HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) – Monday, the state House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee heard testimony on the topic of cryptocurrency mining. To mine, or produce a cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin, requires a lot of energy. That energy is used for the computational process that records and secures transactions in Bitcoin and similar digital currencies.
The practice has drawn scrutiny from climate advocates who say it’s harming the environment.
“Climate change is the issue of our time,” said state Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware), Chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.
“Miners typically use thousands of special purpose computers to maximize the amount of guesses they make in the minimum amount of time. These computers use a huge amount of energy,” said Rob Altenburg, Sr. Director of energy and climate at PennFuture.
“It is estimated that cryptocurrency mining facilities for the proof-of-work based crypto currency, Bitcoin, uses more energy than all the processing for Google, Amazon, and Facebook combined,” said New York State Assemblymember Dr. Anna Kelles (D-125).
Dr. Kelles authored legislation to put a temporary moratorium on the purchase of retired fossil fuel power plants for the purpose of crypto mining. She explained in her testimony today why she believes it’s important to look closely at the environmental impacts of mining cryptocurrencies and how Pennsylvania’s environment could benefit from tighter regulations or legislation like hers.
But crypto mining advocates say their operations are necessary and that they offer a unique solution to a decades-long problem in Pennsylvania: waste coal.
“We’ve been made out to be like a renegade power producers that are running terribly inefficient power plants that are polluting more than even regular thermal coal plants. Our plants were designed for mediation as a priority, not power production,” said Gregory Beard, the Co-Chairman and CEO of Stronghold Digital Mining.
Beard says that if operations are limited in the U.S., mining will be ramped up elsewhere, potentially in a different country that doesn’t have as strict emission standards.
“Let’s let the mining continue to happen here where we have the proper emissions controls rather than elsewhere around the world where they may not,” said Beard.
Some Republican lawmakers agree.
“They’re actually cleaning up a lot of waste coal facilities, waste coal that plagues the Commonwealth,” said Rep. Martin Causer (R-Mckean/Cameron/Potter), Minority Chairman of the committee. I think this is an opportunity that we have to clean up this waste coal and I think that was missing from some of the testimony today. There’s a lot more we need to learn for this, and I think going forward, first we need to digest what we heard today but also look for more sources of information because it was very one-sided today,” he added.
Causer says that more energy sources will lead to a more reliable power grid.
“We need multiple sources of energy to make sure that our grid is reliable. We need more energy production in this state, not less,” said Causer.