Congress weighs cleaning up cryptocurrency mining in the US 

On Thursday, with the energy-intensive bitcoin mining boom in the United States, parliamentarians discussed how to make cryptocurrencies more green. One of the biggest questions is using renewable energy to power energy-intensive mining at the heart of the Bitcoin blockchain, or other blockchains that don’t need much power in the first place. It was whether seen.

A discussion took place during an observational hearing on the “Energy Impact of Cryptocurrencies” convened by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The United States became the de facto center of bitcoin mining last year after China cracked down on mining within its borders. This is also because of how much energy Bitcoin uses. This transition could have a major impact on the already strained US power grid and the Biden administration’s ability to achieve ambitious climate change goals.

“The presence of cryptocurrencies in everyday life may continue to grow,” Diana Diggett (D-CO) said in the opening commentary at the hearing. “As the industry progresses, it is important to determine how cryptocurrency networks can reduce the need for certain high-energy uses and reduce their environmental impact.”

The Bitcoin network consumes more electricity than the countries of Ukraine and Norway use in one year. If Bitcoin were a country, it would be 27th in terms of energy consumption in the world. Bitcoin is also the most polluted cryptocurrency, as Bitcoin is often mined by fossil fuel energy.

Part of the reason for Bitcoin’s massive use of power is that Bitcoin is the largest crypto network ever. However, Bitcoin uses a process called “Proof of Stake” which acts as a transaction ledger, a kind of security system to keep the blockchain secure and accurate, so it uses more power than other cryptocurrencies. I need it. Miners verify transactions by racing to solve complex puzzles using a dedicated computer. They receive Bitcoin as a reward. Meanwhile, all its computing power is burning with electricity.

When bitcoin mining was concentrated in China, miners tended to use clean hydroelectric power during the rainy season and coal when their resources were exhausted. In the United States, the energy mix in cryptocurrency mining is still in shape. But there are some worrying signs. Miners are already working to extend the life of old power plants that burn coal, the dirtiest of fossil fuels.

“Given our current climate goals, such an example is very troubling. Our focus is on reducing total carbon emissions and increasing our share of green energy on the grid.” Representative Dejet said.

Industry experts who testified at today’s hearing argued that crypto mining has the opportunity to adopt renewable energy and help with the clean energy boom in the United States. The challenge for the sun and wind is that they are two intermittent sources of energy. Depending on the weather, it may not be enough or it may be too much. Proponents argue that miners could run out of additional renewable energy that would otherwise be wasted because there are not enough renewable energy storage batteries on the grid. I did.

computing better “Batteries,” John Belizer, founder and CEO of Soluna Computing, said at the session. His company is developing a data center for cryptocurrency mining.

Other experts believe that renewable energy can be a panacea for the Bitcoin energy problem. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, electricity from renewable energy sources must eventually power everything from cars to heating a home. Therefore, bitcoin mining will compete with those needs. Also, if the demand for electricity exceeds the supply, it can lead to blackouts. Or it might burn more fossil fuels to supplement the clean energy source.

There is another solution that some experts are looking at. Instead of using Proof of Work, some cryptocurrencies use different methods to keep the blockchain accurate. The most popular alternative is Proof of Stake, which doesn’t require much computational power as there are no puzzles to solve. The largest post-Bitcoin Ethereum network is planned to move from Proof of Work to Proof of Stake.

Bitcoin has no such plans. In particular, we cannot expect the network to reach consensus by making this switch, since we have already invested in the machines that miners use to solve puzzles. So far, cryptocurrencies seem to continue to consume more and more energy as long as Bitcoin is the biggest player in the game.

“The Bitcoin community deserves a deep appreciation for bringing blockchain to the world, but there are more energy-efficient alternatives to Proof of Stake for the American environment and energy infrastructure. Professor Ari Jewels of Cornell University said. In his testimony he mentions the co-author of the university and thesis that coined the term “proof of work” in 1999. “We believe we need to accept these new options.”

It is not yet clear how the House of Representatives plans to follow up on the session. DeGette concluded that discussing the use of cryptocurrency power would be a “growing issue” for the committee. “There is no answer,” she said at this point.

Whatever happens next, it’s a big bet on the planet. The United States is the second largest polluter of the climate after China. The Biden administration has set a goal of eliminating nearly all greenhouse gas pollution over the next few decades, which is difficult to achieve, whether or not bitcoin mining plays a role.

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