BTC.com has revealed mining difficulty for Bitcoin rose by 9.32%, reaching an all-time high since the last raise in the previous year. This is the biggest difficulty adjustment in the market since August of last year, making it the year’s second-biggest jump.
According to statistics, the general mining difficulty for Bitcoin changes every 2,016 blocks, maintaining a two-week schedule. The difficulty level changes are designed for the maintenance of 10 minutes, despite the per block timings varying. The higher the hash rate, the higher the difficulty level gets. The hash rate is the computational power, maintaining the mining time on a block.
Ever since last summer’s mining crackdown in China, the difficulty level for mining has seen steady growth, except for one instance back in November. The Bitcoin mining crackdown in China made things difficult as miners shifted to countries such as the United States and Kazakhstan, after shutting down their operation in the country. The U.S. is still the mining powerhouse throughout the world, according to a data dashboard tracking the hash rate, which has recovered since the slump in August.
After the regulatory crackdown in China, the hash rate continued falling until fall when the miners from the previously biggest mining country found alternatives for themselves. Whit Gibbs, CEO of Compass Mining even said, “we can attribute a good bit of this increase [in difficulty] to Chinese miners finally coming online in North America,” referring to the collective prediction that most miners would be back on their work by Q1 2022, and they are.
Since December of 2021 alone, the total hash rate has reportedly increased by 18 EH/s, The Block Research reports. Due to the upward trend of Bitcoin, many miners pre-planned to expand their mining capacity, for higher profits. The trend is expected to soar as well, as many countries are officially promoting and investing in Bitcoin. Despite crackdowns such as the one in China, there is, even if wobbly, a piqued international interest in cryptocurrency that cannot be denied. PR representative for mining host BitRiver, Roman Zabuga reportedly stated to CoinDesk, “In 2022, we expect record growth of this indicator.”
Crypto’s Hashing rate vs Carbon Footprint
Despite the heightened interest and economic benefits, lawmakers are continuously held back by the immense carbon footprint of Bitcoin and its mining process. So much so that it was part of a hearing for the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Thursday, discussing the intense amount of energy required for the process. The continued concern regarding it is the fact that it is largely dependent on fossil fuel resources, making it extremely difficult to move away from what the climate scientists have been warning us.
Another question addressed by the committee was the promise made by miners who claimed that mining Bitcoin can actually help in stabilizing energy grids. Bitcoin and Ethereum are the top most energy-consuming currencies in crypto. Bitcoin alone consumes 204.50 terawatt-hours of electricity in a year, according to Digiconomist.
Rep. Diana DeGette, who is the subcommittee Chair addressed the hearing, “Our focus now needs to be reducing carbon emissions overall, and increasing the share of green energy on the grid,” agreeing that despite “present potential benefits”, the scale of mining can be disastrous to the efforts of de-escalating climate change, “it’s important to understand the degree to which this is actually being done.”
This is the only time the impact of cryptocurrency on the climate has been discussed by lawmakers in a bipartisan hearing. John Belizaire, who is the CEO of data center developer Soluna Computing, appeared as a witness claiming so much as, “Crypto’s energy consumption is a feature, not a bug,” continuing to claim that the narrative around crypto is not correct. He continued, “the narrative of [crypto’s] threat to the grid is wrong.” All present CEOs in mining claimed that the operations can “incentivize the production of clean, renewable energy.” Rep. Frank Pallone said, “To achieve these [climate] goals we cannot bring retired fossil fuel plants back online in support of [energy intensive crypto mining].”