But bitcoin is also making other headlines: The rise in its currency value has given way to a spike in electrical consumption for the powerful computers used to "mine" more bitcoins, according to a new report. Consumption in the last month increased by nearly 30 percent.
In other words, it takes a whopping 29.05 TWh (terawatt hours, equal to one million megawatt hours) annually to operate the energy-hungry computers and networks that power bitcoin transactions. That's about 0.13 percent of total global electricity consumption, according to Digiconomist. That would rank bitcoin as 61st if it were its own country.
Bitcoin mining uses more electricity than 159 individual countries -- including more than Ireland or Nigeria.
Nearly 10 U.S. households can be powered for one day by the electricity consumed for a single bitcoin transaction, according to figures from The Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index.
The Digiconomist report states there are 12 U.S. states that consume less energy than bitcoin mining: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming.
Digiconomist compared bitcoin's network energy consumption to another payment system like Visa. It reports that bitcoin consumed the equivalent energy of nearly 2.8 million U.S. households, while Visa's consumption numbers around 50,000 U.S. households.
In a video posted on YouTube, the process of "bitcoin mining" is explained -- the computational processes needed to handle transactions and the verification that supports them.
Bitcoin prices were $960 at the start of the year. In 2010, they were 8 cents.
Some critics have said bitcoin's soaring price -- and speculation about a bubble and possible crash -- may slow the pace of retailer adoption in the U.S., even as as its popularitywith the public.
Meanwhile, the technology has some fans. Fidelity Investments CEO Abigail Johnson told a conference earlier this year that she's "a believer," according to Quartz. "I'm one of the few standing before you today from a large financial services company that has not given up on digital currencies," she said.
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