This week, a well-balanced and thought-provoking article on bitcoin mining focused on the Greenidge mining company in upstate New York. Last year, environmental activists claimed the facility was harming the environment and local ecosystems, leading to a policy decision by Governor Kathy Hochul restricting bitcoin mining in the state. However, it appears that many of the claims against Greenidge were incorrect, as a team from CoinDesk discovered during a visit to the town. The team found not a single lawmaker had consulted the town or its mayor before drafting the mining restrictions.
One of the central debates regarding bitcoin mining is its environmental impact, and the Bitcoin network’s energy consumption has garnered much attention. Greenidge was under scrutiny for setting up operations at a deactivated coal-burning plant, releasing additional carbon emissions. The question of whether the energy consumption is worth it often depends on one’s perspective on the value of permissionless money.
The CoinDesk team anticipated a negative reception from the locals but found that many in the town supported Greenidge. Job creation, even on a small scale, is essential to a shrinking town like Dresden. However, the local complaints about Greenidge mainly came from the wealthier out-of-town vacation home owners. This situation highlights an underlying class conflict within bitcoin mining, as the proof-of-work algorithm ties it to real communities and investments.
Greenidge has helped the town by hiring unionized electricians, creating short-term construction jobs, and improving amenities like children’s playgrounds. Although not all mining facilities follow Greenidge’s approach, many do provide opportunities in areas where they may be lacking. And while Bitcoin’s narrative has evolved over time, it’s increasingly becoming a part of the broader “culture war.”
In the United States, bitcoin could possibly be perceived as a red-blue issue, with Republicans endorsing it and Democrats disavowing it. For example, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently spoke about Bitcoin’s “threat to the current regime,” though his opinions may be as performative as his stance on central bank digital currencies (CBDCs).
DeSantis’ actions could contribute to a political feedback loop shaping perceptions of cryptocurrencies, similar to how misinformation about Greenidge’s environmental impact influenced the New York Democratic government. As CoinDesk’s Nik De pointed out, “a conversation that doesn’t include the people most directly impacted can lead to wonky outcomes.” It’s crucial to consider the opinions and experiences of those affected by bitcoin mining and its impact on communities, as opposed to solely focusing on the opinions of political parties that may not have the best interest of impacted individuals at heart.