Good Question: How does cryptomining affect the environment?

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — This good question is about cryptomining and cryptocurrency. It can be a confusing topic. For example, when you hear “mining,” you might think of drilling in the ground, like you would for oil.

That’s not the case for cryptomining but it can have an environmental impact. Here’s why.

After Gov. Kathy Hochul signed first-of-its-kind legislation limiting cryptomining in New York State, a viewer sent in this question:

“What is cryptomining? Thought this was computer based! How does this possibly affect the environment?”

Cryptomining is high-level mathematical problem solving using a powerful computer, that allows people to access new digital funds.

Those funds are called cryptocurrency, which is decentralized digital money, not connected to a bank or a government. Some people use cryptocurrency like regular money, to buy stuff, and others use it more like the stock market, as an investment.

So how does it impact the environment? Cryptomining can be energy intensive, requiring a lot of power. Some crypto operations have gotten pushback from environmentalists for running their own natural gas-burning power plants. The new law that Hochul signed sets a two-year moratorium on new and renewed air permits for fossil fuel power plants used for crypto-mining.

The Greenidge Generation station here in the Finger Lakes is not affected by Hochul’s moratorium since it had already applied to renew its permit before the moratorium took effect. But, the State Department of Environmental Conservation denied that application and Greenidge is now challenging the decision. 

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