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LOS ANGELES: The carbon footprint of the US bitcoin industry is rising at breakneck speed, a report from environmental groups found, now rivalling the emissions of 6 million cars each year.
The groups urged US states to consider bans on new mining operations to help protect the planet.
Emissions from the energy-hungry sector could undermine goals to tackle climate change, said Jeremy Fisher, an energy analyst with the non-profit Sierra Club and a co-author of the report.
“We’re at an inflection point,” he said. “We’re trying to rapidly decarbonise… Bitcoin mining has the potential to undo some of that progress.” The industry’s carbon footprint, the groups said, was 27.4 million tonnes from mid-2021 through 2022 – three times that of the largest US coal plant – or close to the annual emissions of 6 million cars, according to a calculator from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Bitcoin mining involves a network of energy-intensive computers that verify bitcoin transactions, and compete among themselves for new coins. Only 3.5% of global bitcoin mining was located in the United States in 2020 – now it’s approaching 38%, according to a recent study from the White House.
The groups urged US states to consider blocking new mining operations. This year, the New York legislature passed a law to pause any new operations in the state that run on fossil fuel.
Bitcoin industry groups say the cryptocurrency sector is greener than other heavy industries and uses a relatively small amount of electricity – between 0.09% and 1.7% of total US power, according to the White House report.