This story was updated at 14:15 EDT.
Democratic lawmakers are today renewing calls on federal agencies to force cryptocurrency mining companies to disclose their emissions and energy use, after a study revealed that large companies in the United States use force in line with major cities.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and California Representative Jared Huffman revealed today that their survey of seven cryptocurrency mining companies operating in the United States showed that they use 1,045 megawatts, or the same capacity required by Houston, which has a population of 2, 3 million people.
Legislators also revealed that the cryptomination process results in carbon emissions of at least 1.6 million tonnes annually and increases energy prices for other consumers.
“The results of our survey, which collected data from just seven companies, are disturbing, with these limited data alone revealing that cryptocurrencies are large energy users that account for a significant – and rapidly growing – amount of carbon emissions,” Warren and Huffman wrote in a letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and EPA Administrator Michael Regan.
Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (DR.I.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) And Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) And Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) Also signed the email.
Legislators continued to pressure the Biden administration to use “all available authorities at your disposal”, including the Clean Air Act, to require cryptocurrency mining companies to disclose their emission allowances and energy use.
“Our study suggests that the overall US cryptocurrency industry is likely to be problematic for energy and emissions. However, little is known about the full scope of cryptocurrency activity,” the letter continued, noting that the seven companies considered are expected to increase their capacity by 230 percent in the near future, or enough extra energy to run a city with 1.9 million homes.
Warren and others published the data collected from the cryptocurrency companies.
Cryptocurrency recovery usually involves powerful computers that solve puzzles. It uses intense amounts of electricity. Crypto-mining has often turned to coal and other fossil fuels to drive their efforts (GreenwireJanuary 18).
The Department of Energy did not immediately return a request for comment, but Granholm indicated earlier this year that she would be open to tracking the total number of cryptocurrency miners in the United States along with their energy use.
EPA spokeswoman Shayla Powell told E&E News: “We have received the letter and will respond through appropriate channels.”
“It is crucial to understand the strain online,” Granholm told Warren at a hearing in the Senate Armed Services in May (E&E dailyMay 20).
Republican lawmakers, including House Financial Services Ranker Patrick McHenry (RN.C.) and Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Have urged the EPA to refrain from implementing any restrictions on crypto mining, arguing that the industry’s economic benefits would be at risk (E&E dailyJune 22).
Some of the companies surveyed by Democrats have tried to frame their activities as environmentally friendly.
“Bitcoin mining is uniquely beneficial and supports renewable energy production and resilient power grids,” Colorado-based firm Riot Blockchain wrote to lawmakers. “This fact, coupled with the technological advancement, job creation, and social and economic value that Bitcoin mining creates – right here in the United States – means that the industry is currently, and must be, part of the solution.”
The company highlighted the use of hydropower for its Coinmint plant, which relies on 51 MW from the Moses Saunders dam in St. Lawrence County, NY
But lawmakers noted that the much larger Whinstone plant uses energy from the Texas grid, where 63 percent of production capacity is powered by coal and natural gas.
New York-based Greenidge Generation Holdings also highlighted its dependence on natural gas, noting that a Torrey, NY facility it once owned and operated was a coal-fired power plant.
“The plant has never operated on coal under Greenidge’s ownership, and it will never burn coal again,” the company wrote to lawmakers.
It also highlighted its commitment to buy carbon offsets: “In terms of efforts to offset its carbon footprint, Greenidge plans to continue to offset 100 per cent of the carbon emissions associated with mining at the Dresden plant and future locations.”