April 26, 2023

At Hearing, Warren Secures Energy Secretary's Commitment to Implement Mandatory Reporting of Cryptomining Energy Use

Secretary of Energy: DOE Will Complete Report on Cryptomining Emissions by End of Year, then Will Roll Out Mandatory Energy Consumption Survey for Cryptominers

Hearing Exchange (YouTube)

Washington, D.C. – At a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) questioned Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm about the Department of Energy’s (DOE) plans to require energy consumption information from cryptominers. In response to Senator Warren’s questions, Secretary Granholm confirmed that DOE has the authority to mandate that cryptominers disclose information about their energy consumption and that the Department intends to use this authority. 

Secretary Granholm indicated that by the end of the year, DOE will complete a National Laboratory Report on Data Center Energy Use that will include cryptominers, and will use that as a basis for creating an Energy Information Administration survey to require mandatory disclosures by cryptomining companies.

Senator Warren’s investigations into cryptomining’s energy use have found that cryptomining uses an extraordinary and rising amount of energy – just seven large cryptominers in the U.S. have developed enough capacity that could otherwise power all the residences in Houston, Texas. 

Transcript: To Receive Testimony on the Department of Energy and National Security Administration Atomic Energy Defense Activities in Review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal year 2024 and the Future Years Defense Program 
U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services 
Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Senator Elizabeth Warren: It's good to see you, Secretary Granholm. Now, as you know, Bitcoin mining involves companies using powerful computers to verify transactions to win a Bitcoin reward. You may remember that at this same hearing a year ago, I asked you about the immense energy consumption of Bitcoin mining. 

Since then, the issue has aroused more public concern. A recent New York Times investigation found that just 34 Bitcoin mines in the US are using as much electricity as 3 million households. That is the equivalent of the entire state of Arizona or the entire state of Tennessee. You know, that is a lot of energy, most of it is dirty, fully 85% of this power comes from coal or natural gas plants. That causes as much carbon pollution as three and a half million gasoline-powered cars. So for every one new electric vehicle sold in the US last year, these Bitcoin miners did the climate equivalent of putting four additional gasoline-powered cars right back on the road. 

Now, I should note that my own investigation shows there are more mines than just the 34 that the New York Times analyzed. So the problem is even worse than reported. Secretary Granholm, when you came before this committee last year, I asked you if the federal government knew how many cryptominers are operating in the United States, and how much energy they're consuming. And you said that wasn't being tracked and that more data would be needed. So here we are a year later, is the Department of Energy formally tracking cryptominers yet?

Jennifer Granholm, Secretary of Energy: Great. First of all, thank you so much for your leadership in this because, I do think that you have unearthed a massive problem. And so we don't know how many miners there are. We don't know where they are. We, all of them, some of them, you do, but some of them, many of them, you don't. A lot of them are just underground, some of them are small operators. 

So as you and I have discussed, we have charged our Energy Information Administration with figuring out how to mandate a reporting of these entities. Now, that's complicated, as you know, because they are, many of them are underground, and even the utilities may not know where the draw is coming from.

Senator Warren: So let's talk about that. Given that cryptomining undermines all of our other climate work, we can't afford to delay on this. There's a lot of urgency around this. So I want to talk for just a second about the authority you have to gather information on this. Let me ask, Secretary Granholm, do you have the authority to mandate that cryptominers disclose information about their energy consumption?

Secretary Granholm: We have the mandate authority.

Senator Warren: Good. So in your response to a letter I sent you in February, you indicated that the Energy Information Administration will first need to develop a new survey program to begin collecting information from cryptominers. By when do you expect to field this survey and use it to gather data from cryptominers on a mandatory basis? 

Secretary Granholm: We are, we first of all are looking at creating the survey from a regular report that is an electricity gathering report that we have now asked to include crypto as part of it. That report from LBNL will be completed by the end of this year, on which the Energy Information Administration can base its survey. 

So it's going to take some time for them to be able to craft the survey from the information that they received from the LBNL report. But know that that is happening and we are pushing to accelerate the timeline. 

Senator Warren: So by the end of this year, you will have a report on mandatory reporting? I want to make sure I know what we’re getting. 

Secretary Granholm: We’ll have a report that will have gathered not fully, but enough information to be able to craft the framework for the survey. So we won't be able to get the survey out, the mandatory survey, by the end of this year, but we will have the report done and the survey will be constructed from that.

Senator Warren: Okay. And we are certain we're going to get that mandatory survey out then sometime in 2024? 

Secretary Granholm: I hope so, but I don't want to–

Senator Warren: Tick tock.

Secretary Granholm: I know. 

Senator Warren: Okay? Look, we’re running out of time here. Cryptomining’s energy use truly undermines our efforts to fight climate change, and we are out of time. We need to understand the full scope of the problem, and that starts with the authorities you have. So I hope that the next time we come back, you will tell me that you now have that survey in place and we are getting mandatory reporting from the cryptomining companies.

Secretary Granholm: I hope so too.

Senator Warren: Going to hold you to it. Thank you.