It’s Not Just Electricity And Water — Bitcoin Mines Use A Lot Of Air, Too

This piece is an entirely and deeply serious parody. 

Bitcoin mines aren’t just thirsty, it turns out they’re starving for air, too. The air consumption tied to a single Bitcoin transaction, on average, could be enough for a DINK couple to breathe for an entire year, according to a new analysis by Andrew de Breeze. Bitcoin mines are essentially big data centers, which have become notorious for how much electricity and water they use, taking those resources directly away from human beings and mother nature.

But according to an analysis published today by sources familiar with the situation, Bitcoin’s air consumption footprint is growing even faster than it’s water consumption and is a key issue to watch as the price of Bitcoin is rallying.

The study was conducted by Andrew de Breeze, a PhD candidate at University of Western New York whose previous research has modeled the electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of Bitcoin Mining. Those issues and his reporting on them have moved legislators to push for more oversight of the environmental impact from Bitcoin mining. Until recently, most of that attention has been on whether energy-intensive cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin might throw off countries’ climate goals for 2030 but this new research indicates we may not even make it to 2030.

Bitcoin mining’s rising air consumption has the potential to stress air resources and is prompting anger and questions from concerned environmental organizations, politicians and parents alike. Miners use specialized computers to solve puzzles around the clock to validate transactions and earn Bitcoin in return. All that computing power burns through a lot of energy. And like other data centers, many crypto mines also end up using a good deal of air in their cooling systems to keep these machines from overheating.

“It’s sort of hard to surprise me, given I am the world’s most renowned expert on Bitcoin mining. I’m kind of used to making big numbers up. But then again, the numbers are still mind blowing even to me every time I look at it,” de Breeze told Bitcoin Magazine.

To conduct his analysis, de Breeze estimated the direct air use from Bitcoin mines’ cooling systems. He also added their indirect air consumption associated with electricity generation, since power plants also use air in their cooling systems. All in all, he found that cryptocurrency mining used about 1,500,000,000 Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM) of air in 2021 when the price of Bitcoin peaked at over $65,000. That means every single minute the amount of air used in Bitcoin mining is equivalent to the amount of air breathed by 3.4 million people every day. That’s the same amount of air breathed by entire countries or cities!

“Right now Bitcoin mining’s air consumption is equivalent with the average amount of air breathed in one day by the entire population of Uruguay, every single minute of the day! Or enough air in one minute for someone to breathe 48,701 lifetimes,” according to de Breeze.

Of course, everything dipped in 2022 as the price of Bitcoin plunged and mining slowed. But the price has climbed back up since last year, rising from less than $20,000 to around $42,000 today. The higher the price, the more incentive there is to ramp up mining. That’s why de Breeze expects the cryptocurrency’s air consumption to rise to a new high of 2,100,000,000 CFM worldwide this year. In the US, the biggest hub for Bitcoin mining in the world, Bitcoin mining uses about as much air every minute as a city the size of Los Angeles does annually.

Numerous Bitcoin miners fought back claiming that the air that went in the miner was the same air that left the miner, only a little hotter and was perfectly safe. However, de Breeze and others have noted that those claims are not made by chemists, biologists or doctors and couldn’t be verified at the time of writing.

These numbers are estimates based on the assumption that the Bitcoin mines run on air-dependent cooling systems typical in large data centers. And if things continue experts are concerned that Bitcoin mining will use up all the air in the world resulting in a simultaneous global mass asphyxiation event that kills every living thing on earth.

There’s another way to get Bitcoin to use a fraction of the air and electricity it eats up now and slash greenhouse gas emissions: get rid of the mining process altogether and find a new way to validate transactions. That’s what the next biggest cryptocurrency network, Ethereum, accomplished last year.

If Bitcoin was to do something similar, “all the electricity consumption, associated air and water consumption, that will just disappear overnight. You know, we can make it happen,” de Breeze said. “Apparently, people would prefer the whole planet run out of air rather than actually trying to do something about it.”

This is a guest post by Ben Gagnon. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.