How much energy does an industry deserve to consume? Right now, organizations around the world are facing pressure to limit the consumption of non-renewable energy sources and the emission of carbon into the atmosphere. But figuring out how much consumption is too much is a complex question that’s intertwined with debates around our priorities as a society. The calculation of which goods and services are “worth” spending these resources on, after all, is really a question of values. As cryptocurrencies, and Bitcoin in particular, have grown in prominence, energy use has become the latest flashpoint in the larger conversation about what, and who, digital currencies are really good for.
On the face of it, the question about energy use is a fair one. According to the Cambridge Center for Alternative Finance (CCAF), Bitcoin currently consumes around 110 Terawatt Hours per year — 0.55% of global energy production, or roughly equivalent to the annual energy draw of small countries like Malaysia or Sweden. This certainly sounds like a lot of energy. But how much energy should a monetary system consume?
How you answer that likely depends on how you feel about Bitcoin. If you believe that Bitcoin offers no utility beyond serving as a ponzi scheme or a device for money laundering, then it would only be logical to conclude that consuming any amount of energy is wasteful. If you are one of the tens of millions of individuals worldwide using it as a tool to escape