In the wake of a new White House report on the climate impacts of energy-grabbing crypto mining, Cornell Engineering Research suggests that providing green policy incentives for carbon capture and renewable energy should help these mining operations reduce their carbon footprint.
Cornell study,”Bitcoin mining with carbon capture and renewable energy for carbon neutrality across states in the USA,” published September 14 in Energy & Environmental Science.
The carbon impact of cryptocurrency faces increased energy scrutiny and was examined in a White House report,”Climate and Energy Impacts on Crypto Assets in the US“published September 8 by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. This report is a result of President Joe Biden Executive Order 14067 (March 2022) – “Ensuring the responsible development of digital assets.”
“Bitcoin’s thirst for energy and the attendant carbon emissions have raised concerns around the world,” said a senior author. Fengki youRoxanne E. and Michael J. Zak Professors in Power Systems Engineering.
“Whether you like it or not, there is a market. Crypto is here,” said Yu, a faculty fellow at Cornell Atkinson Sustainability Center. “As the cryptocurrency market grows, how can we better use science to inform energy and climate policy? How can we encourage the industry to practice environmental, social and governance and manage mining operations in a more sustainable way? This is the key.”
Validating crypto-asset transactions – done through consensus mechanisms such as the “Proof of Work” used by the Bitcoin and Ethereum blockchains – requires massive amounts of electricity. The total global electricity usage of crypto-mining assets ranges between 120 billion and 240 billion kilowatt-hours per year — a range that exceeds the total annual electricity use of large countries, such as Australia and Argentina, according to a White House report.
A Cornell study shows that countries with a large share of renewable energy in the electric grid and lower electricity prices can mitigate the environmental damage that cryptocurrency brings.
In the United States, if federal and state policies balance economic development, promote environmental protection and provide incentives for direct carbon capture from the air and green mining, cryptocurrency becomes more sustainable.
“Cryptocurrency mining is like mining precious metals,” he said. “The deeper you go underground, the more difficult it is to extract. For cryptocurrencies, it takes longer to validate them now than before.”
In the economic and technical environmental analysis presented in the paper, the Cornell Group examined all 50 states on the viability of crypto-mining operations. Among the states with crypto-mining, Vermont, Maine, Washington, Idaho, and New Hampshire emit the least carbon dioxide, while Delaware, West Virginia, Rhode Island and Kentucky produce the most.
Economically, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Alaska, Connecticut, West Virginia, and Kentucky performed the worst, while Washington was the most profitable state, followed by Vermont (with nearly all green energy) and New York (which has a lot of hydropower and is working toward all-green energy). ).
“The study finds that countries with lower electricity prices typically have higher penetration of renewable energy into the power grid,” Yu said. “If you run a cryptocurrency mining operation and choose a place with a lower electricity price, you will likely use cleaner electricity to mine bitcoin.
“Green technology is coming,” he said. “We are developing renewable energy systems to support the sustainable development of the industry, boost the economy and support climate action.”
In addition to you, the first author is Haydar Niaz, a visiting graduate researcher at Environmental Systems Engineering Laboratory (PEESE) in Cornell. The National Science Foundation helped fund this research.