The White House Office of Science and Technology released a critical analysis today on the climate, energy, and environmental impacts of proof-of-work cryptomining, plus key recommendations the federal government could take to address these impacts and harms to communities in real-time.
“Today the White House didn’t mince words: proof-of-work cryptomining is a serious threat to our climate goals. This is a major development for everyday Americans who are facing increased energy costs while this fossil-fuel guzzling industry increases climate pollution and local pollution on neighboring communities. We must work toward a clean energy future, and Earthjustice will continue fighting before the courts and regulators across this country,” said Mandy DeRoche, deputy managing attorney, Clean Energy Program at Earthjustice.
Earthjustice is involved in litigation and other efforts against climate change-accelerating cryptomining in New York, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Texas, Indiana, Montana, and elsewhere. In May, we submitted comments in partnership with advocates to the White House OSTP to inform this report. In New York, we have been instrumental in efforts to put a moratorium on cryptomining at power plants that produce their own energy for the practice. We are also active in efforts and litigation against the Greenidge Generation gas plant in Dresden, NY, leading to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation denying the facility’s air permit.
The Office of Science and Technology Policy has found that that proof-of-work cryptomining is a threat to the nation’s climate and decarbonization goals, clearly stating that:
“The growth of energy-intensive crypto-asset technologies, when not directly using clean electricity, could hinder the ability of the United States to achieve its National Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement, and to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change. Broader adoption of crypto-assets, and the potential introduction of new types of digital assets require action by the federal government to encourage and ensure responsible development. This includes minimizing negative impacts on local communities, significantly reducing energy intensity, and powering with clean electricity.”
The report adds: “we must ensure that emerging technologies contribute to a net-zero, clean energy future,” and also points out that, “switching to alternative crypto-asset technologies such as Proof of Stake could dramatically reduce overall power usage to less than 1% of today’s levels.”
Key findings from the report:
- “Depending on the energy intensity of the technology and the sources of electricity used, the rapid growth of crypto-assets could potentially hinder broader efforts to achieve U.S. climate commitments to reach net-zero carbon pollution.”
- “The United States is estimated to host about a third of global crypto-asset operations, which currently consume about 0.9% to 1.7% of total U.S. electricity usage. This range of electricity usage is similar to all home computers or residential lighting in the United States. The United States currently hosts the world’s largest Bitcoin mining industry, totaling more than 38% of global Bitcoin activity, up from 3.5% in 2020.”
- “Besides purchased grid electricity, crypto-asset mining operations can also cause local noise and water impacts, electronic waste, air and other pollution from any direct usage of fossil-fired electricity, and additional air, water, and waste impacts associated with all grid electricity usage.”