Environmental Impacts of Bitcoin Mining

The science is clear: we need to do everything in our power to immediately lower carbon emissions to combat the worst impacts of climate change. Why then in Pennsylvania are new-age prospectors reviving defunct waste coal power plants, all in an effort to

First, an explanation: Bitcoin, created in 2009, is a cryptocurrency that is the most popular type of digital currency in use. Bitcoin miners use hundreds, if not thousands, of special-purpose computers that work around-the-clock to solve complex math problems— a situation akin to trying to pick correct lottery numbers, but much more difficult —often taking trillions of attempts. If successful in cracking the puzzle, a user is awarded almost $300,000 worth of bitcoin, according to current prices. 

The problem is that the computers used in bitcoin mining worldwide devour enormous amounts of electricity, more than countries like Argentina and Sweden, and dirty fossil fuels like coal and gas are often used to create that electricity.

Be sure to check out our infographic here for more!

Here's what PennFuture is saying about bitcoin mining

On March 7, 2023, PennFuture's Senior Director of Energy & Climate, Rob Altenburg, testified at the U.S Senate Clean Air, Climate, and Nuclear Safety subcommittee on the negative environmental impact of crypto-asset mining. To view a pdf of Rob Altenburg's Capitol Hill testimony, click here.

Since 2021, PennFuture has been leading the charge and raising alarm bells about this issue in Pennsylvania. To date, we have been interviewed by ABC News, The Atlantic, NBC News, Fortune Magazine, StateImpact Pennsylvania, and many others about this emerging issue. A few of these interviews and articles are pasted below so you can get up to speed. 

Presentations and Slides

In addition to high-profile media interviews, blogs and Op Ed pieces, PennFuture has been asked to give presentations to other environmental advocates about this issue. Below, please find a recording of one of these presentations, as PennFuture's Rob Altenburg spoke to Sierra Club Pennsylvania and others about this issue. 

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