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Bitcoin’s real energy use questioned as Ethereum founder criticizes BTC


The ever-raging debate around Bitcoin’s energy consumption has been re-ignited, with founding member of Ethereum Anthony Donofrio claiming that Bitcoin is using “way too much” energy. 

According to figures from Digiconomist, Bitcoin (BTC) currently uses 0.82% of the world’s power while Ethereum (ETH) uses 0.34%. Ethereum researcher Justin Drake posted the figures to his 56,000 followers that Donofrio retweeted, stating:

Ethereum proponents are attempting to take shots at Bitcoin while simultaneously promoting Ethereum’s upcoming transition to proof-of-stake, Drake added another tweet moments later that read: “Ethereum post-merge: 0.000% of world.”

However the validity of the figures are in doubt.

Even Drake was forced to acknowledge alternative sources of data in a later tweet which estimated energy consumption figures at nearly 60% lower.

Data sourced from Digiconomist, which markets itself as a platform that “exposes the unintended consequences of digital trends,” has drawn criticism from blockchain industry professionals in the past. The most notable of which is fellow Ethereum developer Josh Stark who called out the publication for frequently presenting the worst-case scenario when it comes to blockchain technology.

In November last year, Stark published a Twitter thread that questioned the accuracy of Digiconimist’s research methodology. Stark pointed out that almost all of the figures concerning blockchain power consumption were at the “very high end” of any theoretical outcome, especially when compared to more rigorous sources like the University of Cambridge.

Where Digiconomist claims that Bitcoin currently consumes 204 terawatt hours (TWh) worth of electricity per year, the University of Cambridge’s Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index estimates that Bitcoin’s real consumption is much closer to 125 TWh, a 39% difference.

Related: Are we misguided about Bitcoin mining’s environmental impacts? Slush Pool CMO Kristian Csepcsar explains.

While it may be a well-known fact that Bitcoin’s proof-of-work consensus mechanism is an energy-consuming process, the discussion around just how much power the Bitcoin network actually uses remains a hot-button issue.

According to a report from Cointelegraph, putting a specific number on Bitcoin’s actual power consumption can be quite difficult because of the variation in energy sources that power Bitcoin mining globally.

As of January this year nearly 60% of global mining operations were reportedly powered by renewable energy sources, and Bitcoin mining operators are rushing to utilize “stranded” natural gas resources that would normally be burned off. Additionally, a report published by CoinShares in January this year found that Bitcoin mining may account for just 0.08% of the world’s total CO2 emissions in 2021.

Sam Tabar, chief security officer of Bit Digital, a publicly-traded Bitcoin mining company, told Cointelegraph that the environmental impact of Bitcoin is frequently exaggerated by critics:

“The environmental impact of Bitcoin mining is massively exaggerated by critics & traditional financial authorities (IMF, etc.) because they know they can divide a new counterculture movement by using fake environmental arguments. They are trying to gaslight us against each other. They gaslight the world with fake green arguments, and I understand why: They don’t want to lose influence over the levers of power of a system that only works for the elite.”