Senator Warren Targets Bitcoin Miner Greenidge’s Environmental Footprint

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U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) questioned the environmental footprint of Greenidge Generation’s (GREE) bitcoin mining operation in New York state in a detailed letter to the publicly traded company’s CEO.

Warren wrote Jeffrey Kirt that she was concerned about the company’s energy usage and impact on the environment and consumers.

“Given the extraordinarily high energy usage and carbon emissions associated with Bitcoin mining, mining operations at Greenidge and other plants raise concerns about their impacts on the global environment, on local ecosystems, and on consumer electricity costs,” she wrote, asking for a detailed response by Dec. 17.

Greenidge’s New York mining facility received hefty criticism earlier this year. Environmentalists objected to the power station burning natural gas to mine bitcoin as well as to its cooling system’s alleged impact on a local lake. In May, the company announced that it would counteract the emissions that its rigs produce with carbon offset credit purchases starting on June 1.

Bitcoin miners use massive amounts of energy to power their operations. To combat this narrative, miners have recently been opting for more sustainable power sources.

A recent survey by the Bitcoin Mining Council, an industry forum, found that sustainable power has grown to about 58% of the total used by the industry worldwide during the third quarter from 3% in the second quarter. The increase is partly due to the rapid expansion of North American mining amid an exodus from China, and the shift to sustainable energy and better mining techniques.

Yet Warren highlighted that energy consumed by bitcoin miners matched that of Denmark, Chile, Argentina and Washington state. “Bitcoin’s estimated annual power consumption increased more than threefold between the beginning of 2019 and May 2021,” she wrote.

The letter marks the first time Warren has requested information from a miner about its operations. “Dresden plant’s greenhouse gas emissions increased nearly tenfold from 2019 to 2020,” she wrote referring to the New York operation. “In 2020, it sent over 220,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere – equivalent to the emissions of 50,000 cars,” she added.

At the time of publication, Greenidge had not responded to CoinDesk requests for comment.

Greenidge bills itself as the “first and only carbon neutral, vertically integrated power generator and bitcoin miner of scale in the United States” on its website. The company is also building mining operations in Spartanburg, S.C., where it expects to start mining later this month or early next year.

On Dec. 1 Greenidge Generation said it plans to sell $35 million in senior notes, due in October 2026, which comes after the company raised $55.2 million in senior notes with similar terms on Oct. 13.

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