U.S Lawmakers Call on the EPA to Look into Crypto Mining

Key Insights:

  • On Wednesday, U.S. lawmakers called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to look into Crypto mining.
  • Lawmakers ask the EPA to assess whether mining firms are in violation of environmental laws.
  • The Democrats have taken a strong stance against crypto mining, supporting Joe Biden’s carbon-neutral goals.

Concerns over the effects of crypto mining and Proof-of-Work mining, in particular, have continued to hit the news wires.

Last month, the European Parliament averted a Bitcoin (BTC) crisis by voting no to a proposed ban on Proof-of-Work (PoW) cryptos. A PoW mining ban would outlaw Bitcoin, Ethereum (ETH), and other PoW cryptos.

While the EU’s vote favored innovation over the impact of PoW mining on the environment, lawmakers remain resolute in the battle against Bitcoin.

U.S Lawmakers Call on the EPA to Investigate Crypto Mining

On Wednesday, U.S lawmakers turned to the EPA to investigate possible crypto mining infringements of environmental laws.

U.S House of Representatives member Jared Huffman and others sent a letter to the EPA raising concerns over crypto mining in the U.S.

Jared Huffman wrote,

“We applaud President Joe Biden’s Executive Order initiating a sweeping review of the federal government’s approach to cryptocurrencies, including reducing their negative climate impacts and examining the energy use associated with crypto mining.”

Huffman added,

“The rapidly expanding cryptocurrency industry needs to be held accountable to ensure it operates in a sustainable and just manner to protect communities.”

On the issue of waste, Huffman noted,

“PoW mining relies on massive server farms, which, in addition to contributing to significant greenhouse gas emissions, results in major electronic waste challenges due to the highly specialized and short-lived computing hardware needed to secure the network.”

According to the letter,

“Bitcoin mining alone produces almost 30,700 tons of electronic waste each year.”

Huffman then raised the issue of noise pollution, writing,

“Communities around cryptocurrency mining facilities from New York, Tennessee, to Georgia have reported significant noise pollution.”

Considering the environmental concerns, Huffman requested the EPA evaluate compliance with environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. Huffman went further to ask the EPA to investigate and address the impact of PoW mining facilities on communities.

The letter to the EPA follows a U.S Congress subcommittee hearing in January that explored crypto mining and the environment.

U.S Congress Takes on Bitcoin and Proof-of-Work Mining

In January, Proof-of-Work mining and Bitcoin came under intense government scrutiny.

The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing titled ‘Cleaning Up Cryptocurrency: The Energy Impacts of Blockchains.’

The briefing memorandum provided some PoW mining statistics to generate debate through the hearing. These included,

  • The estimated annual energy usage of the Bitcoin network grew from 77.78 Terawatt-hours (TWh) on January 02, 2021, to 198 TWh on November 26, 2021.
  • Over the same period, the Ethereum network’s annual energy usage grew from 14.81 TWh to more than 92 TWh.
  • A single ETH transaction added more than 90 pounds of CO2 to the atmosphere, while a single BTC transaction added more than 1,000 pounds.
  • The global 2021 CO2 emissions of ETH and BTC mining are equivalent to tailpipe emissions from more than 15.5m gasoline-powered cars on the road each year.

In addition to the above numbers, there were also several other influencing factors for lawmakers to consider,

  • As part of a goal to be carbon neutral by 2060, China banned Bitcoin in June 2021.
  • According to Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, the United States is the largest Bitcoin mining nation.
  • In April 2021, President Joe Biden set greenhouse gas reduction targets. These included a 50-52% reduction from 2005 levels in economy-wide net greenhouse gas pollution by 2030.
  • The U.S has a net-zero emissions target of 2050.

With the U.S President’s emissions goals in mind, January’s subcommittee hearing saw Democratic party members reportedly stand “staunchly anti-crypto.”

Since the January hearing, the crypto community has responded with its own crypto mining statistics.

CoinShares Delivers a Different Take on PoW Mining

In February, we reported new mining statistics that question the numbers from the briefing memorandum and those used by other anti-crypto lawmakers.

Key statistics from a CoinShares paper titled “The Bitcoin Mining Network, Energy, and Carbon Impact” included,

  • The Bitcoin mining network emitted 36 Mt of CO2 in 2020 and 39 Mt in 2021. This accounted for less than 0.08% of a global total of 49,360 Mt of CO2 emissions.

CoinShares provided an industry breakdown of CO2 emissions for comparison. These included,

  • Emission estimates for the minting and printing fiat currency sit at approximately 8 Mt of CO2 emissions per year.
  • The gold industry generates between 100 and 145 Mt of CO2 emissions annually (estimated).
  • Global banking system emissions are around 130 Mt of CO2 emissions each year.

With such disparity in numbers, the EPA may provide some further input for a more informed judgment on PoW mining.

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