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The Real-World Costs of the Digital Race for Bitcoin

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The Bitdeer mine in Rockdale, TX.

In the husk of a onetime aluminum smelting plant an hour outside of Austin, TX, row upon row of computers were using enough electricity to power about 6,500 homes as they raced to earn bitcoin, the world’s largest cryptocurrency.

Credit: Jordan Vonderhaar

An investigation by The New York Times uncovered 34 large-scale bitcoin mining operations in the U.S., which are straining the power grid, inflating electricity bills, and producing massive carbon emissions.

Each facility consumes at least 30,000 times as much energy as the average U.S. home, using more than 3,900 megawatts of electricity altogether.

Energy research and consulting firm Wood Mackenzie estimated Texas' 10 bitcoin mines have caused electricity bills for energy customers to balloon nearly 5%, or $1.8 billion annually.

Nonprofit technology company WattTime also found bitcoin mining nationwide produces the equivalent of 3.5 million gas-powered cars' carbon pollution. Although many bitcoin businesses highlight their ability to operate in rural regions with renewable energy, most of that energy would be used anyway, so fossil fuel plants must almost always generate additional electricity due to the bitcoin operations.

From The New York Times
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Abstracts Copyright © 2023 SmithBucklin, Washington, D.C., USA


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