The crypto miners have found an ally in U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.
Riot Blockchain is the operator of the largest bitcoin mining facility in the country, and it's right here in the Lone Star State. Its facility in Rockdale has a total power requirement of 750 megawatts. That’s small potatoes compared to a 1 gigawatt facility the company is building in Navarro County, just outside Corsicana. That’s enough to power 300,000 to 1 million U.S. homes. When it’s fully online, the Navarro County operation will be the big boy on the block, the largest bitcoin mining facility in the world.
Cruz recently toured Riot Blockchain’s Rockdale facility and posted about it on social media. “I am proud to lead the fight of the crypto industry in the Senate,” Cruz said in his post. “Texas will continue to be the center for crypto innovation.”
Meanwhile, as work continues on what will be the largest bitcoin mining facility in the world, Riot Blockchain is facing resistance from locals in Navarro County. One resident in the county, Jackie Sawicky, started a petition and Facebook page to oppose the new operation. Sawicky and others are concerned that another crypto mining facility could cause additional strain on the Texas power grid and local water supplies.
Riot Blockchain didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Cruz, crypto bros and the like have no doubt heard these concerns before. To them, though, they’re unfounded. The senator has become a leading advocate for the industry in the last year. According to a January financial disclosure report, Cruz bought between $15,001 and $50,000 worth of bitcoin, which he and others have claimed could actually help stabilize the grid.
Proponents of crypto, like Cruz, say that when things get unstable, these mining facilities can power down quickly to give the grid a boost.
“One of the things that excites me most about crypto mining in Texas is the ability to enhance resiliency of the electric grid because, in a severe weather emergency, mining can be turned off instantaneously,” Cruz said in an emailed statement to the Observer. “This in turn immediately frees up substantial power for Texans to use, essentially allowing the mining facility to serve as a massive battery for the grid.”
Last August, Cruz fought against tax rules for crypto traders and brokers that were outlined in a bipartisan Senate bill. In March, he also introduced legislation that would keep the Federal Reserve from issuing its own digital currency to individuals. Earlier that month, President Joe Biden signed an executive order asking the Treasury Department and other federal agencies to look into how cryptocurrency could affect the country’s financial stability and security. This includes the consideration for the U.S. to make its own digital currency.
In a press release about his bill that would prevent the feds from doing this, Cruz said a U.S. digital currency could be used to monitor people’s transactions.
“The federal government has the ability to encourage and nurture innovation in the cryptocurrency space, or to completely devastate it,” Cruz said in the press release. “This bill goes a long way in making sure big government doesn’t attempt to centralize and control cryptocurrency so that it can continue to thrive and prosper in the United States. We should be empowering entrepreneurs, enabling innovation, and increasing individual freedom — not stifling it.”
Cruz said in his statement to the Observer that he’s advocated for the crypto industry because he believes in it and doesn’t want U.S. regulation to send it overseas. “This is a new industry, and I fought in the Senate last year against a harmful provision in the infrastructure bill because I was concerned the provision was going to harm the crypto industry in Texas and drive it overseas, killing innovation,” Cruz said. “I’m continuing to learn more and more about this industry, and I’m excited about the ways that crypto miners are identifying new environmentally friendly ways to mine such as capturing and using otherwise vented or flared methane.”
But, opponents of crypto argue the way the industry operates now is harmful to the environment and puts an unnecessary strain on the grid and the water supply. Jackie Sawicky in Navarro County also worries what this increased demand for electricity and water could do to people’s bills.
“It is like Econ 101,” she said. “When you put a demand of 200,000–1 million homes on the grid and the water, that increases demand and it’s going to increase prices. It’s absolutely obvious.”