According to newly published research, mining cryptocurrency takes nearly twice as much energy than mining gold, platinum, and copper. Bitcoin on its own, needs three times as much energy to mine than compared to gold.
Researchers from the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education in Cincinnati tracked the daily energy demand and hashrate of Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Monero between 1st January 2016 to 30th June 2018.
The researchers then used the average daily market prices of each cryptocurrency – and the respective rewards gained from successfully mining a block – to calculate how much energy it takes to generate one US dollar worth of each respective cryptocurrency.
The study found that Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Monero consumed 17, 7, 7, and 14 million joules of energy, respectively, to mine $1 worth of each cryptocurrency.
To put this into some kind of context, it would take 1 million joules of energy to lift about 110,000 tons, 1 meter off the ground. So yeah, that’s a lot of energy.
In comparison to the conventional mining of metals, copper requires just 4MJ, gold requires 5MJ, and platinum needs 9MJ of energy to mine $1 worth of the precious metal.
Over an 18 month period, the researchers also noticed that the hashrate of the four tracked cryptocurrencies has, on average, continued to increase. Even though the cryptocurrency market was highly volatile across the same period, it seems to suggest the energy requirements of cryptocurrency mining will continue to increase irrespective of each coin’s price.
Sadly, with the energy demands of cryptocurrency mining so high and continuing to increase, it seems the hobbyist miner won’t be turning a profit anytime soon.
Researchers also suggest that mining these four cryptocurrencies is responsible for between three and 16 million tons of CO2 emissions. That is quite a broad estimate, and it should be noted this study was completed using publicly available information. Researchers have not considered how miners of these cryptocurrencies source their electricity, and at what rate they are purchasing it.
Sure, mining cryptocurrencies takes a lot of energy, but what matters more is where that energy is coming from. In some cases, the immense energy requirements of cryptocurrency mining is encouraging innovation into green renewable energy sources.