WASHINGTON – On Wednesday, the Biden administration announced measures to address cryptocurrency production’s excessive energy consumption, launching a data collection effort on electricity use from U.S. bitcoin mining operations.
Starting next week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, or EIA, will conduct a comprehensive survey of electricity consumption by specific U.S. commercial cryptocurrency mining companies. They must provide detailed information about their operations’ energy use, a crucial step towards much-needed transparency and accountability in the cryptocurrency industry.
The Biden administration in September 2022 released a comprehensive report from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, “Climate and Energy Implications of Crypto Assets in the United States.” This was the first salvo from the White House raising concerns over bitcoin mining’s harmful impacts on the environment.
The Environmental Working Group, along with Greenpeace USA and other advocates, formed the Change the Code, Not the Climate campaign in March 2022, urging bitcoin and its miners to reduce climate pollution by adopting a far less energy-intensive code. The mining process they use, known as “proof of work,” is inherently wasteful because of the huge amounts of energy needed for it to succeed.
In April 2023, EWG released a report profiling the noise, water, climate and air quality problems, along with electricity supply and cost issues, linked to bitcoin mining in six states.
Representatives from the campaign, led by EWG, have held numerous meetings with members of Congress and their staffs, including briefings and testimony before relevant oversight committees, as well as meetings with top White House environmental and energy advisors.
The EIA’s data collection is a significant step in addressing the environmental impact of the booming cryptocurrency mining industry in the U.S. The decision to collect data on miners' energy use is vital for understanding and mitigating the environmental consequences of this rapidly growing sector, which consumes a substantial amount of electricity, said EWG President Ken Cook.
“EWG applauds the Biden administration for its proactive stance in addressing the serious and growing environmental impacts of cryptocurrency mining,” said Cook.
“This initiative signifies a crucial step toward a more sustainable future for the rapidly evolving digital economy by better understanding exactly how much dirty energy is being consumed to keep these operations running,” he said.
The bitcoin mining industry has exploded in the U.S. in recent years after it was kicked out of China and Europe over the sector’s heavy reliance on electricity. Miners have found a far more friendly business environment in the U.S., most notably in the Northeast, Southeast and Texas.
The EIA will seek public input on the collection of data related to cryptocurrency miners' energy use, including from those who live and work nearby the mining operations that run 24/7, along with the noise pollution that has forced some people to sell their homes and move.
To power their operations, some miners rely on the resurrection of dormant fossil fuel power plants, some find low-cost high-pollution fuel sources like burning coal waste in Pennsylvania, and others flare gas from oil wells in Texas and the Dakotas to generate the necessary electricity.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.