Texas Blockchain Council challenges controversial Bitcoin mining energy survey

In the recent SlateCast episode, Texas Blockchain Council Chairman President Lee Bratcher discussed the controversial emergency survey recently issued by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) regarding Bitcoin mining energy usage. As Bratcher explained:

“[The EIA] created this farce of an emergency and rushed it through without the notice and comment period.”

He elaborated that the survey asked for proprietary information and failed to follow proper procedures, leading to a lawsuit from the Texas Blockchain Council.

Political Pressure Behind the Scenes

According to Bratcher, it was evident that Senator Elizabeth Warren heavily influenced the EIA’s decision to issue this Bitcoin mining survey. Warren had explicitly asked the Secretary of Energy to survey Bitcoin energy use and clarified that she expected data to be collected before the next briefing.

With this context, Bratcher believes the EIA faced undue and inappropriate political pressure that led it to skirt proper procedures and fairness, ultimately necessitating the lawsuit from the Texas Blockchain Council.

Though Warren may have had reasonable intentions around understanding Bitcoin’s climate impact, Bratcher argues her demands failed to acknowledge benefits and placed disproportionate scrutiny on Bitcoin miners.

Future Renewable Energy Usage

Bratcher does not believe Bitcoin mining will ever rely completely 100% on renewables but expects a future mix incorporating stranded or wasted gases. He points to projects already redirecting natural gas that would otherwise be flared into generators that power Bitcoin mining. This reuse provides environmental benefits compared to releasing unused gas.

Though likely not enough to fully power Bitcoin mining, these stranded energy sources, paired with growth in solar, wind, and other renewables, can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of mining while still leveraging fossil fuels when available.

Bratcher paints an optimistic view that with the right policies, much of Bitcoin’s energy could one day come from renewables and waste gas.

Bitcoin Mining in Texas

When asked about the benefits Texas offers Bitcoin mining companies, Bratcher emphasized:

“It’s really around our energy only marketplace…you’re able to create a power trading strategy that’s probably more important than your operating strategy, or at least have equal importance and, and that’s why Texas is the best place in the world to open up a business or mine Bitcoin specifically.”

He did warn new mining companies that “this is an extremely competitive industry, and people get wrecked, especially if you’re trying to jump in without experienced operators.”

Ideal Resolution with the EIA

Now that the EIA has rescinded the original emergency Bitcoin survey, Bratcher hopes they will take the opportunity to craft a fair and thorough data center survey. This would ideally ask standardized questions across industries about energy consumption, allowing equitable comparison and performance benchmarking.

Importantly, Bratcher stresses that the Texas Blockchain Council welcomes sharing energy usage information as long as proprietary or sensitive details are protected. He advocates that miner contributions to grid stability should be accounted for. An improved survey could enable miners to showcase their energy resilience and grid benefits.

Bratcher seeks collaborative transparency, not combative obscurity, to resolve the survey controversy. He added:

“We’re happy to share energy consumption information, and we’re happy to share. It’d be great if they ask a question about our performance on the grid, and we could give them some data about how we’re doing.”

The full SlateCast episode provides an in-depth look at the Bitcoin mining industry in Texas and the policy issues surrounding it. Bratcher makes a strong case for the benefits Bitcoin mining can provide while also acknowledging fair concerns.

With Bitcoin poised to remain a growing industry, debates like these will likely continue around its energy usage and impact on grids. Watch the full podcast below:

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