Crypto mining made headlines again last week after a Washington town council passed an ordinance to enact a one-year moratorium on new cryptocurrency operations. The town is currently home to four such operations, including one housed in a residentially-zoned section of town. During the public hearing, citizens living nearby characterized the noise emanating from crypto-hubs as something resembling the constant hum of the ocean due, in part, to industrial air conditioners.
Town Councilor Kathleen Allstot was quoted in a Spokesman-Review article as saying, “A moratorium means taking a break. This is a one-year break. … We wait to see what’s going, make sure this fits in Ephrata and the Grant County (Public Utility District) has figured out how to get power to it.”
On the other side of the issue, and outvoted 6-1, was Matt Moore who concluded that the free market should determine whether Ephrata is an ideal home for the crypto-boom. “If this is an economical business, and this is one of the ideal places to situate it, I don’t want to surrender any economic opportunity big or small.”
Miners are attracted to Grant County because the Columbia Basin provides a wealth of comparatively inexpensive electricity. In April, electric rates are set to spike for cryptocurrency operations, though they will still be lower than the national average, prompting the town to prepare for “a revision of the city code to govern cryptocurrency operations,” according to the local newspaper.
This isn’t a new battle for areas with inexpensive electricity. Upstate New York has long been weighing similar problems. On the one hand, cryptocurrency operations bring an economic boom to a locale. In New York, for example, they are taking over long-vacant industrial manufacturing sites which are pre-equipped with most of their required electrical needs. On the other hand, such operations require significant local resources, particularly as it relates to electricity.
Here’s a thought for Ephrata, and potential crypto-mining operators to consider over the next year: let’s consider new ideas that allow for a sustainable, win-win business relationship. Over the past six months, I’ve gotten to talk with, and listen to, David Stemerman, the former CEO of hedge fund Conatus Capital, on a number of issues. And, what I learned is that “outside the box” shouldn’t just be a catchphrase.
Recently, while he pitched a host of innovative solutions to revitalize Connecticut cities, he noted, “This should be about growth. This shouldn’t be about dividing a static pie. This should be about how do you create incentives to attract private investment. That’s the way you grow jobs. That’s the way you grow income.”
When we talk about cryptocurrency, it feels like so many look at it as though we’re slicing up the proverbial static pie. But, that doesn’t have to be the reality in which we live. If we can expand the pie, perhaps local entities will be able to have their cake and eat it too. Here’s a for instance: what if those cryptocurrency mining operations, which are noted to be a potential economic boon, used all that energy more efficiently?
What if the heat discharged from their equipment-heavy operations was used in a more sustainable way? What if that heat was used to propel local farming, transitioning what would otherwise be a wasted byproduct into a net benefit. What if, over the next year, Ephrata aimed to incentivize new businesses in the aquaculture and hydroponics space with repurposed crypto-heat?
What if Matt Moore is right and that Ephrata may be an ideal location for crypto-mining?
And, what if that didn’t have to be a bad thing?
Charles Catania is the Chief Communications Officer of Modulus, a US-based developer of ultra-high-performance trading and surveillance technology that powers global equities, derivatives, and cryptocurrency exchanges, and he has long served as an advocate for sustainable business and government initiatives.