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Blame Bitcoin? Iran hit by blackouts and smog amid electricity production woes

Power-heavy cryptocurrency mining and a shortage of natural gas have been blamed for outages and pollution amid COVID crisis

File: Thick smog blankets the skyline, obscuring nearby mountains, in Tehran, Iran, Monday, Dec. 23, 2019 (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
File: Thick smog blankets the skyline, obscuring nearby mountains, in Tehran, Iran, Monday, Dec. 23, 2019 (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iran is suffering vast blackouts and intense air pollution in recent weeks, amid electricity production problems blamed on Bitcoin mining and a shortage in natural gas.

Officials have said illegal cryptocurrency miners — who are paid to use farms of power-hungry machines to verify the legitimacy of cryptocurrency transactions — have been gobbling up power and putting immense strain on the country’s grid.

But one cryptocurrency researcher in Tehran told The Washington Post this claim was false, while blaming Iran’s infrastructure and management problems.

“The miners have nothing to do with the blackouts,” Ziya Sadr said. “Mining is a very small percentage of the overall electricity capacity in Iran.”

“It is a known fact that the mismanagement and the very terrible situation of the electricity grid in Iran and the outdated equipment of power plants in Iran can’t support the grid.”

Meanwhile, power stations have been deprived of natural gas due to intense consumption to heat private homes, leading plants to reportedly turn to lower quality, polluting fuel that has caused a thick layer of smog to blanket Tehran and other locations.

These troubles come amid the nation’s coronavirus crisis, which has hit the Islamic Republic harder than any other nation in the region.

Health officials have warned that pollution could exacerbate the effects of the pandemic.

The Islamic republic has reported more than 1.2 million cases of the novel coronavirus, which have caused over 56,000 deaths.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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