pointless, all around. It doesn't serve any purpose that existing currencies don't already take care of at a much lower cost of use. All the blockchain computations needed for transactions, the continued mining which is increasingly computationally expensive and less return for in

    • by delt0r ( 999393 )
      Let me introduce you to the internet.. Oh wait your already here! Carry on.
  • It might not. It might consume twice as much, or possibly half. What's the point here, exactly?

  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Thursday March 31, 2016 @09:07PM (#51819893)

    The numbers are very back-of-the-envelope and assume a worst case:

    Translation: We did a ridiculous and naive extrapolation and then were foolish enough to think it actually means something.

    • Best case I'm leaving work in 20 minutes. Worst case the earth spontaneously combusts and we all die a horrible death right now. Reality will be somewhere in the middle.

  • I could win Lotto and have a threesome with two Victoria's Secret supermodels by 2020.

    Who's to say?

  • by joh ( 27088 ) on Thursday March 31, 2016 @10:10PM (#51820159)

    that BC is perfectly suited to outsource mining into orbit: Energy is cheap there and bitcoins are easily beamed back... A perfect product to manufacture in space. Lol.

    • that BC is perfectly suited to outsource mining into orbit: Energy is cheap there and bitcoins are easily beamed back... A perfect product to manufacture in space. Lol.

      Perhaps your lol means your post is tongue-in-cheek, but anyway...

      There may be lots of sunlight up there (when you're not eclipsed by the earth) but harvesting it requires large collection areas. Not the kind of thing that is easy to put into orbit. Not to mention that cosmic rays and spacecraft-charging (from e.g., solar wind and magnetic substorms) demand robust designs for electronics that are slower and heavier than what you can run on the surface of the earth.

      Based on current values for bitcoins, there

      • there is perhaps about $2.1 trillion USD yet to be mined

        DOH! Make that $2.1 billion USD [blockchain.info] based on the fact that about 75% of available bitcoins have been mined already. Apparently I'm comma-challenged.

        These new numbers mean an earth-orbit bitcoin-mining server is definitely a non-starter.

  • I thought Denmarks power all came from renewable sources anyway.
    Wind, solar, hydro...
    and of course tidal. If you stuck a dam across to Norway or Sweden you could use the Baltic sea as a huge source of tidal powwer.

    • Good for Denmark (seriously!) but that's not the point. TFA is trying to point out the large energy-footprint of bitcoin.

    • Denmark has a really good PR department.
      They can only afford to have so many wind turbines because they also have a lot of dirty coal power plants, and when they produce too much electricity, they sell it at a loss to Sweden and Norway (who have many hydro power plants). Denmark has a pretty bad CO2/kWh electricity footprint.

      • by xonen ( 774419 )

        Denmark has a really good PR department.
        They can only afford to have so many wind turbines because they also have a lot of dirty coal power plants, and when they produce too much electricity, they sell it at a loss to Sweden and Norway (who have many hydro power plants). Denmark has a pretty bad CO2/kWh electricity footprint.

        This is a very inaccurate sketch of reality, and almost any statement in this sentence is untrue.

        * Wind power turbines can be started and stopped with simple procedure, in contrary to a large gas, nuclear or coal plant. Wind energy is actually actively used to steer energy supply based on the demands.
        The idea that you `need` coal plants to adjust for varying winds is more than a misconception. In reality, it's the other way around - large plants are monoliths that are not usually actively adjusted in output

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Denmark has a power usage around 3 GW at night and around 5 - 5.5 GW during work hours.

    I'm not sure where the 14 GW comes from, but it seems way off. Granted it says power production capacity, but it still seems quite wrong. The powerplants are not that powerful and the grid would not be anywhere near handing that huge amount of power. Granted there is a growing number of windfarms, but still even during a storm they deliver "only" like 3-3.5 GW. It happens occasionally that Denmark produce more power from

  • But never been to bitcoin (or Alaska for that matter)
  • Denmark should drastically reduce electricity consumption
  • Just saw a comment modded "(Score:11, Funny)"

    I see it's April Fool's day, and the moderation goes to 11.

    (though I suspect it's supposed to be 3 in binary)

    • by MrKaos ( 858439 )
      Yeah - have a look at the UID and story ids they are a string of 0001111001010101
    • by MrKaos ( 858439 )
      I just converted some of the binary - I think it's unicode but I am so tired my eyes are falling to take it any further.
  • by sad_ ( 7868 ) on Friday April 01, 2016 @06:58AM (#51821911) Homepage

    How much electricity do all the banks in the world need to operate?

    • by brxndxn ( 461473 )
      I know Chase bank has multiple skyscrapers.. I wonder what their footprint is compared to Bitcoin.
      • by JcMorin ( 930466 )
        Add all the employees who got to works, they burn fuel too... Bitcoin security is not involving as much people. Most mining farm have a 1-2 guys watching a lots of computer.
    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      And what about the banks in Denmark?

  • Why humanity is doomed.
    Wasting this much energy and resources on literally nothing.

  • Humans : correct in making the leap from wealth as currency to wealth as energy. But logic failure : wealth ultimately is extension of desire, fluctuating with emotions and state of mind. Desires : when all are supported in purely adaptable system, true wealth is achieved."

    - Usurper Judaa Marr, "Human : Nature"

IN MY OPINION anyone interested in improving himself should not rule out becoming pure energy. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.

Working...