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LIVE BLOG: Congressional Hearing Puts Crypto Energy Use in the Crosshairs

Crypto mining’s energy use will be in the crosshairs Thursday as the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee discusses its environmental impact. The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will question five witnesses about proof-of-work consensus mechanisms, how crypto networks are powered and what tools or solutions exist to mitigate environmental impacts.

The hearing comes one day after E&E News, a Politico subsidiary, revealed that the Environmental Protection Agency blocked two coal-powered power plants primarily focused on bitcoin mining from continuing to operate coal ash, a “toxic slurry produced from coal power.”

“The profitability of mining and the increase of the value of [proof-of-work] cryptocurrencies over time supports massive investments in mining facilities, which require ever-increasing amounts of energy to power and cool machines,” a hearing memo said.

The witnesses – Cornell Tech Professor Ari Juels, Soluna Computing CEO John Belizaire, BitFury CEO Brian Brooks, former Chelan County Public Utility District General Manager Steven Wright and Jordan Ramis shareholder Gregory Zerzan – will share a range of thoughts in prepared testimony, including endorsements of proof-of-stake consensus mechanisms and questions about the mix of energy sources used to power cryptocurrencies.

11:44 (CL) “New and innovative uses of blockchain technology are being explored every day, and we should continue to try to encourage them,” DeGette said.

11:42 (ND) Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Co.) kicked the hearing off, discussing both potential use cases for blockchain (energy management, health records), as well as what some of the environmental concerns are.

“Our focus now needs to be reducing carbon emissions overall and increasing the share of green energy on the grid. The unique energy demands of the crypto mining industry do present potential benefits, although how these will play out in practice remains to be seen,” she said in her opening remarks.

11:30 a.m. ET (ND) Good morning folks, and welcome to CoinDesk’s live coverage of the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on cryptocurrencies and their environmental impact. Titled “Cleaning Up Cryptocurrency: The Energy Impacts of Blockchains,” the hearing seems likely to focus on Bitcoin in particular and proof-of-work more broadly, but I imagine we can expect questions about proof-of-stake and how energy is sourced to pop up.

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