Bitcoin communicates sensitive data
First, what is PoW, and where did it come from? PoW is the consensus protocol that Bitcoin runs on. It requires miners to invest work in generating hash keys to prove that their block with transaction data is correct and doesn’t contain false transactions. This, combined with the fact that a block with transactions only has limited space, means that someone wanting to send a transaction will have to pay a fee.
That may sound complicated, and under the hood, it is indeed complicated. However, it might be easier to understand when looking at the origin of PoW, namely as a way to get rid of spam in remailer systems. When it is free to send messages in a network, it’s only a matter of time before spammers will spam all members with junk. By requiring the computers of senders to do some work, it would become economically unviable for spammers to send spam.
Technically, Bitcoin isn’t very different from a network in which people send messages, as the same thing happens with Bitcoin! However, as the data being sent around on Bitcoin revolves around the exchange of value, it becomes even more necessary to ensure the data sent around is correct and can’t be changed retroactively.
Bitcoin and the energy debate
Bitcoin miners are in the business of securing the bitcoin network, processing transactions, and selling block space. Every 10 minutes, a block is added to the blockchain. Miners who add a block of transactions to the blockchain receive a reward in the form of bitcoin. But to be able to add a block to the blockchain, the miner will have to solve a cryptographic puzzle. As the demand for and price of bitcoin rises, it becomes more lucrative for miners to enter this business. This, in turn, increases the difficulty, which is an automatic mechanism that ensures that, on average, transaction blocks are added every 10 minutes. In short, the rising demand for bitcoin means electricity consumption also rises.
Now, the big question is, is this acceptable? With bitcoins price rising significantly over the past ten years, it becomes clear that there is indeed a need for an apolitical monetary network on which everyone, even people without a bank account, can safely send value across the world. No banks, payment processors, or governments are needed to perform transactions on the Bitcoin network, and no spammers can attack the network. To many, this is a revolutionary idea that may change the world as we know it.
The fact that Bitcoin uses so much electricity is something no one can change. However, where the electricity comes from can be changed. A broader discussion started with Tesla halting bitcoin payments because the electricity sources weren’t particularly clean then. Especially China banning bitcoin mining altogether caused a significant shift of miners moving to cleaner energy sources. Not only because they are often cheaper but also because people, governments and companies worldwide pushed for it.
The value Bitcoin miners offer
So are bitcoin miners wasting electricity by securing a global monetary network that is already widely used? Clothes dryers in the US alone use about as much as the entire Bitcoin network. Is drying your clothes instead of hanging them valuable enough to justify the energy consumption of clothes dryers?
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