A â€˜false solutionâ€™? How crypto mining became the oil industryâ€™s new hope
Climate experts warn that plans to repurpose waste gas is not a solution, but more like placing a Band-Aid over a gaping wound
In January of 2019, Chase Lochmiller and Cully Cavness, recently reunited prep school pals from Denver, drove out to the snow-covered plains of Wyoming to bring a piece of tech culture to the American heartland. Trembling in -20F (-29C) temperatures, they wired up a prototype of their brainchild: a machine that harnesses the â€œwaste gasâ€ from oil rigs to power mining for cryptocurrency.
Cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, the most-popular decentralized digital currency, have a notoriously large carbon footprint (bitcoin mining alone consumes about half as much electricity in a year as all of the UK). So to leverage a cheap source of energy to run their bitcoin mining operations, Lochmiller and Cavness found themselves partnering with oil companies to repurpose a byproduct, primarily methane, thatâ€™s typically vented or burnt off in flares.