Warren Leads Congressional Delegation Asking for Energy Transparency in Cryptocurrency

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A group of lawmakers want the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency to hold cryptocurrency miners more accountable for their energy usage. 


In a letter led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), the Congressional delegation is asking for both agencies to “work together to require emissions and energy use reporting by cryptominers.” 


Congressional Letter Accuses Major Miners of Utilizing Over 1 Gigawatt of Energy

One of the core criticisms of cryptocurrency is the amount of energy required to process new blocks and mint coins. Some estimates put the total carbon footprint of the crypto industry at over 114 megatons of emissions – the same as the annual carbon dioxide production of Belgium. 


Because of the energy implications, the group of six legislators – including Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) – are asking the Energy Department and EPA to require cryptocurrency mining firms to report their energy consumption. Their concerns are based on potential pollution from burning more energy, as well as impacts on the public at large. 


“Bitcoin’s estimated annualized global power consumption had increased nearly four-fold between the beginning of 2019 and mid-June 2022 to as high as 130 TWh,” the letter reads.  “Rivaling the total annual electricity usage of countries such as Norway and Sweden and reportedly exceeding the total reductions in greenhouse gas emissions attributed to electric vehicles.”


According to data sourced by the group, six of the top currency mining operators have a total collective capacity of over 1.04 gigawatts. The companies voluntarily submitting information include Riot Blockchain with over 400 megawatts, Bit Deer holding over 240 megawatts, and Bit Digital at 121.6 megawatts. 


The lawmakers also claim that increased cryptocurrency mining is responsible for surging energy prices across the U.S., further amplifying the effects of inflation on families. In one example, the group says crypto mining was responsible for an increase of $300 in residential electricity bills in Plattsburgh, New York during the winter of 2018, while another study cited in the letter claims mining across New York State drove up residential electricity prices by $79 million. 


“Despite these adverse impacts from cryptomining, state and federal regulators currently know little about the scope of the problem,” the letter continues. “Consequently, policymakers and the public do not have a comprehensive source of information about where these operations are located, how much energy they consume, and what their sources of energy are – and without the energy use and source reporting, there is a subsequent lack of data regarding the associated air emissions of pollutants or carbon dioxide” 


The group says creating a national energy monitoring system for cryptocurrency mining would allow policymakers to better understand how much electricity is being used by the major companies, and could enable evidence towards creating better regulations. The leaders want a briefing on their plans to create a tracking database by August 15, 2022. 

Going green remains a broader focus of the cryptocurrency space by increasing value through lower emissions. For their NFT launch, Etihad Airways partnered with Polygon to reduce the carbon footprint, while Polkadot and Solana built their blockchain projects around environmental sustainability.

Feature image courtesy: Gage Skidmore/Flickr/CC-BY-SA 2.0

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