Alberta Politics
The unapproved Sturgeon County ‘bitcoin mine’ – the hay bales, presumably, were put there to reduce the noise (Photo: David Bajer, CBC).

Noisy ‘bitcoin mining’ operation near Edmonton shut down – but cryptocurrency speculators keep eyeing Alberta

Posted on August 26, 2021, 2:18 am
7 mins

So-called “bitcoin miners” operating without permission just north of Edmonton have been told to stop their environmentally unfriendly and, it turns out, noisy activity – for now.

A company called Link Global Technologies Inc. last year set up four natural-gas powered generators near an upscale estate community in Sturgeon County to power a “bitcoin mining” operation, the CBC reported yesterday. 

The interior of a bitcoin mining operation (Photo: Hut 8 Mining).

Much to the dismay of their well-heeled neighbours, who were never notified of the Vancouver-based company’s plans, the noisy generators were soon running day and night, journalist Sarah Rieger wrote.

Global was using a dormant natural gas well owned by Calgary-based MAGA Energy Ltd. to power the generators. And, yes, MAGA really does stand for “Make Alberta Great Again,” although that’s probably coincidental to this story.

It turned out Global hadn’t sought the permission of the provincial utilities commission either, giving the neighbours grounds to have the noisy operation shut down. The bad news for the estate dwellers, Ms. Rieger’s report indicates, is that if Global jumps through the right hoops, it may be able to start its generators up again. 

We could probably come up with more clear-cut examples of still technically legal industrial activities that are more anti-social than “bitcoin mining” – say, demolishing a mountain to create an open-pit coal mine on the Eastern Slopes of the Rockies. 

But there are obviously serious problems with the idea of running generators night and day to power banks of computers to mysteriously create digital currencies like Bitcoin whose boosters claim they are an alternative to conventional national currencies, supposedly free of government control. 

That’s pish-posh, of course. As economist Jim Stanford explains, “to serve as money, an asset must have three key attributes: a unit of account, a store of value and acceptance as payment in exchange.” Cryptocurrencies have none of those qualities, he wrote recently in the Toronto Star. 

“Canadian Tire bucks are closer to true money than cryptocurrencies,” Dr. Stanford said. “And the only people who genuinely use cryptocurrencies to finance exchanges are gangsters and tax evaders.”

Economist Jim Stanford (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, who writes a regular column for the New York Times, summarizes the wild claims made by cryptocurrency enthusiasts as “libertarian derp plus technobabble.” 

“Almost the only time we hear about them being used as a means of payment,” Dr. Krugman wrote in the Times, “is in association with illegal activity, like money laundering. …”

But according to Dr. Stanford, “the most repugnant aspect of cryptocurrencies” is their enormous energy drain. “Bitcoin mining alone uses up more electricity each year than a medium-sized country (like Norway or Argentina),” he said. “Even trading a single bitcoin needs enormous electricity to power the massive calculations needed to keep the transaction untraceable.”

“This ultimately pointless activity adds twice as much to carbon pollution as Canada’s entire mining and petroleum industry,” he noted. 

All this to generate something that carries all the financial and moral risks of any speculative bubble without the nominal value that resides in, say, real estate, gold, great masters paintings or tulips – all associated with past financial bubbles, but each of which has a useful or at least decorative alternative purpose.

PayPal founding CEO Bill Harris (Photo: American Banker).

Speaking of speculative bubbles, PayPal founding CEO Bill Harris called cryptocurrencies “a colossal ‘pump and dump scheme’” – wherein scamsters pump their overvalued securities and dump them on suckers before the market wises up. “Bitcoin is a scam,” he wrote in Vox. “A bitcoin has no value at all.” It’s “best suited for one use: Criminal activity.” 

Dr. Stanford, Dr. Krugman and Mr. Harris all suggest it’s time for national governments to regulate cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin to protect ordinary investors. 

There’s certainly no way we should be encouraging this “industry” to set up shop in Alberta. 

So what is our United Conservative Party Government doing? Well, it’s worrisome that they don’t seem to hate the idea.

Black Rock Petroleum Co. put out a news release in July touting the idea of relocating from China “up to one million bit miners” (processing computers, that is) to be “deployed” at three old natural gas wells in Alberta in response to a crackdown on cryptocurrency miners by the Chinese government. 

The CBC found an Alberta Environment and Parks spokesperson who said the province is “encouraged that we continue to attract new investments from around the globe that support a diversified economy.”

Uh-oh!

Remember, the UCP is run by people who have almost never seen a bad idea they didn’t love.

They’re also desperately looking for a way to put off having to clean up dirty old fossil fuel wells whose owners would like to walk away from the liability, not to mention finding a way to prove there’s still some life left in the fossil fuel industry.

Repurposing old gas wells as power sources for bitcoin mines might just appeal to such a mentality. 

Meanwhile, it’s mildly ironic that folks living on rural estates – not exactly the most environmentally friendly form of abode with its long commutes, expensive infrastructure, low tax contributions and relatively high carbon footprint – have been the ones to put a stop to a bitcoin mining operation in Edmonton’s doorstep. 

30 Comments to: Noisy ‘bitcoin mining’ operation near Edmonton shut down – but cryptocurrency speculators keep eyeing Alberta

  1. Anonymous

    August 26th, 2021

    If it’s something bad, private for profit, something very costly to us, and environmentally unsound, the UCP will think it’s a good idea. That’s how pretend conservatives and Reformers roll.

    Reply
  2. AlbertaPoliticsDeezeNuts

    August 26th, 2021

    Stop bringing your dumb snowflake politics into the operations of this company. “Noisy” YES… ” “Environmentally Unfriendly” NOT really as natural gas has a really clean burn.

    Very nice of you to quote old BOOMERS with their take on bitcoin as if that even related to the story at hand here. Next time focus on real journalism instead of writing up some bullshit that is worse than the CBC article as they atleast addressed the real issue at hand “NOISE”

    Reply
    • tom in ontario

      August 26th, 2021

      At least the snowflake has a rudimentary grasp of grammar, sentence structure and writing skills.

      Reply
    • ayeamaye

      August 26th, 2021

      You get up on the wrong side of the bed. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. That’s what this site is, a forum. No one is interested in your put downs. We know what your kind of vacuous,shallow and petty remarks represent and we have no use for them. If they are mining bitcoin then comment on bitcoin is completely relevant. If you don’t like it, seek your truth on Fox, Rebel or Infowars

      Reply
    • Mike J Danysh

      August 26th, 2021

      It’s not “dumb snowflake politics” to point out these guys BROKE ALBERTA LAWS. Did you miss that part? Only in Oilberduh would they get away with BREAKING LAWS and be allowed to continue doing business. The “operations of this company” are based on charging ahead blindly, hoping nobody will notice. When the Alberta Utilities Commission investigated they found out—hey, guess what—Link Global lied again and again about doing their paperwork. Now they’re saying, “Sorry, our bad”—and they’ll get away with it, too, because this is Oilberduh and they’re using natural gas.

      Bitcoin, its so-called value and its problems are relevant, because the noisy gas turbines were installed to power a bit mining facility. The “old BOOMERS” are quoted because they have relevant experience and education. So does another Boomer, Mark Carney—see my reply to Al Hunter, below. If even half of what Bill Harris says is true, Bitcoin is at best an incredibly shaky alternative to national currency. At worst, it’s a scam that will—eventually–cost ordinary people billions. That’s actually worse than the fact that, if you’re gonna pay for 10 MW gas-turbine generators, you could sell the electricity into the Alberta grid at peak-demand times, and actually do something useful with that electricity.

      The problems with cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, are what makes Bitcoin mining “environmentally unfriendly.” And yeah, burning methane makes less carbon dioxide than burning coal. So what? The electricity is still being wasted on Bitcoin, which will only have value if somebody’s willing to take it in exchange for something real—like a car. And please note, Elon Musk changed his mind about accepting Bitcoin in payment—unless it’s mined using renewable electricity—maybe then. It’ll be a long, long time before Bitcoin is widely accepted as a form of payment.

      As for journalism—you utterly missed the most important part of the CBC coverage. The noise complaints resulted from Link Global Inc. totally ignoring Alberta laws. I repeat: THEY TOTALLY IGNORED ALBERTA LAWS. This blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca, is where Mr. Climenhaga publishes his opinions on what’s going on in Alberta. You only think it’s “bullshit” because you disagree.

      You’re allowed to disagree, you’re allowed to have opinions. But if your opinions are stupid, or expressed in abusive or insulting language, you better expect to be called down.

      Reply
    • Political Ranger

      August 26th, 2021

      speaking of nuts – welcome aboard!
      you’ll find we’re a congenial bunch but with a decided bent towards truth-telling so you won’t feel that don’t-give-a-shit approach to the nonsense you’re used to hearing and telling at your more conservative-friendly sites

      No One, in their right mind, in the 21rst Century will claim “natural gas has a really clean burn.” It doesn’t. Production releases untold amounts of methane and burn releases CO2. Both are GHG’s and if you pull yer head outta yer arse you’ll notice we’re in a climate crisis caused by release of GHG’s.

      I’ll grant you that natural gas is cleaner than coal but that doesn’t mean it’s clean.
      Just like my 87 year old great aunt is more beautiful than Rudy Giuliani but that doesn’t mean she’s beautiful.
      Like Justin kkkenney is a much better leader than Alexander Lukashenko but that doesn’t mean he’s a good leader.
      Just like Conservatives are smarter than a bag of rocks but that doesn’t mean they are very smart.

      At least we agree, the real issue is NOISE.
      So, goodbye.

      Reply
      • pogo

        August 27th, 2021

        Alberta Ranger! Wow! Your post? She be leavin’ a mark! Well done! I think Atlas shrugged and curled up after that one!

        Reply
  3. Abs

    August 26th, 2021

    No wonder Jason Kenney wants access to tidewater. With tidewater, aka the ocean, comes the exciting possibility of sea-faring pirates! What could be a more exciting new business venture than that? Entrepreneurs, they are.

    Reply
  4. Just Me

    August 26th, 2021

    The rationale for cryptocurrencies is, and always has been, a means of money laundering and evading economic and financial restrictions. They are a means of concealing massive criminal fraud, particularly the embezzlement of foreign aid funds from developing nations, and converting and circulating the proceeds through a massive and widespread blockchain.

    Since Alberta seems to be a hotbed of criminal activity, both in government and in its wider economy, setting up a massive crypto-mining operation there would be a very popular option. I’m sure the well-heeled complainers of Sturgeon County will be effectively silenced, once the local and provincial politicians have been greased.

    It used to be that when the skyline of any Canadian city was dotted by many skycranes and an abundance of new urban towers, everyone thought things are looking up, thanks to capitalism. But the wiser among us see these structures for what they really are, high-priced shells meant to conceal theft.

    Once we see the expansion of hundreds of crypto operations all over Canada, particularly in Alberta, know that they are another avenue to hide stolen monies.

    Reply
  5. Al Hunter

    August 26th, 2021

    Ongoing, unabated noise is definitely detrimental to mental health, but to slide into an argument against blockchain as being only for criminals really dumbed down your story.

    Bitcoin was the first and the public knows its name, yet there are many more applications with their own tokens & coins – only a few require Bitcoin style mining.

    There are a multitude of legitimate products & services that will accept crypto currency and more appear each day. Some countries have officially adopted crypto into their financial mix.

    We know by who, and where, trillions of dollars are moved by the super-rich to avoid taxation. Now there is some criminal activity to eliminate!

    Crypto is being regulated; Bitcoin transactions can be tracked (note the recovery of $ from recent ransonware attacks).

    I’d suggest keeping your criticism of Alberta politics upfront since the backstory here appears highly biased and based on outdated opinion.

    Reply
    • Just Me

      August 26th, 2021

      Legitimate services sharing the blockchain with criminals, yes, it can happen. It happens because it’s a unregulated and decentralized environment, which happens to be the reason why criminal activity is attracted to it.

      The attraction to crypto is that it IS unregulated. The guarantee is that the second cryptos are regulated and the activity watched, the currencies will die and disappear.

      Crypto is a hussle, pure, simple, truth.

      Reply
      • Al Hunter

        August 27th, 2021

        Pretty much all economics is a ‘hussle’ where the more $ you have, the more options you have for unethical behaviour. The ‘regulated’ market does not control criminal behaviour either.
        Your truth about crypto is your opinion.

        Reply
    • Mike J Danysh

      August 26th, 2021

      A guy named Mark Carney disagrees with you. See “Value(s),” chapter 5. Carney discusses the shortcomings of alternatives to money, including cryptocurrencies, on pages 113 to 115. Bitcoin and others MAY eventually be widely accepted. But alternative Carney describes, central-bank digital currencies, seems a lot safer bet.

      Reply
      • Just Me

        August 27th, 2021

        Acceptable currencies of trade, USD, GBP, EUR, etc. are already in a digital form. When was the last time you carried cash in your wallet?

        The difference is that all are governed by a central bank authority, all have avenues of public disclosure, and all are regulated.

        Crypto has none of these things and criminals love it.

        Reply
  6. Dave

    August 26th, 2021

    Many things technology have at least a bit of green around them, but Bitcoin is sure not one with its intensive energy use. I suppose the word mining should be the first clue it may not be so environmentally friendly.

    I too am quite skeptical that Bitcoin will replace our paper currency. We may eventually get a digital currency, but I believe it will probably not be Bitcoin. Yes, it was there first, but so was Betamax at one time. At this point Bitcoin seems to be a favourite of speculators and those inclined to use it for less than legal purposes. Although, you apparently can use it to buy some generally higher value things like luxury cars or houses, I don’t think it is very practical to use, say to buy a pizza or a pair of shoes. Of course, with all the wild swings in value, you never know what your pizza, shoes house or car will actually cost if you are planning for a future purchase.

    I suppose for those who may have money from less than legal sources that they want to try clean up, it may replace bags of cash in hotel parking lots, or buying luxury cars or houses with cash, then selling them later as a way to do so. However, I suspect there are two problems with this. First of all, it is not really as anonymous as claimed. In a recent cyber ransom attempt, the bitcoin paid was traced and recovered. Second, while caught off guard initially by this technology, governments are now paying more attention to this. Of course, if you sell Bitcoin for a profit, it is taxable, similar to as if you sold shares or any other investments that fluctuate in value, so there is an added incentive for government to pay closer attention to Bitcoin transactions.

    I suspect the Alberta Conservative politicians cheer-leading Bitcoin mining as a potential industry here to make use of supposedly surplus natural gas missed all this. However, desperate and dumb are never a good combination.

    Reply
  7. Scotty on Denman

    August 26th, 2021

    Jim Stanford’s recent article denouncing bitcoin currencies is the most succinct synopsis of the subject which is otherwise mystified by stupendous amounts of secret money, gargantuan amounts of energy, and gooboggling amounts of magic for most of us who can’t afford to buy it or breathe it, let alone understand it. Although not the biggest jig we ever saw going belly up, this little piece of money-laundering tax evasion in the upper class suburbs of Alberta’s capital has been spotted on a stage where a conspicuous number of characters in our hyper-globalized world have been cast as culprits trying to get away with something, usually as red-faced as red-handed.

    Bitcoin fits seamlessly with other familiar tropes playing in the Wild Rose theatre, probably because it’s still somewhat more mysterious than other red-handed characters like the bitumen mining industry and the neo-rightist movement, one trying to sell a product that results in the red, smoky sunsets consumers can’t help but feel with their eyes, noses, skins and lungs, and the other in threadbare disguise trying to get votes by harkening back to an heroic past like Middle Age chivalry did to the Dark Age when real feudal lances were mercilessly bloody on the battlefield instead of forgivingly straw-filled in tournaments of nostalgia.

    Bitcoin skulks by the backdrop like a malevolent Mephistopheles, but, if the trope is as enduring as I think it is, the cryptocurrent antagonist will soon step toward the footlights where warts and blemishes are highlighted by its instinct to hide in full chiaroscuro: as shadowed as much as possible, it will ominously insist on its necessity—in Syd Field-like screenplay arc, if not in reality. “Have some sympathy…or I’ll lay your souls to waste.”

    The poison play is weaving its subplots toward their looming finale. At this point it almost writes itself: like the hapless Soprano gang who keep blowing their sworn omertà by incessant gossiping and brazen, heat-scoring hits, we keep watching despite knowing the spoiler. Or, hopefully, the ending we should already know.

    What is it with us? Something in our DNA?—or, perhaps better put, something to do with our ‘Descended Narratological Ancestry’? We seem to be losing discernment between being entertained by the play and being played by the entertainment. That might have been brief respite from pottage and surfitude in the living Bard’s roofless Stratford, but haven’t we advanced enough by now to find something better to do, here, at a brink far more Catholic than the quaintly impoverished refugium of Christian Europe? But, then again, bitcoin does harken back to a time of ill-gotten hordes buried in ships and wagons for the successful plunderer to enjoy in a rapturous afterlife.

    Covid has arrived almost too coincidentally, like a bad plot-saving device—bad but somehow all too effective at sucking the audience into the absurdity of ethical relativism infused with toxic absolutism. Like some audiences thrilled at Tony Soprano’s melodramatically disingenuous indignation whenever caught out— while dismissing the evil of his murderous indulgences— some voters rally to similar narratives that equate restrictive pandemic protocols with alleged outrages against suspiciously exclusive rights to worship and sing hymns with their crews in rural churches. Increasingly, audiences are demanding a ‘right’ or ‘freedom’ to sympathize with anger and demand the nemesis they want, not what is deserved. Yet we still seem too far from the point of denouement for all that.

    We probably won’t have to wait long for red-handed May pollers to equivocate that the carbon footprint of mining bitumen is relatively good when compared with mining bitcoin. The peri-tRumpublican device which replaces good old fashioned irony with cognitive dissonance will probably write complimenting dialogue that, despite the contradiction, bitcoin mining is a good way to boost Alberta’s petroleum industry—or even clean up the huge backlog of orphaned gas wells—to hide what can’t be hidden, to rationalize getting caught doing bad things. While entertaining as fantastic theatrics, they are harmful to society at large. But, in the circumstance, why wouldn’t bitcoin be the last soldier standing?—it is the more “successful” at hiding bad things than the petrofuel industry amid billowing flames and neo-rightism in stinking throes—still more Mephitic, more deserving to be saved until the last for the sake of suspense and our storytelling sensibilities.

    Unlike the more tangible forebodings the other culprits represent, most people aren’t so block-chained to bitcoin to as to die on its hill of unpaid social and environmental bills. Whatever the fates of global ecology and political partisanship, they are, most assuredly, in prolonged circumstances. Bitcoin, on the other hand, is so intentionally invisible as to be easy for most of us to turn off. We note how reluctant its henchmen are to defend it, and how quick they are to retreat from scrutiny (When the Ontario Securities Commission amended regulations requiring bitcoin mines to open their books, they immediately hightailed it to other more friendly jurisdictions). It looks, for all its boasting of government untouchability, like a very good subject for G-men to research.

    It has to be more than prayer to get us out of this theatre before someone yells “Fire!” We need to be safe to put the meaning of all these arcs together. But the picks and shovels have clanked on the crypt door. It won’t be long now.

    Reply
  8. John

    August 26th, 2021

    Wow,
    This Dr Standford is bot that bright is he. Bitcoin only uses for illegal activities lmfao. Get with the times man.

    This article is off the wall. Using old quotes from people that have changed their positions on crypto ( EG ) the paypal guy. Funny how paypal supports cryptocurrency now.

    What a joke this article is.

    Reply
    • Chompy McGruff

      August 27th, 2021

      On the off-chance that you’re not a “bot” yourself, you shouldn’t refer to this article as a joke if the only criticism you seem to have turns out to be, at least partially, false. The Paypal guy, Bill Harris, has not, as far as I can determine, changed his opinion on cryptocurrencies. Paypal, the organization, has been partially supporting cryptocurrency for some time now, but only as a trading function – there is no way to transfer your cryptocurrency into your wallet. That Paypal now accepts cryptocurrency has zero bearing on Bill Harris’s position, and Paypal itself may agree with him but still need to exploit a profit-making situation, even if it’s an evil one…

      Reply
    • Van Islander

      September 21st, 2021

      Well said John. I don’t know what the economist or the writer of this article is thinking. In my opinion this is an excellent idea on how to use orphaned wells. Cryptos are here to stay are are the blockchain opportunities – not to mention the money made on owning or renting nodes. And no, cryptocurrencies are not just for illegal activities. In fact, I paid for my parents new concrete driveway with bitcoin. CRA taxes Crypto transactions.

      To the author, David, please be a responsible writer and include a person from both side. Second, David, you need to get with the times as Crypto currencies are here to stay. They have value, they have staying power. Blockchains are here to stay. Research blockchains. Honestly, your quoted economist clearly knows nothing about blockchain technology. He knows not whereof he speaks in relation to this new technology. Additionally, his Ludite qualities are showing.

      Reply
  9. August 26th, 2021

    This is an embarrassing take David, please educate yourself on cryptocurrency and go beyond a single source for the next post on this topic.

    Reply
    • Chompy McGruff

      August 27th, 2021

      This is an embarrassing take, Methuselah. You have a thousand years to learn how to count and read critically and this is the best you can do, or do you have a definition for “single source” that would make your comment valid? Please educate yourself on critical reading, and perhaps critical thinking, and go beyond your sense of superiority for the next comment on this topic.

      Reply
    • Van Islander

      September 21st, 2021

      Exactly!

      Reply
  10. Bret Larson

    August 27th, 2021

    I cant decide on the quote to apply. Lets see, “you meet your fate on the roads you take to avoid it”. Or “the tighter you clench your fist, the more star systems will slip through your grasp”. The first is abit grisly, the end hasn’t come yet. And the second is a bit hopeful. It would be best if majoritarian central governments collapsed, but how likely is that when they are all playing the same game?

    These ideas do shed the light on why people would take up cryptocurrency. And of course, without a market these companies arent in business. Basically, government cash printing presses have devalued all currency’s. You can figure out what the CAD is worth and how its changed by the escalation of the value of bitcoin. One Bitcoin = $49k or so. 2017 its something like $1000. So in that metric CAD retains about 2% of its value. Course, the CAD is backed up by the industry of Canadians. But what happens when the government trades this industry for votes?

    Grisly, and hopeful….

    Reply
    • Just Me

      August 27th, 2021

      “…the more star systems will slip through your FINGERS.”

      Geez, once an idiot and now twice an idiot.

      Reply
      • Bret Larson

        August 27th, 2021

        “The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”

        Hey, youre right, thanks for the correction. Usually my quotes are more anecdotal than exact.

        I still like clench fist and grasp better than grip and fingers. You know more like the clench fist union salute. No fingers there: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raised_fist

        Reply
  11. Al Hunter

    August 27th, 2021

    Pretty much all economics is a ‘hussle’ where the more $ you have, the more options you have for unethical behaviour. The ‘regulated’ market does not control criminal behaviour either. Your truth about crypto is just your opinion.

    Reply
  12. Al Hunter

    August 27th, 2021

    “Yet the one-word form is gaining ground in all uses and may soon be considered standard.”
    If that’s my only deviation from traditional grammar use in my multiple sentence comment, then I’m not too concerned.

    Reply
  13. August 27th, 2021

    Now do the stock market and then explain why banks and reserves as well as financial operations of all shapes and sizes around the world keep buying it.
    Our problem is capitalism not Bitcoin, Bitcoin is the symptom.
    Best of luck to those that don’t compute that.
    As for the disturbance for the well healed neighbours boohoo, I live next to a train! Should I complain about the noise or move?

    Reply

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