Cryptocurrency Mining Is Heating Up… Literally

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(Artwork/Yvonne Wang’22)

Milind Singh, Online Staff Writer

Bitcoin, Dogecoin, Ethereum, and many more. Over the past few months, we have all heard news about cryptocurrencies and their impact on everything from Tesla’s cars to the Robinhood app. Bitcoin and the like are causing a big stir in the finance and tech sectors, but their effects on other areas, like the environment, are quietly overlooked. 

Let us start with the basics: Bitcoin is a “decentralized digital currency, without a central bank or single administrator, that can be sent from user to user on the peer-to-peer network” (Calvery). Simply, it is online money that is “mined” instead of printed like regular dollar bills. The process of mining Bitcoin is an intricate one that usually involves many graphics processing units, or GPUs, hooked up to powerful computers that are solving “complex computational math problems” (Hong). With the allure that anyone with access to powerful computers can get rich off an internet currency, Bitcoin has drawn many users, most of whom ignore one key issue.

The process of mining requires immense amounts of power being delivered to the computers, which in turn emit massive amounts of heat into the surrounding areas. The problem is more severe than it appears; the Bitcoin industry now consumes more energy per year than the entire country of Argentina, as discovered in a study done by Cambridge University this year (Criddle). 

The future isn’t completely bleak though, as there are many cryptocurrencies available today that do not involve physical mining (Reiff). There are even some companies that mine cryptocurrencies that are pledging to do better. Senior Will Sun mentioned, “I think crypto is moving in the right space by going green. Even though it’s just starting, companies like Greenidge are trying to find ways to sustainably mine cryptocurrencies.” Greenidge pledged in May that it would be carbon neutral, and it achieved its goal (​​DiSavino). 

As with all things, there are two sides to the Bitcoin mining debate, but the wind is blowing in favor of sustainability. Novel solutions are being employed around the world to remedy the problem; however, the first step is to raise awareness. It might be fun to try your hand at earning some Bitcoin using a couple of GPUs, but make sure you understand the ramifications of what you are doing beforehand. 

 

Works Cited

  • Calvery, Jennifer Shasky. “Statement before the United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs.” Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, 18 Nov. 2013.
  • Criddle, Cristina. “Bitcoin Consumes ‘More Electricity than Argentina.’” BBC News, 10 Feb. 2021, www.bbc.com/news/technology-56012952. Accessed 2 Oct. 2021.
  • DiSavino, Scott. “Greenidge Says N.Y. Bitcoin Mining Operation to Be Carbon-Neutral June 1.” Reuters, 14 May 2021, www.reuters.com/business/sustainable-business/greenidge-says-ny-bitcoin-mining-operation-be-carbon-neutral-june-1-2021-05-14/. Accessed 5 Oct. 2021.
  • Hong, Euny. “How Does Bitcoin Mining Work?” Investopedia, 21 Sept. 2021, www.investopedia.com/tech/how-does-bitcoin-mining-work/. Accessed 2 Oct. 2021.
  • Reiff, Nathan. “What’s the Environmental Impact of Cryptocurrency?” Investopedia, 26 Aug. 2021, www.investopedia.com/tech/whats-environmental-impact-cryptocurrency/. Accessed 2 Oct. 2021.
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