Letter: New plan for mining Bitcoin is purported to help reduce emissions. Is that illusory?

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Cooling fans for the data center of the Davis Landfill’s Bitcoin mining site in Layton on Monday, Nov. 13, 2023.

The Tribune reports that Marathon Digital Holdings’ new plan for mining Bitcoin can help reduce emissions, because it is using methane generated by landfills to provide electricity.

That may be true, if Marathon really will increase methane combustion from 91% to 100%, because carbon dioxide is far less of a greenhouse gas than methane (but properly designed flaring can result in 98% efficiency, so the claimed gains may be largely illusory).

But the question remains: Is this the best use of this energy source? (Bitcoin mining being of questionable public benefit, to put it mildly.)

Methane resulting from waste digestion has been used to power sewage treatment works since the 1800s. Methane from landfills has been utilized since at least the 1960s (Rio de Janeiro, I believe. Certainly the World Bank has supported Brazil not only in a better capture and flaring program but also in resulting power generation).

We know methane has to be flared, so it ought to enter into any state’s energy budget. Is this the case in Utah?

Richard Middleton, Salt Lake City

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