“Bitcoin is evil” articles exist in profusion, and these days I pretty much ignore them. But one of the recent types – raising awareness of Bitcoin’s environmental unsustainability – has engaged me. As it turns out, I have an unusual background to bring to this topic, and I think I should contribute.
So, here we go:
Let’s be honest and admit that most of the “environmental movement” sells fear of an apocalypse. And as we should all realize by now, humans have an innate weakness for fear.
More or less every apocalyptic environmental prediction has failed. (I’m talking about those that could actually be measured, obviously.) That won’t stop the fear-sellers of course, and now Bitcoin has come into their sights.
The fear is that because crypto mining uses so much power, it will bring down the grid or cause various environmental disasters. The advocates of this fear throw around scary sounding numbers (measured in terawatts) and assorted scientific terminology. (“They understand it and you don’t… don’t expose yourself to ridicule.”)
But it’s mostly just fear. Sure, proof-of-work sucks up power, but that’s nothing new. How much power do you suppose all those millions of air conditioners suck up every summer? I haven’t dug up the figures, but I’m ready to take bets that it’s several times more than crypto mining. Shall we now fear the air conditioner?
I worked for decades in the electrical industry, and so I’d like to give you some facts from that perspective:
- Power use has been going up since the beginning. These days most houses get 200 amperes of electrical service. But there are still thousands of houses that are wired with only 60 amperes. That was plenty 60 years ago. New loads (devices using power) come along all the time. In just my time, we’ve added air conditioning, microwaves, and lots of computers.
- Mining is a nice, steady load. The kind power companies thrive on. What makes their lives crazy are seasonal loads like air conditioning, which occur only a few months per year.
- Power failures happen every year, especially in summer due to the aforementioned air conditioning load. It’s a good bet that several fear-sellers have press releases ready to go for this summer.
- The utilities are making money on this. More power use means more income.
- If people use too much power, the providers will raise their prices. Econ 101.
And the Big One
Cryptocurrencies don’t finance war.
The public hasn’t actually paid for a war since WW2. Since then the whole game’s been run on credit. (The same goes, more or less, for everything Big Guv does to save us poor, helpless sheep.)
With Bitcoin you can’t do such things. If you want to throw a war in a Bitcoin-based economy, you’ll have to convince people to pay for it. Good luck.