Bitcoin mining is the wave of the future. Now one cryptocurrency mining company is powering its own energy-gobbling computer systems. But for some, the solution generates concern.
Human plans nearly always involve unintended consequences. Consider Saul’s sacrifice at Amalek (stripped of kingdom) and Moses’ striking the rock (barred from the Promised Land). Christians have an all-wise Counselor to help them discern God’s will (Romans 12:2) in rocky matters—no digging required.
Bitcoin mining may conjure images of rocks and pickaxes. But this mining looks nothing like the 1800s Gold Rush kind.
Bitcoin mining refers to putting more bitcoin (encrypted digital currency) into circulation. Powerful computers solve difficult mathematical problems or puzzles. Each complicated solution creates a bitcoin. As calculations become more complex, computers run harder and longer, using more energy.
Greenidge Generation began producing electricity in a former New York coal plant in 2017. Serious bitcoin mining at the plant started last year. In about three months, Greenidge mined 729 bitcoins. Cryptocurrency values fluctuate, but one day in October a single bitcoin was worth over $63,000!
Today, Greenidge runs its 15,300 computer servers and still sends electricity into the state’s power grid.
But environmentalists see Greenidge as creating pollution problems. They oppose the plant’s water use from a nearby lake. Air quality around the plant is also a concern.
Others point out that the megawatts dedicated to bitcoin mining could power more than 35,000 homes. They fear more revitalized power plants will pump out toxins merely for profit.
Environmental groups have asked New York’s Governor Kathy Hochul to enact a statewide freeze on energy-heavy cryptocurrency mining.
The Greenidge website asserts that the company maintains net-zero carbon emissions. That means the amount of carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere doesn’t exceed the amount taken away. Greenidge says it operates “fully within the state’s nation-leading high environmental standards.” But many conservationists see net-zero as simply a way to sidestep pollution laws.
Around the country, other power plants also perform cryptocurrency mining. Marathon Digital Holdings operates a coal-fired station in Montana. It provides 100% of its energy for bitcoin mining. CEO Fred Thiel says Marathon used to find a building, rig it for mining, and buy power from a utility. Instead, Marathon decided “to flip that model upside down” because officials “knew that there are lots of underutilized energy generation sources” in the United States.
Supporters see Greenidge as an economic boon in an area that needs help. The company touts its mining station as delivering “a piece of the world’s digital future.”
Do you think converting underused power plants to bitcoin mining facilities is a positive, a negative, or some of both? Why?
Why? Human actions start with causes and have effects, sometimes unintended ones. It’s important to consider those consequences and hold them up to the light of God’s perfect will for how we live and thrive.
Pray: For willingness to consider all sides of a matter; for hearts to take issues to God for guidance; for people in leaderships to make thoughtful decisions.