Bitcoin’s energy use got studied, and you libertarian nerds look even worse than usual

Bitcoin’s energy use got studied, and you libertarian nerds look even worse than usual

SOURCE: Grist DATE: May 17, 2018 SNIP: Bitcoin’s energy footprint has more than doubled since Grist first wrote about it six months ago. It’s expected to double again by the end of the year, according to a new peer-reviewed study out Wednesday. And if that happens, bitcoin would be gobbling up 0.5 percent of the world’s electricity, about as much as the Netherlands. That’s a troubling trajectory, especially for a world that should be working overtime to root out energy waste and fight climate change. By late next year, bitcoin could be consuming more electricity than all the world’s solar panels currently produce — about 1.8 percent of global electricity, according to a simple extrapolation of the study’s predictions. That would effectively erase decades of progress on renewable energy. Beyond its tentative success as a get-rich-quick scheme, bitcoin has an increasingly real-world cost. The process of “mining” for coins requires a globally distributed computer network racing to solve math problems — and also helps keep any individual transaction confidential and tamper-proof. That, in turn, requires an ever-escalating arms race of computing power — and electricity use — which, at the moment, has no end in sight. A single bitcoin transaction is so energy intensive that it could power the average U.S. household for a month. It’s a telling social phenomenon of late capitalism that we are willing to construct elaborate computer networks to conduct secure transactions with each other — and in the process torpedoing our hopes at a clean energy...
Smartphones Are Killing The Planet Faster Than Anyone Expected

Smartphones Are Killing The Planet Faster Than Anyone Expected

SOURCE: Fast Company DATE: March 27, 2018 SNIP: A new study from researchers at McMaster University published in the Journal of Cleaner Production analyzed the carbon impact of the whole Information and Communication Industry (ICT) from around 2010-2020, including PCs, laptops, monitors, smartphones, and servers. They found remarkably bad news. Even as the world shifts away from giant tower PCs toward tiny, energy-sipping phones, the overall environmental impact of technology is only getting worse. Whereas ICT represented 1% of the carbon footprint in 2007, it’s already about tripled, and is on its way to exceed 14% by 2040. That’s half as large as the carbon impact of the entire transportation industry. Smartphones are particularly insidious for a few reasons. With a two-year average life cycle, they’re more or less disposable. The problem is that building a new smartphone–and specifically, mining the rare materials inside them–represents 85% to 95% of the device’s total CO2 emissions for two years. That means buying one new phone takes as much energy as recharging and operating a smartphone for an entire decade. [An] independent study concluded that the iPhone 6s created 57% more CO2 than the iPhone 4s. And despite the recycling programs run by Apple and others, “based on our research and other sources, currently less than 1% of smartphones are being recycled,” Lotfi Belkhir, the study’s lead author, tells me. Smartphones represent a fast-growing segment of ICT, but the overall largest culprit with regards to CO2 emissions belongs to servers and data centers themselves, which will represent 45% of ICT emissions by 2020. That’s because every Google search, every Facebook refresh, and...
In Iceland, bitcoin mining will soon use more energy than its residents

In Iceland, bitcoin mining will soon use more energy than its residents

SOURCE: The Guardian and Ars Technica DATE: 13 February, 2018 SNIP: Bitcoin’s price may be down more than 50% from its highs in December, but no one has told Iceland, where the cryptocurrency and its offspring are reshaping the economy. According to Johann Snorri Sigurbergsson, an employee of the energy company HS Orka, Icelandic cryptocurrency “mining” is likely to double its energy consumption to about 100 megawatts this year. That is more than households use in the nation of 340,000 people, according to the national energy authority. Mining is the name for the decentralised process that underpins the integrity of most cryptocurrencies. Effectively, a bunch of computers engage in a race to burn through the most electricity possible and, every 10 minutes, one wins a prize of 12.5 bitcoin for the effort – still worth more than $100,000, despite recent falls. As the price of bitcoin has risen, so too has the amount of electricity that it is economical to use in order to get the rewards. One recent estimate pegged the energy consumption of the entire network as equivalent to that of the Republic of Ireland. Bitcoin-mining operations are set to overtake domestic residential energy consumption in Iceland later this year, according to a local energy company. As a result, one lawmaker is considering what could or should happen if Iceland continues to expand its role as a major bitcoin-mining hub. “We are spending tens or maybe hundreds of megawatts on producing something that has no tangible existence and no real use for humans outside the realm of financial speculation,” Smári McCarthy, and Icelandic member of parliament told...
Bitcoin mining consumes more electricity a year than Ireland

Bitcoin mining consumes more electricity a year than Ireland

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: November 21, 2017 SNIP: Bitcoin’s “mining” network uses more electricity in a year than the whole of Ireland, according to statistics released as the currency broke $9,000 for the first time. According to Digiconomist the estimated power use of the bitcoin network, which is responsible for verifying transactions made with the cryptocurrency, is 30.14TWh a year, which exceeds that of 19 other European countries. At a continual power drain of 3.4GW, it means the network consumes five times more electricity than is produced by the largest wind farm in Europe, the London Array in the outer Thames Estuary, at 630MW. Although power consumption of other payment networks is harder to isolate, one of Visa’s two US data centres reportedly runs on about 2% of the power required by bitcoin. Between them, those two data centres conduct around 200m transactions a day; the bitcoin network handles fewer than...
Global warming: Data centres to consume three times as much energy in next decade, experts warn

Global warming: Data centres to consume three times as much energy in next decade, experts warn

SOURCE: Independent DATE: Jan 23, 2016 SNIP: The amount of energy consumed by the world’s data centres – the repositories for billions of gigabytes of information – will treble in the next decade, putting an enormous strain on energy supplies and dealing a hefty blow to efforts to contain global warming, experts say. Whether you’re “liking” something on Facebook, streaming the latest Tarantino movie or posting an instagram from the pub, every internet activity involves huge amounts of data that needs to be stored somewhere. And as the “internet of everything” brings innovations such as driverless cars and high-definition video watches ever closer, the vast network of data centres that have sprung up in the past decade will spread. Already, data centres have mushroomed from virtually nothing 10 years ago to consuming about 3 per cent of the global electricity supply and accounting for about 2 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions. That gives it the same carbon footprint as the airline industry. Massive as data centre energy use may already be, this is nothing to what lies in store, analysts warn. Ian Bitterlin, Britain’s foremost data centre expert and a visiting professor at the University of Leeds, says the amount of energy used by data centres is doubling every four years – despite the innovations in hardware that massively increase their capacity to store data. As a result, analysts forecast that data centres will consume roughly treble the amount of electricity in the next decade. “We need to be more responsible about what we use the internet for … Data centres aren’t the culprits – it’s driven...