Top cryptomining companies have nearly enough electrical capacity to power Houston

A handful of leading cryptocurrency miners have the electrical capacity equivalent to nearly every residence in Houston, Texas, according to data released by Democratic members of Congress on Friday.

In a letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan, members led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) noted that leading cryptominers have developed more than 1,045 megawatts in mining capacity as of February.

Companies that responded to the members’ inquiries included Riot Blockchain, Bit Digital, Bitdeer, Stronghold, Marathon and Greenidge.

Following a crackdown on cryptomining by the Chinese government, mining operations have increasingly moved onshore in the US, according to the members. The US share of global mining for Bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency, increased from 4 percent in August 2019 to nearly 38 percent in January.

The data disclosed in the investigation also indicates the two biggest cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin and Ethereum, consume electricity at an annual rate exceeding that of the entire United Kingdom, which created nearly 80 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions last year. The power demands associated with mining also affect local customers, they wrote, citing a recent finding that mining added about $79 million to annual electric bills in upstate New York.

“Our investigation suggests that the overall US cryptomining industry is likely to be problematic for energy and emissions. But little is known about the full scope of cryptomining activity,” the lawmakers wrote. “Given these concerns, it is imperative that your agencies work together to address the lack of information about cryptomining’s energy use and environmental impacts, and use all available authorities at your disposal … to require reporting of energy use and emissions from cryptominers.”

Warren and the other members said some of the cryptomining operations in question said that their operations were environmentally friendly, such as Greenidge, which claimed its facility has never run on coal under its ownership. Bit Digital, similarly, called its Niagara Falls operations “neatly carbon-free.”

However, the members wrote, the companies in question continue to use massive amounts of electricity that could be directed elsewhere, and continue to generate large amounts of emissions.

A representative for Greenidge referred The Hill to its official response to Warren, in which the company pledged cooperation with the probe.

“When running at full capacity, the Facility is only 106 [megawatts] out of approximately 38,000 MW of power generation capacity in the State of New York —approximately 0.3 percent,” the letter stated. “And, even if operating at full capacity 24/7, the Facility’s emissions would amount to approximately 0.2 percent of the total greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions target set by New York State for 2030.”

Samir Tabar, chief strategy officer at Bit Digital, told The Hill the company is “happy to help shape the industry by being leaders in using sustainable sources of power. We were hoping the Senator would see our efforts there. We are also creating jobs in dilapidated economies while utilizing unwanted power infrastructure which her letter is silent on.”

The Hill has reached out to the other companies for comment.

Updated: 4:34 p.m.

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