Bitcoin and Electricity – Marginal REVOLUTION
How many times have you read something like this, “Bitcoin uses as much electricity as Malaysia or Sweden or Denmark or Chile….”. What a bore. Have you ever wondered, however, why the comparison is to countries? Why don’t they ever tell you what would seem to be a more natural comparison which is how much “Bitcoin” spends on electricity?
The reason is that electricity is incredibly cheap so Bitcoin electricity expenditures priced in dollars don’t look very large. Bitcoin uses something like 100 Terra Watt Hours (TWH) of electricity annually (depending on the price of Bitcoin) but a TWH costs less than $100 million (10 cents per KWH times 1000000000). Thus, Bitcoin spends say $10 billion on electricity annually. (In fact, it’s less than this since bitcoin miners can be located in places where electricity prices are especially cheap.)
$10 billion in spending isn’t a lot. It’s less than the world spends on toothpaste ($30b), much less than the US spends on cigarettes ($80b), and considerably less than the US Federal government spends in one day ($18.65 billion).
If we think of the $10 billion spent by Bitcoin as a security budget (as the spending secures the blockchain) it also compares reasonably to US bank spending on cybersecurity. Bank of America alone spent more than $1 billion on its cybersecurity budget and the total financial security budget is much larger.
None of this proves that Bitcoin spending is well spent but it puts things in context. It is also true, of course, that most of the new crypto platforms such as Elrond use proof of stake which uses much less electricity than proof of work.
Still, the next time you read that Bitcoin consumes as much electricity as Sweden substitute Bitcoin spends as much on electricity as Americans spend on Halloween costumes.
Photo Credit: MaxPixel.
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