Cryptocurrency mining clashes with NY climate goals

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Marco Krohn | Wikimedia Commons

Basmalla Attia, Advertising Director

Cryptocurrency mining’s effects on the environment in New York State are now being scrutinized due to its immense amount of energy consumption.

The process that involves the authentication of cryptocurrency requires a myriad of algorithms and deciphering complex math problems by supercomputers operating on a daily basis. As a result, crypto mining consumes a tremendous amount of energy, increasing greenhouse emissions.

In addition to excessive energy consumption from New York’s grid, crypto mining often uses fossil fuel power plants.

Lake Seneca is a notable example of the impact power plants can have on local communities because of the Greenidge Generating Station that sits on its shore, causing the lake to heat up. The discharged water from the plant can get as high as 108 degrees Fahrenheit, creating an unfit environment for aquatic life.

“If a fish migrates into a plume of water that is much warmer, that is such a shock to their system,” said Todd Cowen, the director of the DeFrees Hydraulics Lab at Cornell University.

“Much like walking from air conditioning to a 110 degree Arizona day, and that can certainly cause stress and occasionally significant fish kills.”

The adverse energy contributions to greenhouse emissionscomplicates efforts to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of corralling temperatures to below two degrees Celsius.

Another concern is the potential expansion of power plants into proof-of-work crypto mining facilities.

If Bitcoin were a country, it would be in the top 30 highest producers of energy consumption.

Environmental Protection Agency emissions data shows that carbon dioxide emissions increased from 119,013 tons to 203,833 tons over a three-month period after the installation of cryptocurrency mining equipment at the Greenidge Generating Station upstate.

The impact of mining operations on the state’s power grid is so profound that it may violate New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. This act established statewide goals for greenhouse gas emissions.

President Joe Biden has taken steps on this issue by signing an executive order directing his administration to investigate cryptocurrency operations and their effects on the environment.

On the local level, however, many are protesting and urging Gov. Kathy Hochul to take action. Advocates call for a moratorium on proof-of-work crypto mining until its environmental effects have been studied.

Mounting criticism towards the crypto mining industry is centered around its use of fossil fuels during a climate crisis.

Even Elon Musk, a longtime Bitcoin proponent, criticized the cryptocurrency’s reluctance to use renewable energy, even announcing last May that Tesla would not accept Bitcoin due to the industry’s increased use of fossil fuels.

This has pushed many cryptocurrency companies to pursue changes similar to the ones implemented by the cryptocurrency firm Argo Blockchain, which has a model that powers its facilities using renewable energy with tools such as wind turbines and solar energy.

The adoption of Argo’s model may lead the cryptocurrency industry to seek ways to mine sustainably at a time when urgent action is needed to reduce carbon emissions.

The 2000 kilowatt-hours of electricity needed to power one Bitcoin transaction is equivalent to the energy required to power an average American household for 73 days, according to some estimates.

Another study found that Bitcoin alone is enough to push global warming past two degrees Celsius in less than 30 years.

But there is hope for a change to a more sustainable alternative for crypto mining operations, especially with powerful influencers like Musk pushing the industry in that direction.