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Elvia Wilk is a writer and editor living in Berlin, covering art, architecture, urbanism, and emerging technologies. She contributes to publications like Frieze, Artforum, e-flux, die Zeit, the Architectural Review, and Metropolis. Currently she's a contributing editor at Rhizome and publications editor for transmediale festival for arts and digital culture.
The author of this essay professes his ignorance of cryptocurrency until now. Whatever you think about that willful ignorance, the reason he’s snapped to attention now is certainly a reason everyone else lagging on crypto-education should start paying attention too.
This month marks a historic high for Bitcoin value at over $11,000 a pop. The “decentralized, secure, anonymous method for transferring value” became a commodity in its own right, and a hot one at that. Thousands of transactions between owners occur every day.
But how is all that transferring being powered and kept track of? If Bitcoin’s value is completely tied to digital networks, what is powering those digital networks? Electricity is needed to keep the servers on, and massive amounts at that.
“Today, each bitcoin transaction requires the same amount of energy used to power nine homes in the U.S. for one day.”
Most countries in the world don’t consume as much energy as the Bitcoin-trading network does in a year. That kind of energy usage to keep servers running is no joke. It’s a serious strain on the clean-energy movement that we have to think about right now, assuming that with rising prices cryptocurrency will only increase in popularity.
“Simply put, bitcoin is slowing the effort to achieve a rapid transition away from fossil fuels.”