Citing “disturbing” levels of power used by cryptocurrency miners, a group of Democrats led by Senator Elizabeth Warren is urging the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy to crack down on the controversial industry.
The letter, signed by four senators and two representatives, calls on regulators to force cryptominers to disclose their carbon emissions and energy consumption. Environmentalists have long raised concerns about Bitcoin and other power-hungry, proof-of-stake tokens — and globally, cryptocurrencies are estimated to consume more energy than entire countries, such as Venezuela and Finland.
In the US, only seven companies have built more than 1,045 gigawatts of capacity for crypto mining purposes, the report states; “This is enough capacity to power all homes in Houston, Texas.” The mining companies mentioned in the report are run by Stronghold, Greenidge, Bit Digital, Bitfury, Bitdeer, Marathon and Riot.
While the crypto winter of 2022 could encourage some miners to scale back their operations, lawmakers say the industry in general is poised to grow rapidly and “will likely be problematic for energy and emissions.” Still, they caution that “little is known about the full scope of crypto mining activity.” Hence their call for more data.
In response to lawmakers, the companies downplayed the industry as a source of cooking emissions on the planet. Nevertheless, they emphasized their individual efforts to limit emissions and tap into renewable resources.
Marathon pointed to his work “with energy companies to build clean, green, renewable energy sources (e.g., solar and wind) that might not otherwise be built.” However, most of the energy Marathon currently taps comes from a coal-fired power plant in Hardin, Montana.
Along the same lines, Riot argued that “Bitcoin mining drives more demand for renewable energy than the typical US energy consumer” and emphasized the use of hydroelectricity in New York State. However, Riot’s operations in Rockdale, Texas, are nearly seven times the capacity and draw power from the state grid. Texas generated most of its energy last year from non-renewable sources (51% from natural gas and 13.4% from coal).
Speaking of coal, Stronghold told lawmakers it is “actively working to clean up coal waste heaps and convert coal waste into energy.” Mining waste is an environmental nightmare, and cleaning it up is a good idea. On the other hand, burning coal waste still produces harmful emissions, although scrubbers can mitigate the worst effects.
Blockfusion and Bitdeer, meanwhile, pointed to their use of software to minimize the load on energy networks.
While the letter takes a critical look at crypto, most of the short-term emission reductions in the US must come from the energy and transportation sectors for the US to reach its 2030 net emissions target, according to researchers at the Electric Power Research Institute. In April last year, the White House said it aims to halve U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
DC remains virtually bogged down in climate legislation, but Democratic lawmakers, not by the name of Senator Joe Manchin, have recently attempted to curb emissions through tax credits, which could undermine both renewable energy generation and electric car sales. In an interview with TechCrunch in June, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said passing clean energy tax credits this summer was “the surest path” for the US to take.