U.S. Bitcoin Mining Pollutes as Much as 6 Million Cars Annually, Report Finds

Workers install a new row of Bitcoin mining machines at the Whinstone U.S. Bitcoin mining facility in Rockdale, Texas
Workers install a new row of Bitcoin mining machines at the Whinstone U.S. Bitcoin mining facility in Rockdale, Texas, on Oct. 9, 2021. MARK FELIX / AFP via Getty Images
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The U.S. bitcoin industry produces as much climate pollution every year as 6 million internal combustion cars and three times more than the country’s biggest coal plant, concludes a new report from multiple environmental groups.

The global share of energy-intensive bitcoin “mining” in the U.S. has increased by more than an order of magnitude since 2020, jumping from 3.5% to 38% after China banned bitcoin mining in 2021, and the groups called on states to ban new mining operations.

“We’re at an inflection point,” Jeremy Fisher, a Sierra Club energy analyst and report co-author told Thomson Reuters. “We’re trying to rapidly decarbonize… Bitcoin mining has the potential to undo some of that progress” with its 27.4 million tonnes of emissions in the past year. Although some claim to offset emissions from the mining process, “there’s a lot of greenwashing going on,” Fisher warned.

As reporter by the Thomson Reuters Foundation:

Environmental groups say the industry’s environmental record, energy usage and long-term impact on communities have largely been hidden from scrutiny. 

Friday’s report highlights cases where bitcoin miners have prolonged the life of fossil-fuel plants, pushed up electricity rates, strained power grids, and fallen short on promises of jobs related benefits for the local community.

For a deeper dive:

Thomson Reuters Foundation

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