Crypto mining, the arcane process by which cryptocurrencies are generated, is incredibly energy-intensive. As of this past summer, global electricity usage for the activity is as much as 240 billion kilowatt-hours per year, which is more than many entire countries use (for example Australia and Argentina.) Crypto mining consumes as much electricity as all the conventional computer data centers in the world.
All that energy usage is problematic for the environment, but a growing practice has made it far worse. Crypto miners have been re-powering decommissioned fossil fuel power plants to produce electricity strictly for mining operations. Doing so eliminates the climate benefits achieved by shutting down those plants.
The New York State Legislature passed a bill in June that would place a two-year moratorium on permits to re-power fossil fuel plants. It does not prevent crypto mining from existing generation sources. The bill had sat on the governor’s desk until after the recent election. But in late November, Governor Hochul signed the bill despite considerable lobbying against it.
The temporary ban was heavily opposed by cryptocurrency industry groups, to no surprise. While some states actually offer tax incentives to lure crypto mining operations, supporters of the legislation hope that New York’s action may cause others to follow its lead and stop the reactivation of old fossil fuel plants.
The two-year moratorium will allow time to properly evaluate the impact of the crypto mining industry on the state’s climate goals. It is pretty obvious that reactivating old, retired fossil fuel power plants as an energy source is a move in the wrong direction.
Photo, posted February 27, 2021, courtesy of Ivan Radic via Flickr.