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Elizabeth Warren Takes Aim at New York Bitcoin Mining Firm’s Environmental Record

Senator Elizabeth Warren has taken aim at Greenidge Generation’s Bitcoin mining activity due to its impact on the environment.

3 min read
Elizabeth Warren. Image: Maverick Pictures/Shutterstock

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has taken aim against New York-based Bitcoin mining firm Greenidge Generation, per Bloomberg

The Senator has written a letter to Jeff Kirt, CEO of Greenidge, raising concerns about the company’s impact on the environment. 

“Given the extraordinary high energy usage and carbon emissions associated with Bitcoin mining, mining operations at Greenidge and other plants raise concerns about their impacts on the global environment, on local ecosystems, and on consumer electricity costs,” Warren wrote. 

In an additional email to Bloomberg, Warren said “we need to better understand how much energy facilities like Greenidge are using, how much they’re emitting into the environment, and what impact they’re having on electricity prices for American consumers.” 

This is not the first time Warren has taken aim at the Bitcoin mining industry over its negative impact on the environment. 

Senator Warren vs. Bitcoin

This summer, Warren appeared on CNBC to discuss the environmental impact of the crypto industry. 

“Bitcoin requires so much computing activity that it eats up more energy than entire countries. One of the easiest and least disruptive things we can do to fight the Climate Crisis is to crack down on environmentally wasteful cryptocurrencies,” Warren tweeted at the time

Mining Bitcoin does indeed demand a tremendous amount of energy consumption. 

According to Cambridge University, Bitcoin currently consumes approximately 112 terawatt-hours of electricity every year. That means that if Bitcoin were a country, it would consume more energy than most countries on earth. 

This, in turn, means the Bitcoin network produces a hefty amount of greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to billions of pounds of burned coal, or millions of homes’ average electricity consumption for the year. 

How does Greenidge fit into this? 

Greenidge Generation has been on the frontline of Bitcoin’s environmental controversy for months. 

At the source of Greenidge’s problems is the fact that it draws on a supply of natural gas to create the electricity necessary to mine Bitcoin. Natural gas is not as dirty as coal, but it is still a fossil fuel and thus less environmentally friendly than other renewable sources of energy. 

As a result, Greenidge has raised the ire of environmentalists in New York. 

“It’s not environmentally friendly. I don’t think burning natural gas 24/7 at a power plant that was previously closed, except for a couple of days in the summer or winter, is compliant with greenhouse gas emission reduction targets anywhere,” Many Rose, deputy managing attorney at Earth Justice previously told Decrypt

What’s next?

Greenidge is facing a battle to renew its Title V permit with the Department of Environmental Conservation in the state of New York. This permit specifies the legal maximum emissions the facility is legally permitted to generate. 

On March 25, Greenidge submitted a package of documents in support of its renewed application. That package contains a letter—seen by Decrypt—that showed the facility has the permission to emit up to 641,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalents per year. 

To put that figure into context, the Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon emissions calculator suggests the company’s maximum legal emissions amount to about 708 million pounds of burned coal, 116 thousand homes’ average electricity consumption for the year, or 1.6 billion miles driven by a passenger vehicle.

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