Cryptomining Company Revives Dying Coal Plant

The coal plant in Hardin, Montana was close to closing its doors for good. But then a certain cryptomining company came along.

“We were just waiting for this thing to die,” Director of the Montana Environmental Information Center Anne Hedges told the Guardian. “They were struggling and looking to close. It was on the brink.”

The cryptomining company in question, Marathon, agreed to buy all the energy which the plant could possibly produce. Marathon built a data center beside the power plant filled with specialized computers used to mine cryptocurrency. Hardin was open for only a few dozen days in 2020. The plant has been at “near full capacity” ever since according to Marathon.

Carbon dioxide emissions have been keeping pace with the activity at Hardin. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the plant produced over 185,000 tons of carbon dioxide in the second quarter of 2021. This amounts to an increase of more than 5,000% relative to the second quarter of 2020.

“I was horrified to see it all happen. It was a terrible turn of events,” Hedges explained. “This isn’t helping old ladies from freezing to death. It’s to enrich a few people while destroying our climate for all of us. If you’re concerned about climate change, you should have nothing to do with cryptocurrency. It’s a disaster for the climate.”

Hardin unfortunately isn’t the only power plant being brought back to life by cryptomining companies. Similar stories have been surfacing from New York, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and elsewhere.

“Coal and natural gas power plants used for cryptomining that would otherwise be sunsetting as we decarbonize adds yet more carbon to the atmosphere in an era when we should be cutting such emissions,” Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of New Mexico Benjamin Jones pointed out. “Crypto’s continued or expanding use of fossil fuel sourced electricity imposes significant environmental economic costs on society.”

“We simply don’t know how emissions from bitcoin mining will look in five to ten years,” Jones noted. “It seems likely, though, it will continue to be a major consumer of energy going forward.”

Cryptomining already consumes a colossal amount of energy. The volume of electricity needed every minute would be enough to power an average household for 17 years according to specialists. And the demand has been growing exponentially.

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