Can we catch up to China in CO2 emissions even if our economy is smaller?

“Crytopmining Capacity in U.S. Rivals Energy Use of Houston, Findings Show” (New York Times, July 15):

the seven companies alone had set up to tap as much as 1,045 megawatts of power, or enough electricity to power all the residences in a city the size of Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city with 2.3 million residents.

Note that the headline contains multiple lies. The population of Houston is roughly 7 million if we include the actual city and ignore arbitrary political boundaries. And there are a lot of industrial users of electricity in Metro Houston, e.g., oil refineries. So the amount of electricity usage implied by the headline could be 20-30X what is described in the body (just residential usage and only for the 2.3 million people who live in the center of the city).

The good news is that we will be rich. Crypto can’t fail, like real estate, because of the old adage “they’re not making any more bits.” Yet the U.S. will be making some more bits while China is eating our dust (literally, after it blows around the world a bit).

People used to complain that we were exporting our pollution to poorer countries. Now it is China that is exporting pollution to the U.S.:

The United States has seen an influx of cryptocurrency miners, who use powerful, energy-intensive computers to create and track the virtual currencies, after China cracked down on the practice last year. Democrats led by Senator Elizabeth Warren are also calling for the companies to report their emissions of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that is the main driver of climate change.

I’m a little concerned that I find myself in agreement with Elizabeth Warren!

6 thoughts on “Can we catch up to China in CO2 emissions even if our economy is smaller?

  1. I was listening to my local NPR station today talking to a guy from the New York Times (of course!) who “covers” cryptocurrency and wow did he have to answer a lot of embarrassing questions. The (female) host was gentle with him, though. They managed to confuse the concept of investing in crypto as a “speculative investment” with investing in the stock market, i.e., where you place your bets behind companies that are (sometimes, at least) producing an actual product.

    They invited people to call in, but I refrained because at the time I was running the windshield wipers on my car to clear off some really nasty-looking bug splatter. They did manage to throw in a few words of thoughts and prayers for the little people who took their meager savings out of their mattresses and “invested” it in crypto, only to lose the shirts off their backs AND the mattress they had previously stuffed the money in.

    And so it goes…

    But the good news is that in a week or so it will be time once again to invest in some chip stocks, which getting punched good and hard today…but are about to be lavished with something like $100 billion dollar in gubmint money. It’s all good news if you know the timing.

    • I had a fun time listening to the NPR host disabusing herself of her early, idyllic preconceptions of Crypto: that it was a “store of value” that was “insulated” from the vagaries of currency speculators and other Earthly problematics. The NYT guy had to respond that actually, crypto has closely “followed” the stock market – except that it’s even worse! and more volatile, because nobody knows how to measure it.

      (We all know that it doesn’t really exist.)

      One interesting thing is that my own view of Stable Crypto was echoed by the NYT guy: the whole thing has to boil down to about 5 or 10 and after all the ‘po folks’ money is wrecked, they’ll have some stability.

      As far as CO2 emissions are concerned, NVIDIA is going to continue to do well, after it weathers a few little storms, and assuming someone can build the power out to support it. It would be interesting to do an analysis of what it would take to build a new Westinghouse nuclear reactor to support all the crypto farming, vs. other kinds of “power generation.” Maybe then we could afford to keep doing it, blissfully without the CO2 concerns.

  2. Well, a number of states are re-starting their coal plants [1], offering tax breaks and welcoming Bitcoin plants to their state in the name of economic growth even though Bitcoin plants are eating up a good chunk of a towns electrical usage.

    Where is the outrage? Where is the “crises”? How could Al Gore and the Biden administration allow this?

    [1] https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2022/feb/18/bitcoin-miners-revive-fossil-fuel-plant-co2-emissions-soared

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