Can crypto mining reward sustainability survive regulatory eyes?

Cryptocurrency and Bitcoin mining operations continue to clash with the US Congress over their energy consumption. Different reports in the US raised environmental concerns. Now miners are changing their approach, taking the path of sustainability.

The much-talked-about migration of crypto miners from China to the US has increased energy consumption and grid demands in some regions of the US. Now, US regulators have echoed concerns about the surge in energy consumption.

Mining cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin is an energy-intensive process. requires specialized computers to solve complex mathematical problems to verify transactions on the blockchain. These computers consume a lot of electricity and the process is highly competitive as miners race to solve the problem first and earn a reward in Bitcoin.

Mining Operations in the United States

Some states with low energy costs and favorable US regulations like Texas and Wyoming are popular destinations for cryptocurrency miners. As more miners establish operations in these states, there has been a noticeable increase in energy consumption, which has put pressure on local power grids.

For example, in Texas, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) raised concerns about strain on the state’s power grid due to the influx of cryptocurrency miners. According to ERCOT, Bitcoin mining could consume up to 3% of the state’s electricity supply by the end of 2021.

Similarly, in Wyoming, some communities have reported significant increases in energy consumption due to crypto mining operations. Increased demand for electricity has led to concerns about power outages and grid reliability.

Regulators are cracking down on mining operations

Crypto mining and miners have faced criticism for their high energy usage. Some estimates suggest that industry uses as much energy as entire countries. cryptocurrency mining requires significant computing power, which in turn requires substantial power consumption. The energy consumption required for cryptocurrency mining worries environmentalists and policymakers alike.

In a 2022 Whitehouse report, among the first publicly available responses to the US president Joe In Biden’s executive order on cryptocurrency, the office detailed its approach to the question of what kind of impact cryptocurrency mining has on the environment. Whitehouse’s report details include the scale of the impact and how different cryptocurrencies require different energy needs.

Crypto mining, particularly bitcoin (BTC), uses significant electricity, undermining US sustainability goals.

Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index Source: Digiconomist

“Global electricity generation for crypto assets with the largest market capitalizations resulted in 140 ± 30 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year (Mt CO2/year), or about 0.30% of annual global GHG emissions ”, said the report.

How the Mining Operation Affects the US

Furthermore, the study uses another comparison where the crypto industry’s operations use as much electricity as the country’s home computers combined.

Last year, Senator Elizabeth Warren and a group of Democrats urged the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy to take action against cryptocurrency mining. They cited the high levels of energy consumption required for mining as “disturbing” and highlighted the industry’s potential environmental impact.

Oversight report Source: Warren Senado
Oversight report Source: Warren Senado

Here, Congress called for gigawatt-scale energy use by cryptocurrency miners, calling into question the sustainability and environmental impact of the industry. Lately, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has called for greater transparency from cryptocurrency miners due to concerns about the environmental impact of Bitcoin, the leading cryptocurrency.

Senator Warren has urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy (DOE) to use their authority to require crypto miners to disclose their energy usage and emissions.

February 6 Congressional Note Source: Warren Senado
February 6 Congressional Note Source: Warren Senado

Miners are taking charge, making changes

In response, many cryptocurrency miners have defended their energy use, pointing out that most energy comes from renewable sources. They argue that since the energy consumption of crypto mining is not constant, it can help to balance the network and use excess energy that would otherwise be wasted.

Furthermore, some crypto miners pointed out that the industry is constantly working to improve energy efficiency, with the development of new mining hardware that requires less energy to operate. They argue that this is necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of the industry.

BeInCrypto reported on February 21 that Bitcoin mining accounted for over 50% of sustainable energy sources. Bitcoin has increased its sustainable energy mix to 6.20% per annum since January 2020. Regions like Iceland have emerged as the most stable Bitcoin mining region due to their famous abundance of cheap geothermal energy. It accounted for 1.30% of the global hash rate and the highest per capita hash rate of any country.

Such developments in 2023 indeed help to strengthen struggling miners who find it difficult to survive. Mining difficulty has increased by more than 9% in the last two weeks, reaching an all-time high.

Bitcoin mining difficulty is 43.05 trillion Source:
Bitcoin mining difficulty is 43.05 trillion Source:

Scope for Development?

Others have criticized the cryptocurrency mining industry for its reliance on fossil fuels, particularly in regions where renewable energy is not yet widely available or affordable. They argue that the industry must prioritize the use of renewable energy sources and that governments must encourage this transition through policy and regulation. However, some US lawmakers have raised the green flag to support mining operations given financial incentives.

Overall, the debate over the energy use of the crypto mining industry is complex and ongoing. One such topic for discussion is the sustainability of the Bitcoin mining reward. Speaking to BeInCrypto, one of the Redditors claimed that the BTC halving reward model could lead to its downfall in the future.

Screenshot shared by Redditor discussing mining cost analysis
Screenshot shared by Redditor discussing mining cost analysis

While there are concerns about the industry’s environmental impact, there are arguments about its potential benefits and efforts to improve its sustainability.


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