U.S. Congress Reportedly Set for Hearing on Bitcoin's Carbon Footprint

The House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations is reportedly arranging a hearing and identifying witnesses.

Shutterstock cover by Andrea Izzotti

Key Takeaways

  • The House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations may be planning a hearing on Bitcoin’s carbon footprint. 
  • The subcommittee is reportedly working on a list of witnesses who may testify in an oversight hearing by the end of the month..
  • In the last year, large mining companies have expanded operations U.S. states like New York, Texas, Alabama, and Wyoming.

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U.S. Congress may soon have its first hearing on the environmental impact of Proof-of-Work crypto mining. 

Congress May Examine Bitcoin’s Environmental Impact 

According to a report by The Block, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations—a subcommittee of the larger House Committee on Energy and Commerce—may be planning a hearing on Bitcoin’s environmental impact and the carbon footprint of crypto mining.

The Subcommittee is reportedly working on a list of witnesses who may testify in an oversight hearing by the end of this month.

The Committee on Energy and Commerce is the oldest standing committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. It has jurisdiction over a broad set of issues pertaining to the environment, energy, healthcare, and other important infrastructure.

It is noteworthy that the top cryptocurrency Bitcoin relies on a consensus algorithm known as Proof-of-Work. This algorithm can only be run with special computing hardware that validates new transactions on the network. This makes mining a highly energy-intensive activity that has been linked to increasing global carbon emissions.

A source involved in pre-hearing discussions in the subcommittee told The Block that the House Energy and Commerce Committee was concerned about environmental issues resulting from “recent events in New York State,” referring to the rapid growth of Bitcoin mining in the U.S. state. 

After China’s blanket ban on crypto in Sep. 2021, many large mining companies moved operations to U.S. states such as New York, Texas, Alabama, and Wyoming. These states have offered less expensive electricity rates to mining firms. The growth in U.S-based crypto mining helped make the country the largest contributor to Bitcoin’s global hashrate in Oct. 2021. 

Nevertheless, some environmentalists and politicians have voiced their concerns regarding the environmental impact left behind by the mining industry. 

In October 2021, 70 activist groups collaborated on a joint letter to the U.S. Congress, in which they requested Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and others to take action to mitigate the effects of cryptocurrency on climate change. 

Some reports have highlighted that cryptocurrency regulation is increasingly becoming a more partisan issue. Republican Senators like Cynthia Lummis, Pat Toomey, and others have spoken favorably of Bitcoin on record, while on the other side, some Democratic senators like Elizabeth Warren have slammed Bitcoin for its energy consumption.

Disclosure: At the time of writing, the author of this piece owned ETH and other cryptocurrencies.

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