Crypto Mining's Energy Consumption Draws Additional Concern from Lawmakers

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Leadership on the Energy & Commerce Committee sent four letters to crypto mining platforms about the potentially “severe” impacts of generating the digital currencies.

Following a January Congressional hearing discussing the cryptocurrency mining’s carbon footprint, House lawmakers on the Energy & Commerce Committee are asking four crypto mining platforms to disclose more information about their individual energy consumption.

Addressing Core Scientific, Marathon Digital Holdings, Riot Blockchain, and Stronghold Digital Mining in four separate letters, House representatives are asking for detailed information surrounding the energy sources used for digital asset mining, renewable energy credit usage, as well as the volume of time spent during business operations dedicated specifically to crypto mining activities.

“Blockchain technology holds immense promise that may make our personal information more secure and economy more efficient,” Energy and Commerce Committee leaders wrote. “However, the energy consumption and hardware required to support [proof-of-work]-based cryptocurrencies may, in some instances, produce severe externalities in the form of harmful emissions and excess electronic waste.”

Most cryptocurrency and digital asset transactions are conducted using a proof-of-work ledger software technology that ensures security during crypto mining activity. Significant amounts of electricity are needed to process the complex algorithms preceding each ledger transaction that leads to a digital currency token.

The high usage of electricity during crypto mining activity has garnered scrutiny from environmental advocates for its demand on electrical grids, contributing to more fossil fuel emissions and therefore climate change. 

“Given the existential threat posed by the climate crisis, we are deeply concerned about efforts like this that increase demand for fossil fuels, with the potential to put new strain on our energy grid,” wrote Reps. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., Bobby Rush, D-lll., Diana DeGette, D-Colo., and Paul Tonko, D-N.Y. 

In addition to an itemized picture of electricity consumption, the committee is also looking for 2021 year-end summaries of electricity used by crypto mining facilities and companies’ future plans to reduce wasteful energy consumption or offset their data centers’ electricity consumption.

Multiple lawmakers have honed in on cryptocurrency’s energy demands as the industry continues to grow. Earlier in 2022, a bicameral group of lawmakers wrote to leadership at the Department of Energy to underscore the amount of electricity blockchain proof-of-work software uses, and presented data that suggests crypto mining companies generated high amounts of carbon emissions via their data processing.

“The results of our investigation, which gathered data from just seven companies, are disturbing, with this limited data alone revealing that crypto miners are large energy users that account for a significant—and rapidly growing—amount of carbon emissions,” the lawmakers noted. “Our investigation suggests that the overall U.S. crypto mining industry is likely to be problematic for energy and emissions.”