A Puppy Dies Every Time You Make A Bitcoin Transaction
Bitcoin currently consumes 200% of the world's electricity, all of its water, and has been linked to increased rates of syphilis among teenagers.
Bitcoin is no stranger to controversy. It has been branded Environmental Enemy Number 1 for years, due to the large amounts of electricity used by miners, which critics have claimed is mainly generated from coal and gas.
In fact, new research suggests that Bitcoin mining is more sustainable than even the EV industry, and carbon emissions have remained static even as hashrate quadruples.
Fortunately for the naysayers, though, there is no shortage of other fabricated failings.
Bitcoin has been derided as a having no intrinsic value, since it is not backed by physical assets (not unlike fiat money). It has been linked—almost entirely falsely, it turns out—to terrorist financing, including Hamas. And now, there's another critique doing the rounds. Bitcoin is a water thief.
Mainstream media has been reporting that every Bitcoin payment "uses a swimming pool of water". The figure of 2,200 gigaliters of water for total Bitcoin usage in 2023 was calculated by Alex de Vries of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and is attributed to the cooling requirements of Bitcoin mining rigs around the world.
de Vries (a known anti-Bitcoin lobbyist and employee of the Dutch Central Bank) argues that Bitcoin would not need to use this much water if it shifted to Proof-of-Stake, as Ethereum did last year.
Like much "academic" criticism of Bitcoin, the research is flawed in numerous ways. Daniel Batten, who has recently published new research on Bitcoin miners' renewable power use, was quick to point out several major errors.
The water usage claim is ridiculous for 2 simple reasons. Firstly, water use per transaction is as false a metric as "energy use per transaction". Bitcoin's use of energy (and water) does not come from transaction, it comes from mining companies producing Bitcoin.
It's like saying "New Zealand have 100 Billion GDP and 20 Million Sheep, therefore we have $50,000 GDP per sheep. Once we have a false metric in place, we can make all sorts of absurd claims such as "Therefore if we double our number of sheep, we double our GDP".
As a supposedly respectable broadcaster, the BBC should have checked its facts. Doing so would have quickly uncovered several issues. As Batten points out, Bitcoin's water (and electricity) use is independent of the number of transactions it processes. Moreover, the water it uses is not "lost" or polluted, and generally does not take resources from those who need them.
Had the BBC done their homework, they would have uncovered de Vries' history as Central Bank lobbyist against Bitcoin.
They did not.
Had they done their homework, they would have realised that Bitcoin uses chiefly stranded and wasted hydropower that otherwise no other user could have used.
They did not.
Had they done their homework, they would have realised that it is possible to use the metrics de Vries' study uses to attack any user of power that you want to single out for attack.
They did not.
de Vries research was behind a 2017 article by Newsweek, which warned: "Bitcoin Mining on Track to Consume All of the World's Energy by 2020".
Surprisingly, that study proved to be flawed too.
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