‘It Cannot Get Any Worse’: Cornell Professors Decry Energy Costs of NY Bitcoin Mining

The next time someone invests in a fraction of a bitcoin, they can thank the thousands of computational devices guzzling energy to solve a math problem at a Finger Lakes power plant. A former public coal-powered plant turned private Bitcoin mining operation located just off the shore of Seneca Lake, Greenidge Generation, is currently vying to renew its license to continue operations. Cornell professors are arguing that this renewal could bring millions of tons of carbon emissions to the state. 

With the facility on the cusp of receiving a license renewal, faculty like Prof. Eswar Prasad, applied economics and policy, insist that allowing Bitcoin mining in power plants would be an unbefitting use of energy as the increasingly detrimental effects of climate change continue to take shape. Bitcoin mining, explained

“Bitcoin is a decentralized cryptocurrency,” Prasad said. “In other words, anyone with a computer could conduct transactions without relying on traditional paper currency or having a credit card or bank account, and without having to reveal their real identities.” 

As volatile as the currency is, the value of bitcoin has skyrocketed over the course of the last 10 years, jumping from just a fraction of a penny to well over $45,000.

Cornell Tech Professor Explains Hype And Pitfalls of Cryptocurrencies

Chances are you know someone who’s mined bitcoin. However, cryptocurrencies are not everything they appear to be. Drawing the ire of governments and financial institutions alike, questions about its reliability are on the rise. Prof. Ari Juels, computer science at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech, discussed the impact, technology and regulatory environment of cryptocurrencies. Co-director of the Initiative for CryptoCurrencies and Contracts — a collaboration between Cornell, the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, based at Cornell Tech — Juels helps lead research on blockchain technology and its applications.

BENITEZ | The Real Cost of Bitcoin

Bitcoin mining consumed nearly one percent of the United States’ electricity last year. Globally, Bitcoin’s estimated yearly power usage is greater than that of Ireland, or 30 times more than that of Tesla vehicles. Considering this, one wonders whether the societal benefits of the world’s foremost cryptocurrency offsets its significant energy consumption, which expedites greater, existential risks like irreversible climate change. Does Bitcoin justify its power bill? First, while Bitcoin is often described as an emerging currency, its illiquidity — you can’t just buy groceries with it — makes it as an asset best-likened to gold.

Cornell Researchers Highlight Ethical Lapses in Recent Cybersecurity Failures

The internet is everywhere. From simple dial-up connections on bulky computers, the spread of internet access to watches, cameras, printers, refrigerators and televisions demonstrates the progress the computing industry has made. Connectivity is lauded for making our lives convenient and efficient. However, the increasing frequency of malware attacks and data leaks suggests that advancements in cybersecurity are not keeping pace. As a testament to this fact, on Sept.

Cornell Prof Uncovers Bugs in Smart Contract System, Urges More Safety in Program Design

The opening scene of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight represents the quintessential bank heist. Joker and crew, armed with guns, break into a bank and manage to whisk away gunny bags full of cash. However, not all robberies are this dramatic. As cryptocurrencies become more popular, millions of dollars can be swindled with just the click of a button. In May, Prof. Emin Gun Sirer, computer science, and his colleagues discovered a bug that left DAO, a smart contract that crowdsources investment proposals, vulnerable to such heists.

CORNUCOPIA | Prof. Sirer Talks Ins and Outs of Bitcoin

Cornucopia is a biweekly podcast that covers research stories unfolding across campus. Join hosts Addison Huneycutt ’18 and Ali Jenkins ’18 as they dig into the juiciest discoveries they can find. In each episode, you’ll meet a researcher, chat with Addison and Ali and hear some corny jokes. Check out the science section of The Cornell Daily Sun for biweekly updates about the latest episodes. Queries relating to Cornucopia may be sent to [email protected].