U.S. Senators are again taking a closer look at Bitcoin mining.
Senator Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) chaired a session of the Committee on Environment and Public Works yesterday, focusing on the energy usage of mining.
The mining industry, Markey said, “deserves the spotlight.”
Markey is the sponsor of a bill pushing for more transparency from miners regarding their environmental impact.
“It has grown explosively in the United States over the past two years. It is extremely energy-intensive. And we’ve seen it harm the general public while enabling the creation of heavily-concentrated wealth in our country,” he said.
He said the full extent of miners’ impact was not known, which is why his bill would require companies to disclose more information about their operations to the environmental regulator.
“We need a federal approach just so we have the information out there as to what the climatic impacts are,” he said in his closing statement.
When one year of U.S. Bitcoin mining creates as many carbon emissions as 7.5 million gas-powered cars—we have a problem. Today's hearing made that even clearer. The crypto industry is growing, but so is the fight for climate justice. We will hold these companies accountable. pic.twitter.com/EA2vPrjcTy
— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) March 7, 2023
Senator Pete Ricketts (R-Nebraska) argued that mining is not the only industry that relies on large data server banks, and that Washington D.C. should not be allowed to pick “winners and losers.”
Ricketts’ home state of Nebraska has seen an economic boost from the crypto mining industry, thanks to the state’s low power costs.
Appearing on the expert panel for the hearing, Courtney Dentlinger, vice president of customer service and external Affairs for Nebraska Public Power District, said there had been a positive impact on the local power industry.
Customers who have a steady demand for electricity, such as 24-7 miners, have historically made the most efficient use of electric infrastructure, she said in a testimony submitted ahead of the hearing.
“Moreover, while crypto mining requires a lot of electricity, the load can be very flexible. They often seek interruptible rates and can quickly drop loads, which has proven to be helpful during local storm damage-related events, and even larger-scale grid events,” she said.
Miners should ‘work smarter, not harder’
The other two members of the expert panel were Rob Altenburg, senior director for Energy and Climate at clean energy advocacy group PennFuture, and New York State Assemblymember Anna Kelles.
Kelles, a Democrat, voiced her support for Markey’s bill. She drafted a bill in New York state that placed a two-year moratorium on new Bitcoin miners from opening up shop. The bill came into effect last November.
In her opening remarks, Kelles said the demand for more power has led mining firms to bring old energy plants back online.
“As one of the solutions for cheap energy, cryptocurrency mining companies have worked to reopen retired fossil fuel plants like the large-scale facility called Greenidge in New York on Seneca Lake,” she said. “An environment with moderate temperatures, clean air, and abundant fresh free water for cooling have made New York an ideal location for cryptocurrency mining companies.”
Kelles said these have a negative impact on the quality of life in the surrounding areas, due to emissions, electrical waste, and noise pollution, as well as repercussions for local aquatic life.
Senators and witnesses also discussed the proof-of-work process, with several bringing up the reduction of energy usage achieved by Ethereum’s switch to proof-of-stake.
Senator Markey urged the crypto world to “work smarter, not harder” and consider less energy-intensive methods of producing assets.