Ted Cruz, Greg Abbott, and the Magical Considering About Bitcoin’s Skill to Repair Texas’ Grid – Gizmodo

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US Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to examine Texas' abortion law, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, September 29, 2021.

Sen. Ted Cruz, bitcoin-powered grid aficianado.
Picture: Tom Williams/Pool (Getty Photos)

This week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he’ll make Texas the primary state for bitcoin. What’s extra, he espoused the wonders of crypto mining as a method to prop up the state’s flailing electrical grid, a view Cancun-loving Sen. Ted Cruz additionally shared at a bitcoin mining convention final week. It’s a seductive story: magical web cash saving the state from one other lethal blackout. However the actuality is rather more difficult.

A bunch of very on-brand-looking bitcoin miners descending on the governor’s mansion in Austin on Wednesday. That very same day, Abbott announced a plan to drop cryptocurrency machines into greater than two dozen grocery shops. Apparently, the assembly went properly.

“The Texas grid will likely be stronger & extra resilient on account of versatile masses like BTC mining that generate demand however can flip off in seconds throughout peak demand,” Lee Bratcher, president of the Texas Blockchain Council, said of the meeting on Twitter.

Cruz parroted a really comparable line final week. “Due to the flexibility of bitcoin mining to activate or off instantaneously, when you’ve got a second the place you have got an influence scarcity or an influence disaster, whether or not it’s a freeze or another pure catastrophe the place energy technology capability goes down, that creates the capability to instantaneously shift that power to place it again on the grid,” he said on the Texas Blockchain Summit.

This concept that bitcoin can “strengthen the grid’s resilience,” as Cruz went on to say, could be welcome in a state the place the grid failed in spectacular trend throughout a February cold snap and commonly strains to meet demand throughout crushing summer time warmth waves. However in actuality, bitcoin isn’t going to avoid wasting the state’s power infrastructure.

Texas’ energy grid is absurdly deregulated. It’s run like an public sale: Mills set bid costs to promote energy to the grid, and the Electrical Reliability Council of Texas, accepts the bids beginning with the bottom after which working upward till it has sufficient energy to satisfy demand. Extra bitcoin mining in Texas would enhance demand for electrical energy. Besides as a substitute of working air con in a warmth wave, that demand is for one thing completely nonessential outdoors the circle of bitcoin evangelists. For an already burdened grid, that looks like a foul thought.

The thought Abbott and Cruz are pushing is that the flexibility for non-essential power customers to go offline when wanted could possibly be useful. However the issue in Texas wasn’t simply elevated demand; it was additionally a complete lack of preparation as a result of deregulation. There are only a few guidelines for producers, so profit-making is the operative precept, which was a key cause the February blackouts occurred. Firms didn’t weatherize their infrastructure in an effort to maintain prices down and income excessive. Bitcoin miners do nothing to unravel that problem.

It’s additionally unclear why cryptocurrency miners would ever conform to shut down operations until they have been provided a number of cash to take action. Some crypto miners are, certainly, scoring wild profits by going offline throughout peak demand and promoting their allotted power provide again to the grid. That’s nice for the bitcoin miners, however it could possibly be terrible for everybody else in the event that they should shoulder that price. In February, mills introduced extra energy on-line however charged outrageous costs. In the long run, ordinary people had to pay for it within the type of five-figure power payments for the month.

How a lot cash would it not take to persuade miners to close down operations provided that being on-line is the one method to generate income? ArsTechnica did a back-of-the-envelope calculation primarily based on the power it takes to mine a bitcoin and its worth versus the utmost charge energy plant operators can cost ERCOT:

However brushing these issues apart, bitcoin miners would doubtless demand much more than the present $9,000 per MWh cap. One bitcoin at the moment sells for $57,000, and to crunch the numbers to win that one bitcoin, mining rigs draw just below 0.285 MWh, primarily based on Digiconomist estimates. In different phrases, for bitcoin miners to be keen to contribute to the grid, wholesale electrical energy costs must hit $206,000 per MWh, or practically 23 instances higher than costs throughout the February chilly snap. These $10,000 payments would flip into $230,000 payments.

There’s one other downside with bringing extra crypto to Texas: It might give the state an excuse to maintain soiled energy on-line. In Upstate New York, for example, an offline coal plant was introduced again to life to run on natural gas and mine bitcoin (and infrequently generate energy for the grid). For a state the place fossil gas pursuits are so entrenched, you may guess coal, oil, and fuel producers and their associates in authorities will take any alternative to maintain soiled power sources alive even when it fries the local weather.

It’s clear that Texas’ grid wants assist, however bitcoin isn’t the reply. Extra democratic control and preparation mixed with much less profit-seeking and reliance on fossil fuels are what the grid wants. And bitcoin received’t usher any of that in.

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