Don't hate on cryptomining, hate the power stations, say Bitcoin super-fans

We're not the ones telling them to burn fossil fuels, top names write in response to probe request


Big names in Bitcoin have defended cryptocurrency mining, issuing a jointly signed letter hitting back at US lawmakers who last month urged a government watchdog to probe the practice.

Twitter founder and Bitcoin champion Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Bitcoin-collecting MicroStrategy Michael Saylor, and others on Monday signed the letter [PDF] that is a point-by-point rebuttal to a memo [PDF] sent last month to America's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA) and a couple dozen other Democrats.

In that first letter, Huffman and pals asked the EPA to probe proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining facilities to ensure they're following US laws such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, and not having an outsized effect on climate change. Proof-of-work cryptocurrencies include Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Monero. Ethereum, for one, is planning to move to fully proof-of-stake approach, which is more energy efficient.

The crypto super-fans' rebuttal has a response for every claim in the Huffman letter, and while it does provide some statistics and whatnot, the bulk of the response falls back on arguing critics of cryptocurrencies simply don't understand how it all works.

For instance, the rebuttal letter claims Congress doesn't understand the process flow of crafting digital money, arguing that mining itself isn't creating a large carbon footprint: that's the fault of the power companies that continue to use fossil fuels instead of greener energy to provide the electricity needed for blockchain mining.

"Emissions are created at the power generation source upstream from the datacenters. Digital asset miners simply purchase electricity from the grid, the same as Microsoft and other datacenter operators," the letter reads. 

The politicians' letter, we note, mentioned two examples of power-generation giants doing their own coin mining using fossil fuels. One being Ameren using excess electricity from a coal-fueled station in Missouri for Bitcoin mining, and the other a Greenidge coal-fired facility in New York converted to a gas-based plant that drives a cryptomining operation.

Those aren't the only fossil-fuel-burning power plants mining crypto: a coal-fired power plant in Montana that was slated for closure was left on to drive cryptocurrency mining. 

"There are no pollutants, including CO2, released by digital asset mining. Bitcoin miners have no emissions whatsoever," the rebuttal argued.

That letter also disputed estimates on the amount of electrical energy consumed by a single Bitcoin transaction, which the congressional memo said could "power the average US home" for a month (it's seemingly more than two months at the time of writing). Again, the rebuttal attempted to answer the question by saying it's been framed poorly.

"This is patently and provably false. Bitcoin transactions do not carry 'energy payloads'. Bitcoin transactions cannot be 'redeemed' for energy," the rebuttal stated.

When asked by The Register what he thought of the rebuttal letter, Rep Huffman said he found the letter unpersuasive, especially claims that mining doesn't have a carbon footprint. "They just seem to be saying because we buy our energy on the free market we're not a problem," he told us.

Huffman said that he would be willing to speak to independent cryptocurrency-mining advocates, if anyone who isn't an investor with a stake in the cryptocurrency world would advocate for it.

"The enthusiasts are all invested, and so it's hard to figure out who the honest brokers are here," Huffman said. "It would be great to find someone independent and academic who was not deeply invested in Bitcoin, but the only people like that I've been able to find are the ones expressing concern about it." ®

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