‘Cryptocurrency Mining Is Poisoning Our Communities,’ US Rep. Says


  • Democratic members of Congress write to EPA about increasing energy use by bitcoin mining industry
  • Environmentalists claim that Bitcoin’s energy mix is ​​a clue that distracts its estimated energy consumption by 20 times in the last five years.

The rhetoric that divides critics and proponents of cryptography has been galvanized by mourning letters sent to the Environmental Protection Agency, which focus on cryptographic mining.

On the one hand, 23 Democratic members of Congress have jointly signed a scathing rebuke on the alleged environmental and community impact of the mining industry.

His letter, sent last month by Rep. Jared Huffman, a Democrat from California, called on the EPA to ensure that cryptographic mining companies in the U.S.

Huffman said the reopening of cryptocurrency-inspired gas and coal-fired power plants, such as Greenidge in upstate New York and the Hardin plant in Montana, “undermines our battle to fight the climate crisis.”

“While some facilities claim to be ‘cleaner’ by creating energy from coal waste, these coal-fired power plants still emit hazardous air pollutants and filter toxic pollutants into our waterways,” Huffman wrote. “Cryptocurrency mining is poisoning our communities.”

It sounds dramatic, but that “poisoning” is not just related to potentially disproportionate greenhouse gas emissions from cryptographic mining clothing. US residents UU. (“from New York, Tennessee, Georgia”) have complained about noise pollution linked to new bitcoin mining facilities that house hundreds of shrinking mining platforms.

Another cryptographic critique of Huffman was the alleged problem of working test (PoWs) with electronic waste. The two most popular cryptocurrencies, bitcoin and ether, are extracted using PoW algorithms, which rely heavily on electricity spent to distribute new cryptocurrencies and process transactions.

It has been suggested that mining platforms last on average only 1.29 years due to intentional overuse. This leads to bitcoin mining producing 30,700 tons of e-waste each year (roughly the amount of small computer equipment that the Netherlands disposes of), Huffman told the EPA, citing the investigation into controversial figure Alex de Vries.

De Vries previously worked as a data scientist for the Dutch central bank, focusing on financial economic crime. He now runs Digiconomist, a website that models the environmental sustainability of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ether.

“The industry must be responsible for this waste and discouraged from creating it,” Huffman said.

Mining’s energy mix is ​​a “red track,” the activist says

Huffman’s letter stated that Bitcoin annually produces carbon emissions similar to those in Greece. Advocates dispute this statistic, citing imperfect retroactive estimates of Bitcoin’s energy consumption.

And so the Holy Grail for both critics and proponents of cryptography seems to be an industry that reinforces robust energy grids powered by renewable energy. After all, Bitcoin can consume a lot of energy (and even more so in the future, if prices continue to rise), but if the electricity consumed is renewable, then it should mitigate environmental concerns.

The Bitcoin industry responded earlier this week with its own letter sent through the Bitcoin Mining Council, a group led by the CEO of MicroStrategy and the famous bitcoin bull Michael Saylor. It was formed after Tesla stopped accepting bitcoins for payments, so Elon Musk cited concerns about the carbon footprint of the network.

The group was responsible for monitoring the energy mix consumed by the industry. Its most recent report, published in April, compiled self-reported figures from entities that contributed nearly half of the Bitcoin hashrate and found that the network was powered by nearly 60% sustainable energy sources, up from 37% of the former. quarter of 2021.

With that in mind, are there any concerns? Scott Faber, who leads government affairs for the nonprofit Environmental Working Group activist, says yes.

Faber highlighted recent warnings shared by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that explicitly cited the growing electricity consumption of cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, as a “growing concern.”

The recent IPCC Climate Change Mitigation report admitted that there was “uncertainty” around the exact carbon footprint of blockchains and admitted that the crypto industry could mitigate the damage by decarbonising.

Still, Faber noted that the sharp increase in cryptography’s electricity consumption far outstrips other industries and diverged from more traditional data centers. He described the climate impact of electricity generators as a red trail; the growing demand for electricity by PoW-dependent digital currencies is a matter of alarm strictly between EWG, Greenpeace and the IPCC.

“When you look at the demand for electricity from data centers, the [International Energy Agency] found that demand was flat even though internet traffic and data center workloads increased significantly, “Faber said.

Other data transmission networks, such as mobile communications, are becoming more energy efficient, he explained. The exponential increase in electricity consumption needs to be curbed and the energy mix that fuels that consumption is just one detail at the moment.

“The really important point is the trend – the 20-fold increase in just five years – especially in contrast to other sectors,” Faber said.

While that sentiment carries some weight, especially among climate activists, the moves made by the Bitcoin industry to decarbonize or turn green should not be underestimated.

Strips of mining equipment around the world have promised to be carbon neutral, and some are doing their best to ensure that they do not use carbon-powered power grids. Its dependence on fossil fuels could be detrimental in the long run if regulations are imposed that could disrupt electricity supply, mining expert Alejandro de la Torre said. Uzbekistan has recently moved to inspire miners to set up their own solar panels, for example, by charging them twice as much to connect to the standard grid.

In any case, there’s a problem: Faber doesn’t believe the Bitcoin Mining Council’s claims. “I think until a government body or a trusted third party is in charge of measuring, reporting and verifying those claims, they are simply that,” he said.

Faber explained that there are many examples of reports required by the government, through legislation or other means. For example, the EPA requires manufacturers to report annually the volumes of toxic chemicals they release to the environment.

Is it realistic for the Bitcoin industry to accept government operational interference? De la Torre said the Texas power grid, ERCOT, already publishes that information, allowing third parties to verify energy mixes. He said more ways to verify the energy mixes that feed a network would be a good thing.

Nic Carter of Castle Island Ventures was more emphatic in his response: “Completely ridiculous and unrealistic, and an insane standard compared to any other industry.”

“Buying electricity from the grid and doing calculations is not exactly like producing toxic chemicals.”

But if environmental activists go out of their way, it could well be in the eyes of regulators.


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  • David Canellis

    Locks

    Editor

    David Canellis is an Amsterdam-based publisher and journalist who has covered the cryptographic industry full-time since 2018. He is very focused on data-based reporting to identify and map trends within the ecosystem, from bitcoins to DeFi, cryptocurrencies to NFTs and beyond. . Contact David by email at [email protected]



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