February 11, 2018

AP Uses ‘Expert’ on Bitcoin Who Predicts It Will Consume the Entire World’s Electricity

Move over, Michael Mann. There’s a new gloom-and-doom graph claiming that bitcoin “mining” will consume all of the world’s electricity in two years. A Sunday Associated Press “Q&A” cited one of its makers but ignored the graph, giving concerns about bitcoin’s environmental impact unwarranted credibility.

Mann’s hockey stick predicting disastrous global warming is based on … well, we don’t know, because he “has staunchly refused to release all of the data and computer programs for peer review.” It depends heavily on unsupported smoothing of the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ace Age which followed it.

The graph projecting the percentage of the entire world’s electricity consumed by bitcoin “mining” has a similarly dubious foundation.

The AP’s Patrick Whittle explained “mining,” and described the alleged concerns:

… (Bitcoin) was created in 2009 as a new way of paying for things … The sustainability concerns about bitcoin, voiced by economists and environmentalists, stem from the process of “mining” that is central to its existence.

The “miners” use computers to make complex calculations that verify transactions in bitcoins. This uses a tremendous amount of energy via computers and server farms all over the world, which has given rise to concerns about the amount of fossil fuel-dependent electricity used to power the computers. Some estimates say bitcoin’s energy impact is more than that of a small country.

… Bitcoin can’t exist without computers, which can’t exist without a source of electricity. And the number of computers and the energy needed to power them is rising.

The graph which capitalizes on this concern claims that bitcoin mining will consumer the equivalent of all of the world’s current electricity use in just two years:


Several establishment press outlets have accepted this projection with little skepticism.

Whittle at AP didn’t mention the graph, but he presented an alarmist whose key assumption was used to create it as a primary source:

… Dutch bitcoin analyst Alex de Vries … has produced estimates he believes are alarming.

… De Vries said less conservative estimates make it entirely possible that bitcoin is using as much energy as Ireland, which consumes about twice as much as Slovenia, or about 0.7 percent of the U.S. total.

… de Vries … estimated the annual amount of energy consumed by bitcoin rose by a fifth in the final weeks of 2017.

Bitcoin allegedly consumed 0.13 percent of all worldwide electricity in early December. The 20 percent growth cited by de Vries, compounded for 36 three-week periods, leads to the graphed result above seen at the PowerCompare website.

The AP didn’t disclose that ridiculous projection based on de Vries’s estimates, and only gave lip service to critic Marc Bevand, who believes that Bitcoin’s current consumption is “less than the annual electricity … for Christmas lights in the U.S.”

Whittle’s Q&A is awfully convenient for governments, central banks, and environmentalists aiming to regulate and even suppress bitcoin. The good news is that it shouldn’t take long for the gloom-and-doom consumption graph to be proven wrong.


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