The next time someone invests in a fraction of a bitcoin, they can thank the thousands of computational devices guzzling energy to solve a math problem at a Finger Lakes power plant. A former public coal-powered plant turned private Bitcoin mining operation located just off the shore of Seneca Lake, Greenidge Generation, is currently vying to renew its license to continue operations. Cornell professors are arguing that this renewal could bring millions of tons of carbon emissions to the state.
With the facility on the cusp of receiving a license renewal, faculty like Prof. Eswar Prasad, applied economics and policy, insist that allowing Bitcoin mining in power plants would be an unbefitting use of energy as the increasingly detrimental effects of climate change continue to take shape. Bitcoin mining, explained
“Bitcoin is a decentralized cryptocurrency,” Prasad said. “In other words, anyone with a computer could conduct transactions without relying on traditional paper currency or having a credit card or bank account, and without having to reveal their real identities.”
As volatile as the currency is, the value of bitcoin has skyrocketed over the course of the last 10 years, jumping from just a fraction of a penny to well over $45,000.