Add Intel's CEO to the list of people who think bitcoin is an environmental disaster. Pat Gelsinger said bitcoin is a “climate crisis” that the company can help address with its newly introduced crypto mining chip during a recent interview with Bloomberg.
“A single ledger in bitcoin consumes enough energy to power your house for almost a day,” Gelsinger said. “That’s a climate crisis. … If we produce the tech that consumes that much energy, wow, that’s not OK.”
Bitcoin energy consumption has soared over the past few years, and with it, the cryptocurrency's carbon footprint. A single bitcoin transaction has a carbon footprint equivalent to watching more than 170,000 hours of YouTube, and its electricity consumption is comparable to what it would take to keep a U.S. household running for about 76 days, according to Digiconomist. In aggregate, the numbers are even worse; annual mining operations consume as much electricity as Thailand and emit as much carbon pollution as Kuwait.
Intel is currently building an “energy-efficient” chip that aims to address the environmental impact of crypto mining, which Gelsinger said will be "dramatically better" in terms of power performance. “We want to work with the industry to find ways that technologies like blockchain can be properly regulated, managed as well so that they truly can be fully realized,” Gelsinger said.
Digiconomist also found that mining results in nearly 34,000 tons of e-waste each year, though, care of the copious amounts of hardware needed to mine bitcoin at scale. A study co-authored last year by Digiconomist founder Alex de Vries showed the e-waste problem could double if bitcoin price remain high. Whether Intel's chip will be more robust than what's currently in use by most miners — or if it will even be widely adopted — remains to be seen.
On top of its detrimental impact on the climate, Gelsinger said bitcoin isn’t a good technology because it can't currently be used broadly by nations and people as a currency. “That doesn’t mean it’s not good tech, but we’re not using it good yet,” he said.