Bitcoin mining consumes more than 3 times the energy of gold mining: research


A new document indicates that the energy required to extract cryptocurrencies is greater than that which is consumed during the excavation of metals of equivalent value in dollars.

In the paper published November 5 by the journal Nature, researchers at the Oak Ridge Institute in Cincinnati, Ohio, noted that bitcoin consumes more than three times the energy used to produce an equivalent value of gold in dollars.

According to the report, between the beginning of 2016 and half of this year, the energy required to extract $ 1 bitcoin was 17 megajoules while the energy needed to extract the 39; gold of equivalent value in dollars was 5 megajoules. Other cryptocurrencies like litecoin, ethereum and monero also required more energy for mine than gold of equivalent value.

Aluminum: the Energy Guzzler of Metals

The only metals whose extraction process consumed more energy than the dollar equivalent value of bitcoin and the other three major cryptocurrencies were aluminum, which required 122 megajoules and rare earth oxides (REOs), which required 9 megajoules. The Platinum Group Metals (PGM) consumed as much energy as needed to extract ethereum and litecoin: 7 megajoules.

"As an average of every day from 1 January 2016 to 30 June 2018, to generate US $ 1, we estimate that the mining of Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin and Monero requires 17, 7, 7 and 14 MJ respectively. that the extraction of aluminum, copper, gold, PGM and REO required 122, 4, 5, 7 and 9 MJ to generate $ 1 ", noted the document entitled" Quantification of energy and carbon costs for mineral cryptocurrencies ".

In addition, the paper noted that the carbon footprint left behind by the extraction of cryptocurrencies depends on the country in which the activity takes place. With Canada having cheaper and cleaner energy than China, for example, it has been discovered that the crypto-mining of the latter releases on average four times the carbon emissions of the former.

Outlook measured

Unlike another recent research paper that has portrayed an apocalyptic scenario that predicts that the extraction of cryptocurrencies will have catastrophic effects on the environment, the document written by Max J. Krause and Thabet Tolaymat, notes instead that l & # 39; The adoption of new technologies could minimize the impact that cites the example of the rigid fork of Monero and the planned change in the consent mechanism of Ethereum:

"… Monero's rigid fork … on 6 April 2018, … indicates a considerable drop in the grid's energy demand, and the future passage of Ethereum to the test of the game could reduce the energy requirements of the grid to Therefore, the future environmental impacts of any of the cryptocurrencies on a mined basis could be higher or lower than those determined in our current assessment. "

The Oak Ridge Institute study comes about two months since it was reported that the extraction of gold requires 20 times more energy than bitcoin.

However, as noted at the time, the figure did not compare the equivalent dollar value of what was extracted, but rather the total amount of energy consumed in the mining bitcoin compared to how much was spent to produce gold at the time. year. The value of gold or bitcoin produced in the estimate was therefore not taken into consideration.

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