In Brief
The County Rubbing Out Its Miners’ Carbon Footprint
04.08.2019

New cryptocurrency mining operations in Missoula County, Montana, will have to “develop or purchase new renewable energy to offset 100 percent of the energy” they use, Wired reports. The resolution was approved unanimously by the county’s Board of Commissioners last week.

Cryptocurrency mining eats up electricity on the scale of whole countries, at least according to some estimates. Digiconomist, which tracks the energy usage of major blockchains, estimates the world’s bitcoin mining consumes about 54 terawatt hours of power per yearin other words, more than than Denmark.

Missoula’s only cryptocurrency mining operation, in the town of Bonner, is run by Canadian company Hyperblock. The facility uses hydroelectric energy from the nearby Kerr Dam in the Flathead Indian Reservation. But the mine uses as much energy as a third of the households in the county, causing residents to turn to fossil fuels.

Plattsburgh, New York, had a similar problem last year and actually issued a moratorium on cryptocurrency mining because of a spike in energy prices.

“They say that it’s not directed at Hyperblock, but it sure feels like that.”

Missoula County is very sensitive to climate worries for a more visceral reason too: a state-wide wildfire crisis. The rate of wildfire outbreak in Montana grew more than tenfold between 1970 and 2015, according to nonprofit Climate Central. The county is looking at more extensive climate measures than the mining regulation. It will soon consider a resolution committing the county to 100 percent clean energy by 2030.

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But the miners feel singled out by the resolution. “They say that it’s not directed at Hyperblock, but it sure feels like that,” Bonner’s manager, Jason Vaughan, told Wired.

The company may regret antagonizing Missoula’s community in the pastit was forced to upgrade the fans that cool its rigs last year because neighbors mounted such fierce complaints about the noise. “We’re knee-deep in the process of expanding and now they’re trying to change the rules on us,” said Vaughan.