US lawmakers ask about EPA, DOE monitoring of crypto mining emissions, energy consumption

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Democratic legislators from both houses of the United States Congress have sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Energy Department (DOE) to inform them of their findings on the energy consumption of cryptocurrency mining and asking the agencies to require mining to report their emissions and energy use. Meanwhile, the Paraguayan Senate, the upper house of that country’s legislature, has passed a comprehensive bill to regulate cryptocurrency and allow miners to use excess electricity generated in the country. 

The six U.S. lawmakers, led by crypto cynic Elizabeth Warren, noted in their July 15 letter that crypto mining in the United States has been increasing since it was banned by China last year. The seven crypto mining companies that responded to the legislators’ request for information revealed a collective capacity of 1,045 MW of electricity, which is equivalent to all the residences in Houston, TX, the fourth-largest city in the country.

The energy use of crypto miners is driving up prices for other consumers, the letter claimed, citing government and academic studies and a press report. It dismissed the responding miners’ claims of energy efficiency, saying, “These and similar promises about clean energy use obscure a simple fact: Bitcoin miners are using huge quantities of electricity that could be used for other priority end uses that contribute to our electrification and climate goals.”

Little information about emissions from crypto mining is available, the letter continued, but, “Our investigation suggests that the overall U.S. crypto mining industry is likely to be problematic for energy and emissions.” The authors requested that the EPA and DOE explain their authority to collect information on the cryptomining industry and their plans to do so, citing several beneficial uses of that information:

“This collected data would enable valuable public policy activities, including better monitoring of energy use and trends, better evidence basis for policy making, improved data for national mitigation analyses, better abilities for evaluating technology policies for the sector, and better modeling of national and regional grid loads and transitions, among other purposes.”

The EPA has often been the focus of lawmakers’ appeals concerning crypto mining, both opposing it and favoring it. Environmentalists and the crypto industry have also weighed in.

On July 14, the Paraguayan Senate passed a bill on cryptocurrency regulation and mining. Although the cryptocurrency industry has faced opposition in Paraguay before, and the bill faced “intense debate,” it gave the industry significant advantages.

The country’s National Securities and Exchange Commission will create regulatory and supervisory mechanisms for the industry, which will be exempt from value-added tax (VAT). In addition, crypto miners will be granted access to excess energy at “a special electricity pricing rate whic[h] cannot exceed 15% above the industrial rate,” according to a tweet thread by the bill’s Senate sponsor Fernando Silva Facetti.

Paraguay has abundant, low-cost hydro energy thanks to the Itaipu Dam power plant on the Paraná River, which Paraguay shares with Brazil.