Bitcoin mining’s hearing in US house questions power usage

A US House hearing on the environmental impact of cryptocurrency mining found the industry to be "deeply concerning", with two main currencies generating as much pollution as 15.5 million cars' emissions. — REUTERS/File Photo

A US House subcommittee hearing on "Cleaning Up Cryptocurrency” and the energy usage of blockchains kicked off Thursday with one representative calling the energy consumption of some Bitcoin mines "deeply concerning.”

The hearing comes as the outsized power consumption of cryptocurrency mining is increasingly questioned by politicians and climate advocates. Mining companies run thousands of computers to solve the calculations that underpin certain cryptocurrencies, especially Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Rep. Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat, said in her opening statement Thursday that blockchain technology has promising applications but mining’s energy efficiency and carbon emissions need to be at forefront of any discussion about crypto.

Lawmakers specifically raised concerns about the repurposing of old coal plants in New York and Pennsylvania to support mining operations.

"We cannot bring retired fossil fuel plants back online or delay the retirement of some of our oldest and least efficient plants in support of energy intensive crypto mining,” said Rep. Frank Pallone, the Democrat who heads the Energy and Commerce Committee.

The hearing was held by a House Committee on Energy & Commerce subcommittee and witnesses included a utility executive and BitFury Chief Executive Officer Brian Brooks.

A report cited by the subcommittee estimates that together Ethereum and Bitcoin mining operations emitted more than 78 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere last year – an amount equivalent to the annual tailpipe emissions of more than 15.5 million cars.

The "hearing was fair and seemed to genuinely be mostly in favour of the opportunity Bitcoin mining can bring to the US,” said Leah Wald, chief executive at Valkyrie Investments, which recently launched a Bitcoin futures ETF.

"We are hopeful that, despite some clear hurdles we as an industry still have to overcome from an education perspective, that this can be the start of a turning point for Bitcoin and other digital assets in the eyes of our government.” – Bloomberg

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