A year ago, Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker joked the city was now “cowtown and cryptocurrency” after plugging in donated bitcoin mining machines. That news generated millions of web impressions across the world, a nominal amount of money and attracted a blockchain summit to the city.
Since the peak of the industry’s hype in 2021 and the city’s adoption of the machine, the cryptocurrency market lost more than $2 trillion in 2022. Startups, job postings and venture capital fundraising around the crypto industry have also dropped.
Fort Worth city officials are leaving the machine donated by the Texas Blockchain Council running, despite the hype around the industry slowing down. The city will not disclose the amount of money it takes to keep the machine running.
Fort Worth first adopted two bitcoin machines in April 2022, becoming the first city to mine bitcoin. Quinn PR crafted a media campaign to promote Fort Worth’s tech-friendly leadership. The media attention generated more than 752 million web impressions in six months, according to the city. Headlines in national news outlets, such as USA Today, read: “Fort Worth, Texas becomes first in the US to mine bitcoin: ‘Where the future begins.’”
In interviews with major TV news outlets, Parker said the pilot project was about making the city at the forefront of tech and innovation.
“We want to be at the forefront of this industry, and understand that cryptocurrency is synonymous with innovation right now across the United States, really across the world,” Parker said in an interview on CNBC when the project was announced.
Critics of the crypto industry cite concerns about the machine’s energy consumption in a state with a fragile power grid. The Texas Blockchain Council, the industry association that donated the three machines, and city officials maintained the machines take up the same amount of energy as a vacuum cleaner.
Two months later, the city traded the machine for a more energy-efficient machine. Carlo Capua, chief of strategy and innovation at the City of Fort Worth, recommended keeping the machines going at a city council meeting last November. The miner running in the city’s server room has generated nearly $2,000 after electricity costs since being plugged in, Capua said.
“The goal wasn’t to make money, that wasn’t the primary objective,” Capua said. “It was for people to know about the city, know that Fort Worth is a dynamic, forward-thinking city and doing innovative things that no other cities have done. So in that sense, it’s been very successful.”
The mining machine is profitable every month, Capua said, but he declined to provide the total energy cost since it was plugged in. The machine, a Bitmain S19 J Pro, takes 2,950 watts to operate. The city runs the machine 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“Our rate with our energy provider is confidential, so I’m afraid I can’t share the total electricity cost as it would be easy for someone to reverse engineer our rate,” Capua wrote in an email.
There’s more, so read the rest. The energy consumed by one bitcoin miner is not going to affect the grid, but the energy consumed by thousands of them will. At least Fort Worth didn’t invest any up front money in this thing. If I were a resident there I’d want to know the financial details behind this – really, there’s no good reason I can think of to keep it all secret – but it’s a small enough deal that there’s only so much of a fuss worth kicking up over it. Surely if this thing really is making money for the city, that money ought to be accounted for somewhere. And if it’s really not making money for the city, that should be documented too.