As I was penciling this, Paul Krugman’s latest column on the Bitcoin bubble went up. Krugman makes some of the same points I make in the cartoon.
For more on the incredible energy use that goes into mining Bitcoin, this Arstechnica piece is a good place to start. This site has some eyebrow-raising stats, such as the fact that the number of U.S. households that could be powered by Bitcoin is 4,252,394. To quote from this Motherboard article making the Denmark comparison:
Even in the optimistic scenario, just mining one bitcoin in 2020 would require a shocking 5,500 kWh, or about half the annual electricity consumption of an American household. And even if we assume that by that time only half of that electricity is generated by fossil fuels, still over 4,000 kg of carbon dioxide would be emitted per bitcoin mined. It makes you wonder whether bitcoin could still be called a virtual currency, when the physical effects could become so tangible.
Emphasis mine. It’s extremely ironic, then, that a currency this inefficient and destructive to the planet — it’s mostly powered by Chinese coal-burning plants, according to Digiconomist — has become the darling of Libertarian utopianists who think they’re creating a futuristic paradise.