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Bitcoin’s Energy Use Isn’t Crazy, Rivals Switzerland’s Power Consumption

Last Updated March 4, 2021 2:37 PM
P. H. Madore
Last Updated March 4, 2021 2:37 PM

The Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance has released an index of sorts devoted to macro data about Bitcoin, all of it relating to electricity consumption.

bitcoin mining
China and the U.S. rank No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, for annual electricity consumption. Bitcoin is ranked No. 43. | Source: University of Cambridge 

Tree Huggers Take Solace

Historically, one great objection to Bitcoin has been its perceived large-scale energy consumption. Some question the logic of building out an entirely new system when the existing one appears to work.

That Bitcoin effectively uses more energy than some small countries just 10 years into its development may be worrisome to certain mindsets.

From the data provided, two things become immediately evident. One, the world does not produce enough energy – and we could fit a few more modern countries.

From a macro scale, it appears Bitcoin will be one of those countries unto itself.

The distribution of electricity is not unlike the distribution of wealth, on a global scale, meaning that people in advanced countries may have a significant advantage over others.

Then again, small-scale mining isn’t likely advisable with Bitcoin anymore, anyway.


Thus far, one of the few major proof-of-work chains to ensure that small-scale and decentralized mining might go on has been Monero. That crypto modified their software in response to an incoming rash of automated mining equipment the community didn’t welcome.

Monero may be tiny by comparison to Bitcoin, but it’s not inconceivable that a conglomerate of the major mining chains could dramatically increase the power consumption of the crypto sector.

Cambridge, for its part, is only keeping track of Bitcoin’s power consumption.

Whether they admit it or not, legislators and reformists fear a world where everyone has an alternative to the fiat model, a world where cryptocurrency is more dominant than anything issued by any single government.

Imagine a world where FedEx could give you better and cheaper service and still be profitable.

On The Grand Scale, Power Consumption Is the Least of All Concerns for Bitcoin

That’s what Bitcoin brings to the situation, reversing roles: Everything the dollar inherently lacks, cryptocurrency has; everything the dollar has, crypto is gaining.

Therefore it’s a delicate balance that governments will play each to their own. How can you police the finance of the world if you don’t have a hand in building or maintaining it?

Some will embrace it early on out of necessity, with countries like Venezuela, Iran, and now Cuba proving the point. Others will embrace it later out of convenience and forward-looking, as shown by several large scale crypto projects in the Middle East.

While consumer adoption is dominant in Western countries, government reception has been more mixed here than many alternatives.

At some point, Western governments won’t have a choice but to figure out which way they’re going with crypto.

Until then, we can at least breathe a sigh of relief: more power will be added to the global grid , miners will become more efficient, and competition will be fiercer for a smaller reward.

Cryptocurrency as a whole will live on, at least if electricity is the only concern.