Bitcoin mining continues to rely predominantly on electricity generated from fossil fuels despite the heightened attention to the climate toll of crypto mining.
Kazakhstan, where fossil fuels make up nearly all the energy mix, has seen its global share of Bitcoin mining surge in recent months, just ahead of a Chinese crackdown on the mining of the world’s most popular cryptocurrency.
The Chinese authorities’ crackdown on crypto mining saw more than 90 percent of China’s Bitcoin mining capacity shut down as of last month.
The Chinese ban didn’t mean that crypto mining has ever stopped. Miners just had to find new markets to do it. One of those places is Kazakhstan, a Central Asian country rich in oil, gas, and coal resources, New Scientist’s technology reporter Matthew Sparkes notes.
Kazakhstan noted the rise in crypto mining activity—with power generated from fossil fuels, mostly coal—and decided at the end of June to levy a surcharge of electricity for crypto miners. The additional fee is expected to come into force at the beginning of 2022, blockchain and Bitcoin magazine ForkLog reported.
Cryptocurrency mining has recently attracted a lot of attention because of the large amount of energy it sucks. Elon Musk, who had said earlier this year that people could buy Teslas with Bitcoin, backtracked on this promise a few weeks later, saying that crypto mining is still largely powered by fossil fuel-derived energy. Most recently, Musk said last month that Tesla may start accepting cryptocurrency again if crypto mining becomes green.
Kazakhstan, where renewables accounted for just 1.4 percent of the energy mix in 2018, per International Energy Agency’s (IEA) data, saw its global Bitcoin mining share jump almost six-fold from 1.4 percent in September 2019 to 8.2 percent in April 2021, catapulting it to third place in global mining power share, new research from the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance (CCAF) showed on Thursday. The report found that China’s share was declining sharply even before the government crackdown in June. China’s share of total Bitcoin mining power fell from 75.5 percent in September 2019 to 46 percent in April 2021, CCAF said.