Energy-Guzzling Bitcoin Miners Hard Up In Junking Fossil Fuels
For the past year a company that “mines” cryptocurrency had what seemed the ideal location for its thousands of power-thirsty computers working around the clock to verify bitcoin transactions: the grounds of a coal-fired power plant in rural Montana, Amy Beth Hanson reported for the Associated Press (AP).
Photo Insert: The cryptocurrency industry has come under increasing pressure to rein in the environmental impact of its massive electricity consumption.
But with the cryptocurrency industry under increasing pressure to rein in the environmental impact of its massive electricity consumption, Marathon Digital Holdings made the decision to pack up its computers, called miners, and relocate them to a wind farm in Texas.
“For us, it just came down to the fact that we don’t want to be operating on fossil fuels,” said company CEO Fred Thiel. In the world of bitcoin mining, access to cheap and reliable electricity is everything.
But many economists and environmentalists have warned that as the still widely misunderstood digital currency grows in price — and with it, popularity — the process of mining that is central to its existence and value is becoming increasingly energy-intensive and potentially unsustainable.
Bitcoin was created in 2009 as a new way of paying for things that would not be subject to central banks or government oversight. While it has yet to widely catch on as a method of payment, it has seen its popularity as a speculative investment surge despite the volatility that can cause its price to swing wildly.
In March 2020, one bitcoin was worth just over $5,000. That surged to a record of more than $67,000 in November 2021 before falling to just over $35,000 in January.
Central to bitcoin’s technology is the process through which transactions are verified and then recorded on what’s known as the blockchain. Computers connected to the bitcoin network race to solve complex mathematical calculations that verify the transactions, with the winner earning newly minted bitcoins as a reward.
Currently, when a machine solves the puzzle, its owner is rewarded with 6.25 bitcoins — worth about $260,000 total. The system is calibrated to release 6.25 bitcoins every 10 minutes.