Now, a new report out of the Oak Ridge Institute is the first to compare the energy expenditure from crypto mining to what it would take to mine gold. Based on the researchers’ analysis, the same amount of energy needed to mine $1 worth of crypto could produce $3.40 worth of gold.
In the new paper, published Monday in the journal Nature Sustainability, the researchers explain how they were able to translate the energy expenditure of crypto mining into dollars earned.
First, they figured out the median value of four cryptocurrencies — bitcoin, monero, litecoin, and ether — from January 1, 2016, through June 30, 2018. Then, they determined how many megajoules (MJ) of energy you’d need to mine one dollar’s worth of each cryptocurrency: 17 for bitcoin, 14 for monero, 7 for litecoin, and 7 for ether.
Finally, the researchers compared the per dollar energy cost of crypto mining to that of metal mining. From existing research, they knew that mining one dollar’s worth of gold only requires 5 MJs of energy, meaning you’d need to expend more than three times as much energy to earn the equivalent paycheck in bitcoin.
Of course, the purpose of this latest study isn’t to encourage crypto miners to transition to mining metals — it’s to give the existing body of research on crypto’s energy consumption a bit more context.
As the researchers note in their paper, they hope this information will encourage debates on whether the use of this energy for crypto mining is appropriate. If not, we’ll need to figure out how to address the issue and soon given that the energy expenditure of bitcoin mining alone is on track to increase global temperatures past the limit set by the Paris Agreement.
READ MORE: Energy Cost of ‘Mining’ Bitcoin More Than Twice That of Copper or Gold [The Guardian]
More on bitcoin mining: Bitcoin Mining Will Only Cause a Climate Catastrophe if We Let It