December 02, 2021

As Cryptomining Operations Grow in the U.S., Senator Warren Raises Concerns over Exponentially Growing Energy Use, Climate Impact, and Costs to Consumers

Bitcoin Mining’s Power Consumption has More than Tripled Since 2019, Consuming as Much Energy Per Year as Washington State

Washington, D.C. — United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is raising concerns over cryptomining’s extraordinarily high energy usage, its impact on climate, and rising electricity costs for consumers as operations grow in the United States. Bitcoin mining operations tripled their annual power consumption since 2019, consuming as much energy as Washington State and rivaling the total energy usage of countries like Denmark, Chile, and Argentina. In a letter to Greenidge Generation Holdings Inc., which operates one of the country’s largest Bitcoin mining facilities in Dresden, New York, and claims to be “an entirely carbon neutral bitcoin mining operation,” Senator Warren expressed concern about the company’s energy usage and its impacts on the environment and consumers.

“Bitcoin’s estimated annual power consumption increased more than threefold between the beginning of 2019 and May 2021, rivaling the total energy usage of countries such as Denmark, Chile, and Argentina, and comparable to the entire energy consumption of Washington State. Given the extraordinarily 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. Therefore, as you move forward with plans to expand operations in New York and South Carolina, I seek information on Greenidge’s operations and the resulting impacts on the environment and local communities,” wrote Senator Warren.  

Senator Warren noted that while Jeffrey Kirt, the CEO of Greenidge, claimed that “Bitcoin mining at Greenidge is already a model for the industry in that we are advancing this emerging financial platform for people across the world in a manner that fully protects our environment,” the Dresden plant’s greenhouse gas emissions increased nearly tenfold from 2019 to 2020. In 2020, it sent over 220,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere –  equivalent to the emissions of 50,000 cars. 

And since the plant began operations, local residents have raised concerns over declining water quality and substantial harm to local wildlife, as the plant vacuums up to 139 million gallons of water a day from Seneca Lake and then discharges heated water back into the lake. This has resulted in reports of “sludge, algae, insects, dead fish, and foul smells.” There is also concern about cryptomining facilities’ energy consumption causing significant increases in energy costs for local small businesses and residents. In Plattsburgh, New York, cryptomining resulted in residential electricity bills “up to $300 higher than usual” in the winter of 2018, leading the city to introduce the nation’s first 18 month moratorium on new cryptomining operations. A recent study found that “the power demands of cryptocurrency mining operations in upstate New York push up annual electric bills by about $165 million for small businesses and $79 million for individuals.”

With Greenidge announcing plans to ramp up its Bitcoin mining and expand to new locations, Senator Warren asked for a detailed response to questions about its commitment to environmental protection, its scaling plans, and its emissions by no later than December 17, 2021.