U.S Congress to Assess Bitcoin Mining Impact on the Environment

Bob Mason
Updated: Jan 6, 2022, 00:50 UTC

Bitcoin (BTC) mining is drawing greater interest. Green house gas emissions are on the rise once more and Bitcoin (BTC) is contributing.

FILE PHOTO: LAN network cables plugged into a Bitcoin mining

Bitcoin (BTC) mining has been a major topic of debate in recent years. In 2021, the Chinese government banned Bitcoin (BTC) mining due to its impact on the environment. On Tuesday, news also hit the wires of the Kosovo government banning all crypto mining due to an energy crisis. With Bitcoin (BTC) mining a lucrative business, miners could begin to feel the pinch should concerns over the impact on the environment begin to spread.

Bitcoin Mining and the Numbers

In July of last year, the Chinese government banned Bitcoin (BTC) mining. The decision to ban mining was not just because of the government’s stance on cryptos. China has a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2060. Such is the impact of Bitcoin (BTC) mining on the environment that a ban was needed.

Considering energy consumption and climate impact, some key mining stats are worth considering:

  • According to Columbia Climate School, Bitcoin (BTC) is thought to consume 707KwH per transaction. In addition, there are also mining computers that heat up and need cooling.
  • The University of Cambridge estimated that Bitcoin (BTC) mining consumes 121.36 terawatt-hours (TWh) per year. Based on this estimate, if Bitcoin were a country, it would be a top 30 energy consumer.
  • It is estimated that Bitcoin (BTC) mining yields 22m to 22.9m metric tons of CO2 emissions each year.
  • In terms of global warming, Bitcoin (BTC) mining could push global warming above 2 degrees centigrade in less than 3-decades.

For Bitcoin (BTC) mining, hashrates are the key metric. As a result of the upward price trend in Bitcoin (BTC) through 2021, hashrates were also on the rise.

In April 2021, Bitcoin’s (BTC) hashrate rose to an ATH 198.5m terahashes per second. At this time, China had yet to ban Bitcoin (BTC) mining. At the start of this year, however, news hit the wires of the hashrate jumping to a new ATH 208m terahashes per second. This level was reached in spite of China’s ban on mining. While the Chinese government may have addressed its carbon footprint issue, the effects on global warming remain. Miners have simply relocated resources to mining friendly countries that include the U.S.

U.S Congress to Assess Bitcoin (BTC) Mining Environmental Impact

Overnight, news hit the wires of a U.S Congress sub-committee preparing a hearing to assess the impact of cryptos and mining on the environment.

It’s of little surprise that there are growing concerns over crypto mining and the impact on the environment. Late last year, there were numerous reports of the U.S becoming the largest Bitcoin (BTC) mining nation.

According to Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, the U.S accounted for 35.4% of the global hashrate in August 2021. In April 2021, the U.S had accounted for just 16.8%. China had accounted for 46% in April prior to the ban. This was down from as high as 75.5% back in September 2019.

In terms of the emissions, U.S greenhouse gas emissions reportedly totaled 6.6bn metric tons of CO2 in 2019. In 2020, U.S emissions had reportedly fallen to 4.7bn metric tonnes. For 2021, however, IHS Markit projects a 7.6% increase in emissions to 5.1bn tonnes. While this sits well below the 2019 number, it is worth noting that global carbon emissions hit a record high in 2019… In 2019, global emissions had reportedly hit an ATH 36.7bn metric tonnes.

While it may take time, an outright ban on Bitcoin (BTC) mining in the U.S is a feasible outcome. Whether other governments also step up to address the impact on the environment remains to be seen, however.

About the Author

Bob Masonauthor

With over 20 years of experience in the finance industry, Bob has been managing regional teams across Europe and Asia and focusing on analytics across both corporate and financial institutions. Currently he is covering developments relating to the financial markets, including currencies, commodities, alternative asset classes, and global equities.

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