back to article Texas judge turns out the lights on federal survey of cryptominers' energy consumption

A Texas judge has granted a temporary restraining order that prevents the US federal government surveying domestic cryptocurrency miners about their energy consumption. The order was requested [PDF] five days ago by the Texas Blockchain Council, an industry trade group, and Riot Platforms, a Nevada-based business that operates …

  1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
    Holmes

    The Lone Star State ...

    ... That's its Yelp rating.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: The Lone Star State ...

      The real star here is Alan Albright, who seems to exist solely to benefit non-productive businesses. What's that bit from his Wikipedia article? Oh, yes: "In 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit repeatedly rebuked him in a string of opinions for failing to transfer [patent] cases to more apt jurisdictions. A quarter of all patent lawsuits in the US were once heard by Albright, who has been widely criticized for ignoring binding case law."

      1. Someone Else Silver badge

        Re: The Lone Star State ...

        Sounds like the "Texas Blockchain Council"1, and especially Riot Platforms, was doing a bit of judge hunting. Yeah that's supposed to be illegal, but this is Tejas, after all.

        1The "Texas Blockchain Council"?!? Really??? I was going to say, "You can't make this stuff up", but I guess you can...

  2. ecofeco Silver badge
    Mushroom

    As the World Burns

    What better way to celebrate the end of world than by creating nothing of real value and as a bonus, also contributes to the very demise in every way!

    Ingenious I tell you! Bloody damn brilliant!

  3. Richard 12 Silver badge

    This is literally the EIAs job

    They exist to survey energy usage so that future public and private works can be planned.

    They survey every group - including drivers and residential. There's hundreds of forms.

    It seems that the cryptocurrency form has been temporarily taken down due to this lawsuit, but if it's anything like the Power Plant Report form then it takes half an hour the first time and under ten minutes every time thereafter. They probably spend longer deciding where to park in an empty lot.

    - Unless the bitcoin company doesn't actually track energy usage at all, which seems unlikely as that is their major cost.

    Their decision to file suit has almost certainly already cost them more than the survey for its entire 3 year run!

    So one can only presume that they already know they're doing something they shouldn't be.

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      The judge didn't say the EIA can't do this

      He approved the injunction because the EIA was trying to this as an "emergency" basis, rather than following the standard process of putting up regulations for public review. Obviously the cryptominers fear the information gathered will be used against them for future regulation, and they have a pretty sweet deal in Texas getting paid more to not mine during peak alerts than they could ever make from mining (which passes on the cost to everyone else) and they don't want stuff like that to end.

    2. spuck

      Re: This is literally the EIAs job

      I had the same thought: how hard could it be to look back at last month's power bill and write that number down?

      I've got to assume (since I haven't seen it) that the survey is more involved than how much electricity they use each month. Otherwise how could one company have spent 40+ hours trying to fill it out?

  4. b0llchit Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Typical case of:

    It is our $DIETY damned right to use as much energy as we want to without any considerations other than to make profit.

    And, of course, they do it in the name of progress. Hm, how did I get this sarcastic and disillusioned...

    1. spuck

      If there was a mining company that bought up a square mile of desert and installed solar panels, (i.e., their operation was powered by Chinese coal instead) would that then be ok?

  5. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    Listen to the rustle

    Of all those vested interests

  6. John Robson Silver badge

    Half an hour a month...

    Oh no, how will they cope with the additional workload of reading their electricity meter...

  7. tony72

    Obviously the cryptominers fear the information gathered will be used against them for future regulation, and they have a pretty sweet deal in Texas getting paid more to not mine during peak alerts than they could ever make from mining (which passes on the cost to everyone else) and they don't want stuff like that to end.

    Bitcoin haters love to mislead with this stuff. Firstly, many miners in Texas don't receive any such payments, it depends on their individual power purchasing agreements with the power companies. E.g. “Cormint did not receive payments from ERCOT to curtail its energy usage, it merely followed its economic best interest, which is to not mine Bitcoin when power prices are elevated due to high residential demand.” [Jamie McAvity, CEO of Texas-based bitcoin miner Cormint]

    For those miners that do have such agreements with their power companies, the power companies make those agreements because it makes economic sense for them. Bitcoin miners indeed use a lot of energy, and as such, energy companies make a lot of money from them. They're good customers. The idea that the cost of power credits paid to the miners is "passed on to everyone else" rather than just being a tiny fraction of the profits the power companies make from the miners is rather ridiculous. A quick back-of-the-envelope calculation for Riot Platforms, who were reported to have got $31 million in power credits in 2023 (based on them operating their 700MW facility for 11 months of the year, at an average electricity cost of $0.05*) says that they will have spent $281 million on electricity. Handing back a few of those dollars to free up capacity when needed is all that's happening.

    *I actually just found a price of $0.035 in a Riot Platforms corporate presentation from September 2023, so it'd be a bit less, whatever, the point stands.

    1. OhForF' Silver badge

      According to the EIA the average US price for energy over all sectors was 12.41 cents per kilowatthour in Dec 2023. The average for industrial power consumers was 7.66 cents/kWh and according to your own research Riot Platforms paid a lot less with 3.5 cents/kWh. So much for the crypto miners argument "as long as we pay for the energy we should be allowed to do what we want with it".

      In my opinion there should be a law that limits any rebates for big energy consumers to 25% of the residental consumer price. If you can't compete with that discount it is probably better to let someone else do it or not do it at all.

      1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

        Wow. That's some high-grade stupid right there.

        Okay, time to play-pretend. Suppose you own a bit-barn just full of the latest mining gear for a particular currency. Your goal is to maximize profits. The the first order, how do you decide to run or not run your gear? Let pc be the the spot price for one unit of your currency. Let e the the number of kWh expected to mine one coin. Let pe be the spot price of one kWh. When pe times e is less than pc, you run your rigs. When its is more, you don't.

        And, yes, I do mean spot price. The miners want to use the spot market because they want to take advantage of the dips in the price of electricity. If you do the above, you are absolutely guaranteed to pay below-"average" costs for your electricity unless the price of coin is so high that the spot cost of mining a coin never exceeds it.

        In fact, their price is so low exactly because they are "playing nice" with the grid and only consuming while demand remains relatively low. They are self-load-shedding, and they are doing it precisely out of pure self-interest.

        If we accept at face value the claim that they are consuming 2% of the US grid energy, then the fact that their costs are so low is absolute proof that the 2% that they are using is not affecting the stability of the grid in any negative way. Quite the opposite.

        As always, I was a coin skeptic on the cypherpunks email list in the '90s, and my doubts have only been confirmed. But these attacks on the trainspotters are deeply unjust.

    2. Effigy

      "The idea that the cost of power credits paid to the miners is "passed on to everyone else" rather than just being a tiny fraction of the profits the power companies make from the miners is rather ridiculous"

      The credits come from ERCOT and ultimately from taxpayers (me). It's a public subsidy for industry from lawmakers that despise subsidies when they're for actual public benefit.

      "many miners in Texas don't receive any such payments" ... "tiny fraction" ... "a few of those dollars"

      If it's such a pittance, and no one really claims the credits, then the subsidy isn't needed right?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > unjustified political contrivance

    Of course it is political, but also environmental issue. Just look at Europe with current farmers protests. Energy cost is a major economic, therefore political factor.

  9. MooJohn

    All this hand-wringing

    Worrying about electricity used by virtual currency mining and still insisting that all cars should be electric is the typical liberal position. It's easy to be smug when you straddle both sides of an issue.

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: All this hand-wringing

      You can be concerned about flooding and still want to supply drinking water.

      EVs are very, very, different from crypto mining in *so* many ways.

      1. Cliffwilliams44 Silver badge

        Re: All this hand-wringing

        Yes, Crypto mining facilities:

        Don't spontaneously catch fire.

        Don't cease to function in the cold.

        Aren't made from materials mined by child slave labor.

        Don't vastly underperform from their public specifications (range, especially in the cold)

        1. Snake Silver badge

          Re: Crypto don't...

          but they DO run continuously, unlike EV's which have intermittent loads on the network (mostly evenings).

          1. John Robson Silver badge

            Re: Crypto don't...

            Why on earth would you think that EV load is predominantly an evening load?

            Is it because you haven't taken a few seconds to look at how EVs are charged maybe?

        2. Ace2 Silver badge

          Re: All this hand-wringing

          Hey Cliff. Still worried about getting replaced?

        3. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: All this hand-wringing

          All data centres can spontaneously catch fire, and all vehicles can as well. EVs are less liekly to do so than an ICE vehicle of course, so let's take that benefit.

          EVs don't cease functioning in the cold, at least no more than any other vehicle - of course if you want to do anything in the extreme cold then you'll need to molly coddle any vehicle.

          Crypto facilities always underperform since they do no useful work at all.

          What child slave labour minerals are you referring to - cobalt is not an essential element in batteries any more, the common battery chemistries use none (unlike petroleum refineries which do use a tiny amount).

          All ICE vehicle underperform their "public specifications" because those specifications are designed to be a consistent test between models, not an indication of how your lead foot drives.

          If you actually look at any EV spec it's trivial to find real world expected range as well as the WLTP, but the WLTP is quoted as the only consistent measure. Your driving style, load, geography will always affect the range.

  10. spuck

    Trade Secret?

    I wonder if some of the pushback from mining companies wouldn't be because they don't want to tip their hand at how efficient/inefficient their operation is.

    It would not take rocket science level math to figure out profitability, downtime or other issues they would like to keep out of the hands of their competition.

  11. markrand
    Joke

    But sir, our energy costs have been zero (since we hot wired the meter).

  12. Ace2 Silver badge

    On second thought I do support a border wall.

    The sooner we seal off that pathetic state, the better.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When this planet is fried…

    Send off the B Ark.

    The Golgafrinchan Ark Fleet Ship B was a way of removing the basically useless citizens from the planet of Golgafrincham. A variety of stories were formed about the doom of the planet, such as blowing up, crashing into the sun or being eaten by a mutant star goat. The ship was filled with all the middlemen of Golgafrincham, such as the telephone sanitisers, account executives, hairdressers, tired TV producers, insurance salesmen, personnel officers, security guards, public relations executives, and management consultants.

    Add Crypto Miners to that.

    1. AVR

      Re: When this planet is fried…

      Didn't the rest of Golgafincham's population die from a plague originating from an unsanitised telephone? Who knows, maybe there's a similar fate in wait for planet Earth once the crypto miners are sent away.

  14. Number6

    Texas has a power grid isolated from the rest of the country. Perhaps the EIA could draft a new regulation covering 49 states and excluding Texas. After all, if they overload their own grid and jack up energy prices for the locals then that's their own problem, and if the locals don't like it, they can vote in state officials who will address it.

  15. Yes Me Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Unfortunately...

    ...climate change doesn't recognize the border between Texas and the world. What they do hurts everybody.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like