Energy & Environment

Democrats press cryptomining companies on energy consumption

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) arrives for a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing to discuss oversight of the Department of Treasury and Federal Reserve over the CARES Act on Tuesday, November 30, 2021.
Greg Nash

Eight Democratic members of Congress on Thursday wrote to major cryptocurrency-mining companies for information on their energy usage and its potential effects on climate change.

The House and Senate members noted that estimates of the power consumption associated with bitcoin increased more than threefold between 2019 and 2021. The energy consumption is roughly equivalent to that of Washington state or the entire nation of Denmark, according to a September 2021 analysis by The New York Times.

Members who signed the letter included Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Maggie Hassan (N.H.), as well as Democratic Reps. Katie Porter (Calif.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) and Jared Huffman (Calif.).

Copies of the letter were sent to six mining companies, including Riot Blockchain, Marathon Digital Holdings, Stronghold Digital Mining, Bitdeer, Bitfury Group and Bit Digital.

Recent crackdowns on cryptocurrency mining by the Chinese government will likely lead to increased concentration of operations, and the associated carbon emissions, within North America.

In addition to those emissions, the lawmakers expressed concerns at reports of associated energy cost increases. One recent study estimated upstate New York mining operations led to an increase of about $79 million in annual electric costs for individual consumers and $165 million for small businesses.

“Given the extraordinarily high energy usage and carbon emissions associated with Bitcoin mining, mining operations raise concerns about their impacts on the global environment, local ecosystems, and consumer electricity costs,” the lawmakers wrote. “States like Texas with relatively cheap electricity costs are experiencing an influx of cryptomining companies, raising concerns about the state’s unreliable electricity market and the potential for cryptomining to add to the stress on the state’s power grid.”

In addition to the annual electricity consumption at each of the recipients’ facilities, they asked for information about plans to scale operations, purchasing agreements with electricity providers, and whether the companies had any estimates of impacts on local energy costs.

“We received the letter from Senator Warren and her colleagues, and we are already preparing our response,” a Bitdeer spokesperson told The Hill in a statement.

A Riot spokesperson said the company is “proud to do business in America, and we look forward to thoroughly reviewing and earnestly responding to the requested information in the letter we received from the Senate,” while a Marathon spokesperson said the company “look[s] forward to having a productive dialogue about the many benefits that we and the rest of our industry have for the United States.”

Updated: Jan. 29, 2022, 11:28 a.m.

Tags Cryptocurrencies Cryptocurrency Elizabeth Warren Jared Huffman Jeff Merkley Maggie Hassan Rashida Tlaib Sheldon Whitehouse

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

Most Popular

Load more

Video

See all Video