Coal is making a comeback as the global energy crisis starts to bite, and bitcoin miners are profiting from its use.
One of the consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in Feb was a resurgence in the use of coal as an energy source.
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Last year, the world’s reliance on coal was at an all-time high and the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts a 2% rise this year. Despite coal prices at peak levels, it is still significantly cheaper than other energy sources like crude oil and natural gas which are more than double coal’s prices.
“When you’re trying to balance decarbonization and energy security, everyone knows which one wins: Keeping the lights on,” Steve Hulton, an executive at Rystad Energy told Bloomberg. “That’s what keeps people in power, and stops people from rioting in the streets.
Bitcoin miners have also turned to coal to augment their energy needs in recent months. There are reports of mining companies bringing old coal plants back to life such as the Harding generating station that was “rescued” by Marathon.
Hardin plant carbon emissions up 5,000%
The move sparked uproar given the environmental threat that burning fossil fuels poses to the environment. The Hardin plant generated over 187,000 tons of carbon which was 5,000% more than was generated in the whole of 2020.
“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.” said a concerned citizen. “If you’re concerned about climate change you should have nothing to do with cryptocurrency, it’s a disaster for the climate.”
However, not all bitcoin miners are using it in a negative light. Stronghold Digital Mining is pivoting to coal in one of the most ingenious ways to protect the environment.
The company collects coal ash, a toxic byproduct of burnt coal, and processes it at a waste processing facility before reusing it as an energy source. Coal ash contains heavy metals and other toxic substances that seep into groundwater and contaminate the soil.
Despite the recent turn of events, the EU is keen on reducing usage while the IEA has revealed plans to launch its mid-year revision to track the energy impacts of the war in Ukraine. For Emma Champion, head of regional energy transitions at Bloomberg, “it’s the last hurrah for coal in Europe.”
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