So, you're telling me that US crypto mining used more power last year than ALL THE COMPUTERS?!

Estimated comparative energy usage of cryptocurrency mining in the United States
(Image credit: The White House)

This graph seems so unbelievable it makes the thing a little hard to parse. But basically, cryptocurrency mining in the US sucked down more energy that every computer in the entire country. Every. Single. Computer. 

Yes, even Macs.

Hell, at 50 billion kWh, crypto mining in the US almost used more power than all the televisions. And there are quite a few TVs in the States, in case you'd forgotten.

I've seen all the stories about cryptocurrency mining using more power than [insert country here], and those stats are always pretty astounding. But they always relate to the entirety of the global crypto network, or just the bitcoin mining around the world. And it's quite easy to insulate yourself against such broad terms.

But when it's just about the output of a single country—albeit the single largest contributor to the bitcoin mining industry—to me it seems to hit home much harder.

This all comes from a White House report on the proposed Digital Asset Mining Energy (DAME) excise tax which uses the graph above to highlight just how much power the useless endeavour actually uses. And it's not just the fact it's using a lot of energy and therefore causing a huge amount of carbon emissions, crypto firms can cause the energy prices of the surrounding area to spike for normal citizens, too.

All for the pursuit of "digital assets whose broader social benefits have yet to materialize."

Here's the full image with all the caveats:

(Image credit: The White House)
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The cryptocurrency mining figures in the graph have been estimated using both global crypto energy usage and the United States' share of bitcoin and ethereum mining until 'The Merge' happened. In fairness, as an estimate, the graph shows the potential variation in the overall number, so it could actually be in the low 30 billions kWh used (which still puts it above all those computers) or up to the high 60 billions kWh. 

That upper limit then puts it in the same ballpark as the power drawn in total by every light in the entire country for 2022.

Every other thing on that list has at least some benefit, whether in terms of business or merely societal, but neither bitcoin nor ethereum contribute anything for the harm they cause, even now the latter is not actually mined.

It's surely unsustainable, and hopefully punitive taxes such as the DAME levy will make it so unprofitable to mint useless digital assets that the industry grinds to a halt.  But maybe that's just me on my crypto high-horse. Maybe one day it'll actually be worth all the damage it's wrought. Though I kinda doubt that.

Dave James

Dave has been gaming since the days of Zaxxon and Lady Bug on the Colecovision, and code books for the Commodore Vic 20 (Death Race 2000!). He built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 16, and finally finished bug-fixing the Cyrix-based system around a year later. When he dropped it out of the window. He first started writing for Official PlayStation Magazine and Xbox World many decades ago, then moved onto PC Format full-time, then PC Gamer, TechRadar, and T3 among others. Now he's back, writing about the nightmarish graphics card market, CPUs with more cores than sense, gaming laptops hotter than the sun, and SSDs more capacious than a Cybertruck.