Bitcoin mining (currently the most widely used blockchain technology) now accounts for 0.13% of global electricity consumption. Electricity expenses account for nearly 80% of the total expenses of cryptocurrency miners around the world. An unintended consequence of last winter's bitcoin market spike may have been an increase in renewable energy investment.
"The fact is that a lot of Chinese miners are using cheap and plentiful hydropower from Sichuan province," cryptocurrency entrepreneur Mark Bevender told reporters back in March.
The data needs to be put into perspective. "A study of Northern California by the Natural Resources Defense Council shows that 25 per cent of home energy consumption is currently wasted on unused electrical equipment. Noted economic blogger Charles Hugh Smith explains.
"This means that these devices in 'off', standby, or dormant mode can consume the equivalent of electricity produced by 50 large power plants, wasting more than $19 billion (R120 billion) in electricity bills each year."
Some new apps and extensions contain hidden cryptocurrency mining scripts that run in the background without the user's consent, which can also come with hidden costs. Malware developers - some hackers who exploit platform vulnerabilities without regard to users - have raised concerns among tech companies and governments.
"It's notoriously difficult, or inaccurate, to estimate the energy consumption of a blockchain, and there's no way to tell either who is mining at a given time or what their actual setup is," said Flanders, a software engineer and expert. He leads workshops aimed at deepening people's understanding of blockchain technology.
"For example, I can start a mining node on my laptop right now and stop it at any time, too. The carbon footprint of amateur mining on one of my laptops in a Canadian fracking region would be very different compared to a facility located in a coal power region dedicated to (cryptocurrency) mining. "
"Blockchain is everywhere nowadays, from finance and law to 'cloud cat ownership' and online dating." Flanders noted.
Blockchain technology actually creates a public spreadsheet that cannot be modified. Due to the decentralized and anonymous nature of blockchain technology, cross-border regulation is difficult.
"Blockchain technology allows a group of people spread across the globe who don't know each other and don't trust each other to agree on the global state of a system," explains Flanders. "Typically they would agree on the global state of the ledger, i.e. who has what cryptographic token, whereas a second-generation blockchain would be more complex."
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