Trump enlists bitcoin to save fossil fuels

By Scott Waldman | 06/13/2024 06:29 AM EDT

The former president said the power-hungry cryptocurrency could drive U.S. energy generation. Some Republicans disagree.

Former President Donald Trump gestures to supporters in Las Vegas on Sunday.

Former President Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Las Vegas on Sunday. Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Donald Trump embraced cryptocurrency Tuesday for its ability, in his words, to help make the U.S. “energy dominant.”

His comments, which come six years after he declared cryptocurrency a “scam,” mark a new argument for slowing a wave of coal plant retirements and expanding the growth of natural gas as he runs for office against President Joe Biden, who has made tackling climate change a centerpiece of his first term.

Cryptocurrency mining operations can use thousands of high-powered computers that devour huge amounts of electricity, making it perhaps a natural ally in Trump’s defense of fossil fuels.


“Bitcoin mining may be our last line of defense against a CBDC,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform, referring to the central bank digital currency. “Biden’s hatred of Bitcoin only helps China, Russia, and the Radical Communist Left. We want all the remaining Bitcoin to be MADE IN THE USA!!! It will help us be ENERGY DOMINANT!!!””

In 2019, Trump tweeted that cryptocurrency could be used for illegal activity and that its value was “highly volatile and based on thin air.”

Cryptocurrency mining currently accounts for up to 2.3 percent of the total U.S. electricity usage, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That demand could pose “strains to the electricity grid during periods of peak demand, the potential for higher electricity prices, as well as effects on energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions,” the EIA found. Cryptocurrency mining in the U.S. has accelerated dramatically since 2019, due in part to strict new rules against it in China.

But it also presents a potentially lucrative opportunity for the fossil fuel industry, which Trump has promised to help if he’s elected. Large crypto mining operations, which can be equipped with 20,000 computers or more stacked in shipping containers, are sometimes located near power sources such as coal or gas plants. Others have used hydropower and electricity derived from methane at waste facilities.

The Biden administration has focused on regulating the crytocurrency industry, saying it can raise the cost of electricity on families and contribute to climate change. Last year, Biden proposed a tax on crypto miners that would amount to 30 percent of their electricity costs.

“Cryptomining firms do not have to pay for the full cost they impose on others, in the form of local environmental pollution, higher energy prices, and the impacts of increased greenhouse gas emissions on the climate,” a White House fact sheet said at the time.

Biden continues to show wariness toward the industry. He recently vetoed a bill supported by Republicans and some top Democrats that would have repealed crypto guidance by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Biden campaign declined to comment.

Trump, meanwhile, has ramped up his attacks on Biden, using cryptocurrency as a political cudgel.

But there is also significant bipartisan concern about the industry.

On Wednesday, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — a close Trump ally — wrote on X that Texas is getting crushed by crypto miners. Demand on the state’s electrical grid is expected to nearly double to 150,000 megawatts in just six years.

While artificial intelligence and business growth account for part of that, he said most of the demand is coming from crypto mining and data centers, which are “crashing our grid and turning the lights off.”

“We need to take a close look at those two industries,” Patrick wrote. “They produce very few jobs compared to the incredible demands they place on our grid.”

Trump campaign senior adviser Brian Hughes said the industry would not face regulations if Trump is elected.

“Crypto innovators and others in the technology sector are under attack from Biden and Democrats,” he said in a statement. “While Biden stifles innovation with more regulation and higher taxes, President Trump is ready to encourage American leadership in this and other emerging technologies.”

Trump’s Tuesday comments came one day after he met with cryptocurrency company representatives at his Mar-a-Lago estate. Among them was Brian Morgenstern, a lobbyist for a bitcoin company called Riot Platforms and a former Trump administration official. Morgenstern was Trump’s deputy director of communications and a deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Treasury.

“President Trump will protect your right to own Bitcoin, to mine Bitcoin, to transact with Bitcoin, and for many of us, to work in the Bitcoin industry,” Morgenstern wrote in an op-ed this week in Bitcoin Magazine. “We believe he will support Bitcoin miners’ ability to help revolutionize the finance and energy industries in the United States and maintain American economic leadership for the future.”

Reporter Jack Quinn contributed.

This story also appears in Energywire.