Crypto miners really don’t want to tell us how much energy they consume

And for now at least, they don’t have to.

U.S. officials this week indefinitely withdrew a survey aimed at gathering information on the crypto-mining industry’s power use, hindering attempts to understand the sector’s impact on grids and energy prices at a time of record activity.

Riot Platforms, among the biggest U.S. bitcoin miners, and industry group Texas Blockchain Council, sued to stop mandatory data requests after a new survey went out this month by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) to assess crypto-mining’s electricity use.

As a result, U.S. officials canceled the emergency survey and are negotiating an agreement with the bitcoin mining plaintiffs to end the lawsuit, said two sources familiar with the situation. Crypto critics said halting the survey could create new vulnerabilities to the U.S. electrical grid, and one environmental group called industry opposition to the survey “reprehensible.”


The EIA began its survey of 82 miners the week of Feb. 5, requesting details about operations and energy use. Members of Congress, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, had requested a survey for more than a year.

“The department is asking crypto-miners to report basic information about their energy usage — like other industries have done for decades — so the public and lawmakers better understand how crypto-mining’s electricity use and carbon emissions affect the power grid and environment,” Warren said in an email to Reuters.

The memo from EIA Head Joseph DeCarolis requesting approval of the survey from the Office of Management and Budget said, “We feel a sense of urgency to generate credible data that would provide insight into this unfolding issue.”

The mining industry’s lawsuit, filed on Feb. 22, claimed the survey’s fast-track approval process was unlawful and its scope, including questions about precise geographic locations of miners and commercial partners, posed threats to their businesses and hard assets if made public.

On Friday, the EIA agreed to halt the survey for over a month until March 25 and sequester the data it received so far. Later that day, a U.S. federal judge in Waco, Texas, ordered a temporary restraining order against federal agencies and the survey.

This week, the survey was withdrawn, according to sources who asked to remain anonymous because of the ongoing legal dispute. The sides reached an “agreement-in-principle,” to be finalized by March 1, court records show.

See here and here for more about the lawsuit, and here for more on the judge’s pause order. The good news for those of us who would like to know this information is that we ought to get it eventually, after some formalities have been completed. KERA has a nice long story about this.

In a letter Monday, EIA Administrator Joseph DeCarolis said the agency intends to continue a process it had already begun under the Paperwork Reduction Act’s notice-and-comment procedure whether to request the Office of Management and Budget to approve data collection of the type described in the emergency data collection.

“If EIA decides to go forward with proposing an information collection covering data of [that] type, … EIA will publish a notice in the Federal Register setting forth the proposed information collection. … That would trigger a public comment period of at least 30 days, after which the Director of OMB could make a decision whether or not to approve the information collection,” DeCarolis’ letter states.

That process could take up to a year to complete, according to Thomas Cmar, a senior attorney for Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law organization. Cmar said the Feb. 22 lawsuit by the Texas Blockchain Council and Riot Platforms “was about the timing and the process that the government followed to put out a survey.”

“The EIA collects this type information from every energy user in the U.S., so there is no question that they have the authority to collect this information,” Cmar said. “It’s just a question of whether this industry is willing to cooperate by making this information publicly available to the extent it should be publicly available.”

In an email Wednesday, Lee Bratcher, president and founder of the Texas Blockchain Council, shared Electric Reliability Council of Texas data showing what he called “how helpful bitcoin miners are when demand for power increases.”

Bratcher said bitcoin miners in Texas make up over 95% of what ERCOT calls “large flexible loads.”

“There is about 2,450 [megawatts] of bitcoin mining in Texas, but this load isn’t adding to peak demand since, as the data shows, miners curtail their consumption during peak demand,” Bratcher said in his email.

During those times of curtailing consumption, bitcoin miners such as Riot Platforms can sell their prepurchased power back to the grid for millions. As The Texas Tribune reported in January, Riot made $32 million by reducing its energy use last August.

Cmar called it a loophole in Texas law and another reason — along with lack of regulations — that crypto miners are coming to Texas.

“More and more, the price that Texans will pay for power will be controlled by the big bitcoin mining facilities [due to] the massive percentage they use from the grid,” Cmar said.


The EIA is primarily a research organization that takes data from energy users and puts out reports. Those reports show how much energy different industries use, where it is sourced from and how much they are paying for it. It’s a well-established process, year after year, that Cmar said state regulators around the country rely on to do their energy planning.

By the EIA initiating the emergency data collection, Cmar said, they were trying to “level the playing field” by requiring crypto mining companies to start reporting their energy usage.

“The lawsuit in Waco seems to be trying to push it as long as possible,” Cmar said.

There’s more, so read the rest. I’ll be very interested to see what data we get, whenever we do get it. I feel reasonably confident that the general public would support some sort of regulatory scheme that would limit how much energy the coinminers can use and especially how much money they can get by reducing their energy usage, which is a thing they can take advantage of but the rest of us can’t. Allowing everyone to benefit instead of just a chosen few would also be popular, I daresay. None of this will happen under the current regime, of course. You know what that means.

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3 Responses to Crypto miners really don’t want to tell us how much energy they consume

  1. J says:

    According to a column by Chris Tomlinson, crypto miners drive up electricity prices in Texas by $1.8 billion annually. That doesn’t count the cost in waste heat needlessly dumped in the environment or the dangerous fine particle pollution created. They can have their crypto without the energy use, by switching to a different proof model like Ethereum did, but they must be pressured to make the change.

  2. J says:

    Just want to point out, every argument that the crypto miners use concerning their supposed positive effect on the grid applies equally to battery storage, except that battery storage facilities do much much more for grid stabilization since they can feed power back when necessary. In a sane world the government of Texas would be promoting battery storage and not the wasteful competing disaster of crypto mining.

  3. C.L. says:

    Someone should introduce a bill that’d require crypto miners be energy self-sufficient via wind turbines, solar panels, geothermal, etc. That’d put these clowns outta business.

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