BlockChains Use Too Much Energy

I was speaking to the lovely Teresa Gail a few weeks ago as the television spewed commercials about “The Cloud” at us.

We’d had previous discussions about cloud computing and she has seen my code running on AWS.  She was still curious about why there were so many commercials about it – and the best answer I had at the moment was that it was the new hotness as well as profitable.

I then said: “But watch out.  Pretty soon you’ll start seeing commercials for the BlockChain instead.”

It wasn’t a week later she sent me this:

While I am not always so prescient I do have my moments;  as well as a pretty good track record predicting tech trends.

I am very bullish on Crypto Currencies as well as BlockChain technologies in general, however there is a huge elephant in the room.

BlockChains use massive amounts of power.

Bitcoin’s ( far from the only block chain ) current estimated annual electricity consumption is  60 TWh ( terawatt hour or  10^12 watts for one hour).

Each Bitcoin transaction comes with a Carbon footprint per transaction of 302.43 kg of CO2.

This is not a sustainable technology.  Bitcoin uses as much energy a year as Nigeria or Switzerland does…

The way Bitcoins are created is by “mining” coins.  More technically known as “proof of work”,  Bitcoin miners are spending $3 Million dollars a year to mine them. The cost includes hardware but the majority of that is energy costs.

While the cost to mine BitCoins is huge, it is not the only problem:

You could power 20 typical U.S. households for an entire day for the price of one BlockChain transaction!

Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin is working on a system called “proof of stake” that theoretically should use less power than the current “proof of work” system does. This is a step in the right direction but does nothing to solve the transactional energy costs.

There are estimates that Bitcoin mining alone could increase the average temperatures above 2 °C within less than 20 years.

This does not factor in all of the Block Chain Start Ups, much less the big players ( ala the IBM ad above ) offering new BlockChain based services.

This energy consumption problem needs to be addressed and solved before the BlockChain can be considered a viable, sustainable solution.

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