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All of the Energy Usage Arguments Suck

Holy shit I need to vent, because the debate over Bitcoin‘s energy consumption has driven me mad. It’s both sides, really.

Bitcoin skeptics cite some false metric like “energy cost per transaction”, which fundamentally misunderstands how blockchains work, and then crypto-enthusiasts will reply with some lazy whataboutism or make some completely bent over backwards argument like “actually using a fuck ton of electricity encourages more efficient use and therefore it’s good for the environment!”

I mean, come on. It’s true that people give unusual amounts of attention to crypto mining when there’s plenty of other wasteful shit out there, but whataboutism always weakens your argument. It’s a logical fallacy.

It is also true that Bitcoin mining tends to gravitate towards energy that might have otherwise been wasted, but let’s not say that makes it a net positive on the environment. That argument just sounds ridiculous to any skeptics; it’s not convincing anyone.

Can supporters please directly address the skeptics where they’re wrong? It’s pretty easy, because most of their argument hinges on a misunderstanding. Like, no, you cannot literally just take the energy the network consumes to mine a block and divide that by the number of transactions per block to get an eye-popping “energy cost per transaction”, then linearly extrapolate that data so it shows that mining will use up all the world’s energy in -1 years.

The problem isn’t transactions, it’s mining, and the transaction throughput has nothing to do with how much is mined. I’ve noticed that they don’t know what blocks are and/or assume that when blocks are filled, a new one is instantly created on demand, when in fact when blocks fill your transaction fee goes up and it’s queued for the next available block. Blocks go through no matter whether they’re empty or full, completely falsifying this metric.

Also, it is true that Bitcoin uses as much electricity as a small country, but do you know how small a small country is? Well, even if we assume that mining is powered entirely by coal, it’s contributing a grand total of [0.17% of the world’s CO2 emissions.](https://cbeci.org/faq/) That’s not boiling the oceans now is it? I know that number can go up, but I cite it to show how overblown the concerns are.

What’s that? 0.17% is too high when it could be 0.00%? Yeah, fair. I mean, other consensus mechanisms like proof of stake have their own problems, but that’s up to you. I don’t really have much of an opinion on that debate because I feel like it’s for developers and not Redditors, but I see both sides.

I never intended for this post to sound like “my argument is better than yours,” but I really think we as crypto supporters need to do better.

TL;DR it’s maddening to see nocoiners scream about how Bitcoin is boiling the oceans, but it gets even more maddening to see bitcoiners respond with stupid arguments.



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4 Comments

  1. Don’t get upset. If anything take satisfaction in the fact that Bitcoin is bringing this conversation to the masses. It is a conversation that regimes like China do not want to have. And it is a conversation that needs to happen. Honey Badger don’t give a shit.

  2. Bitcoin is a solution, not a problem.

    Bitcoin only uses one twentieth of one percent of all energy produced by man.

    Most of the energy used by Bitcoin is from renewable, clean sources (hydro, wind, etc.) Bitcoin promotes the transition to clean energy sources. Bitcoin helps clean up the planet.

    **IF** you’re concerned about the environment, that’s good, but you are wasting your time if you bicker about Bitcoin.

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