The US Congress' Energy and Commerce Oversight Subcommittee is holding a
virtue-signal-fest hearing on the energy use and environmental impact of bitcoin mining this morning.
Watch the "Cleaning Up Cryptocurrency: The Energy Impacts of Blockchain" live here (due to start at 1030ET):
As Bitcoin Magazine reports, the decision to hold the hearing was prompted by a letter sent to the House in October by a cohort of national and international climate organizations that argued against the energy usage of Bitcoin and its Proof of Work (PoW) system.
“We, the more than 70 climate, economic, racial justice, business and local organizations, write to you today to urge Congress to take steps to mitigate the considerable contribution portions of the cryptocurrency markets are making to climate change and the resulting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, environmental, and climate justice impacts it will have,” the letter read.
A rebuttal to the letter was published this week by the Bitcoin Policy Institute (BPI), an interdisciplinary cohort of economists, coders, lawyers, climate scientists, philosophers, and policy analysts providing research, fact-checking, and commentary on Bitcoin.
The group argues in its fact-checking paper that the letter sent to Congress contains plenty of inaccuracies about the bitcoin mining industry, a gap its policy work is trying to bridge. The BPI, which will send its paper to Congress, says that the House should indeed consider Bitcoin’s power consumption, but warrants a more careful and factual approach.
“Such considerations must be based on an accurate understanding of the Bitcoin protocol, a proper review of the scientific literature, and up-to-date information about the mining industry,” the paper said.
“Unfortunately, the coalition’s letter is not. Instead, it reiterates debunked myths about Bitcoin emissions, e-waste, and energy markets. Our aim is to clarify the record and ensure that policy discussion around Bitcoin is grounded in science and fact.”
Some of the misconceptions and myths clarified by the paper relate to climate change, electronic waste, and the common but misleading comparisons between Bitcoin’s energy usage and that of countries like Argentina and Norway. The BPI also disputes the organizations’ claims that Bitcoin’s use of power is “unnecessary,” an argument that doesn’t take into account the fact that BTC is legal tender in El Salvador and the many people currently leveraging the peer-to-peer monetary network to enjoy financial freedom.
The list of witnesses invited to testify at today's hearing features a diverse set of professionals directly and indirectly involved in the industry.
Brain Brooks, the CEO of bitcoin mining company Bitfury, will return to Congress one month after having testified on the regulatory aspect of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. In December, Brooks joined a cohort of chief executives of cryptocurrency companies in a hearing at the House to discuss whether the current set of U.S. laws would be able to encompass the burgeoning assets and their unique set of characteristics.
Another industry insider to testify at the hearing is Soluna Computing CEO, John Belizaire. His company leverages the portability of bitcoin mining machines to easily balance out demand and supply of power grids, helping renewable energy producers sell every megawatt of power they generate. Belizaire has argued in the past that Bitcoin’s energy usage is a feature, not a bug, highlighting how the asset enables financial freedom to millions around the world. Soluna told Bitcoin Magazine that Belizaire’s testimony will focus on the Bitcoin network’s ability to help the world transition to renewables as its mining processes can be easily paused and resumed on demand.
A controversial figure to join the witnesses at the energy consumption hearing is Ari Juels, a Cornell Tech professor who is also co-director of the IC3 initiative and chief scientist at oracle platform Chainlink. In 2016, in his first paper on cryptocurrency, Juels described ways in which smart contracts could be used for criminal activities “as a warning to the community and to urge people to think seriously about the downsides of this technology,” he said in a 2018 conversation with Belizaire.
Gregory Zerzan, who in October published a commentary on Real Clear Politics about governments’ negative stance towards bitcoin and how its scarcity “has the potential to gain user confidence at the expense of fiat currency” like the U.S. dollar, will also be testifying at the hearing.
The final witness to join the hearing is Steve Wright, named general manager of Public Utility District No. 1 of Chelan County by the board of commissioners in 2013 and part of the leadership of the Alliance to Save Energy. Wright left Chelan County’s PUD at the end of last year.