Bitcoin Mining Has an Absurd Environmental Impact

By Lily Newman on at

Ah digital currency. It's all in our collective hive-mind right? Coming and going in bits and bytes. Nothing to see here. So why is a hacking process called "Bitcoin mining" using £95,000 worth of electricity a day? This had better be good.

You mine Bitcoins by finding data sets that make certain patterns when they go through the Bitcoin hash function, tricking it into allowing unfunded purchases. But it gets harder and harder to find sets that will satisfy the algorithm, so miners need a lot of computing power. And if they're cobbling a setup together, using energy star appliances is probably not their first priority. A lot of miners end up relying on the GPUs in graphics cards because they have better efficiency than CPUs, but this computing power translates to huge consumption of electricity.

According to a Bitcoin tracking site, blockchain.info, miners are consuming about 1,000 megawatt hours of electricity a day. That's a lot. Like half the electricity needed to power the Large Hadron Collider a lot. But even with energy and equipment fees, miners are still making around £444,000 in profits based on current Bitcoin values. Gold rush! Soon the land of plenty will be no land all plenty! That's how eroding resources works, right? [Bloomberg]