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US House lawmakers seek info on energy impacts of cryptocurrency mining


Questions about energy usage in 2021

Curtailments to support grid stability

  • Author
  • Molly Christian
  • Editor
  • Rocco Canonica
  • Commodity
  • Electric Power Energy Transition
  • Tags
  • United States

Leaders of a powerful US congressional committee asked the heads of four large cryptocurrency mining companies to share data on their energy usage and what resources meet their electricity demand amid concerns that the energy-intensive industry could exacerbate climate change.

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The request follows other recent efforts by lawmakers to scrutinize the environmental and energy impacts of blockchain technology.

"Some of the largest crypto mining companies in the country continue to rely primarily on the electrical grid for their power source," read an Aug. 17 letter from leaders of the US House Energy and Commerce Committee. "This can drive up peak demand and may even breathe new life into fossil fuel generators."

The increased energy demand and potential for burning more fossil fuels to power cryptocurrency facilities "only serves to undermine the potential climate benefits of blockchain technology and hold us back from achieving our climate pollution reduction goals," the committee added.

The letter was signed by Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J.; Energy Subcommittee Chair Bobby Rush, D-Ill.; Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette, D-Colo.; and Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee Chair Paul Tonko, D-N.Y.

The lawmakers gave the heads of Core Scientific Inc., Marathon Digital Holdings Inc., Riot Blockchain Inc. and Stronghold Digital Mining Inc. until Aug. 31 to answer questions about how much energy each company's facilities used in 2021 and the energy mix of the utilities serving those operations. They also requested information on how much of those companies' energy usage was offset by renewable energy credits, how many days in the past year they curtailed mining to support grid stability, and the cost and profitability of their operations per megawatt-hour.

In addition, the House members sought briefings to committee staff from each company by Sept. 17.

The requests are the latest effort by US lawmakers to probe the energy and environmental impacts of creating digital currency. In July, a group of six US senators asked the US Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Energy Department to require cryptocurrency mining companies to report on their energy use and environmental impacts.

The scrutiny comes as digital mining activity soars in states such as Texas despite extreme weather that has at times strained the state's electric grid, prompting some cryptocurrency companies to curtail operations to conserve energy.