It’s about to get harder to spin up a crypto mining operation in New York. The state Assembly has passed a bill that will place a moratorium on any new crypto farms that rely on power-hungry proof-of-work blockchains, like those behind Bitcoin and Ethereum. Cryptocurrency enthusiasts will still be permitted to spin up new operations that use less wasteful technologies, as well as those relying on renewable sources of energy.
In the past several years, power utilization for crypto mining has skyrocketed. Unfortunately, the increased power usage is a feature of proof-of-work blockchains. In the early days, a standard laptop CPU could churn away and generate multiple Bitcoins per day, which are awarded as an incentive for users to contribute processing power to the network. Over time, the work required to generate new coins goes up, and that means more power is used. As of last year, Bitcoin mining alone consumed 91 terawatt-hours annually — that’s about as much as the entire country of Pakistan.
Increased energy consumption has prompted several governments to halt crypto mining. China, once a haven for miners looking for cheap power, recently banned most cryptocurrencies and the associated mining operations. China’s desire to exercise full control over economic activity was certainly part of the reason, but the government also leveraged its full might to punish those accused of siphoning power for mining. Following China’s crackdown, some miners have relocated to the US where power is plentiful, if somewhat more expensive.
The moratorium in New York is a reaction to this shift, but it’s not set in stone yet. It’s still up to Governor Kathy Hochul to sign or veto the legislation. If it goes into effect, no new proof-of-work crypto farms will be able to set up in the state for the next two years. Operations seeking to use other types of mining, like proof-of-stake, will be allowed to do as they please. Even the more wasteful proof-of-work type of mining will be allowed as long as it uses green energy.
New York is pushing to cut greenhouse gas emissions dramatically in the coming years, aiming for an 85 percent reduction by 2050. About half of the state’s power already comes from renewables, so it could be feasible for a Bitcoin or Ethereum miner to meet the standards laid out in the legislation. Nevertheless, the crypto industry has strongly opposed the moratorium, fearing it could evolve into a full ban once the two-year timer runs out.
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