According to Democratic senators, it is necessary to track the energy consumption and emissions of these mining companies.
In the United States, several Democratic senators are demanding that companies mining cryptocurrencies be more transparent. In a letter, released July 15, they call on the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy to compel these companies to disclose their carbon emissions and energy usage. According to them, the biggest mining companies can consume as much as almost all homes in Houston, Texas.
Colossal amounts of electricity used in cryptocurrency mining
This letter, co-signed by six senators, mentions an investigation, initiated in January 2022, highlighting the enormous amount of energy required for cryptocurrency mining. This process consists of using specialized computers, which are constantly running, in order to mint new tokens. It is extremely energy intensive. “The results of our survey […] are concerning […] as they reveal that cryptocurrency miners are energy-intensive, responsible for a significant – and rapidly growing – amount of carbon emissions. carbon,” says the group of parliamentarians.
Since the prohibition of this practice in China in June 2021, the United States has become the first country in terms of mining of these digital assets. According to the senators, more than a third of the world’s computing power devoted to bitcoin mining comes from the United States.
In order to carry out their investigation, the group of senators requested information on energy sources and their consumption, as well as the climate impact of their activities, from the seven largest mining companies present in the United States. Among them, Stronghold, Greenidge, Bit Digital, Bitfury, Rio, BitDeer and Marathon. According to the data collected, this industry uses a vast amount of electricity and releases significant carbon emissions as the United States fights against global warming.
The letter states that “Bitcoin miners consume huge amounts of electricity that could be used for other priority end uses contributing to our electrification and climate goals, such as replacing electric heaters with heat pumps”.
Information provided by Bit Digital, Greenidge and Stronghold indicates that these three companies alone emit 1.6 million tonnes of CO2 per year, the amount produced by 360,000 cars. “Current energy use of cryptocurrencies results in large amounts of carbon emissions and other adverse air quality effects, as well as electrical grid impacts,” the policies explain.
Companies in the sector defend themselves
In response to the senators’ letter, the companies submitted a report, dated February 8. He reviews the measures taken by the industry to be more respectful of the environment. Marathon claims to work with “energy companies to build clean, green and renewable energy resources (for example, solar or wind) that could not be built otherwise”. Currently, the majority of the energy operated by the company comes from a coal-fired plant located in Hardin, Montana.
In a similar vein, Riot reports that “bitcoin mining is driving greater demand for renewable energy than the average US energy consumer” highlighting the use of hydroelectricity in upstate New York. However, in the United States, bitcoin mining largely uses electricity from coal and gas.
Stronghold, meanwhile, told lawmakers that it is “actively working on cleaning up waste coal piles and converting waste coal to energy.” While cleaning up this waste is a good idea, burning it still produces harmful emissions.
Knowing the emission and energy consumption figures of crypto mining companies might not be enough to reduce emissions in the short term in the United States. According to researchers from the Electric Power Research Institute, an organization that studies the country’s electricity production, to achieve the goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 50% by 2030, it is up to the electricity and transport to take the lead in reducing these emissions.
For their part, mining companies can turn to less energy-consuming solutions, such as “proof of stake” protocols to act on their scale. They can, for example, turn to digital assets using proof of stake to be minted like ether. In the meantime, this industry should continue to develop, especially in Texas, which has become the bastion of cryptocurrency mining.