Capitol Hill turns its attention to crypto mining, blockchain tech

Capitol Hill turns its attention to crypto mining, blockchain tech

Lawmakers in the United States are taking a considerable interest in the cryptocurrency and blockchain space, if the recent discussion on the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources is of any indication.

On Wednesday, the Senate committee sat down to discuss the costs of cryptocurrency mining, as well as the opportunities that lie in the blockchain industry.

The hearing followed previous goings on when the industry comes up for discussion and primarily served as an information session for those lawmakers who were not too familiar with the technology. The hearing also featured a wide variety of public and private sector speakers who answered the questions posed by senators in a lively session.

But in contrast with previous Congressional hearings, the senators were more interested on how blockchain can be applied to various projects. Wednesday’s session was definitely not a hostile one as what happened previously on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, chairman of the Senate committee, said the “hearing will examine any cybersecurity advantages that blockchain and similar technologies might offer over other ways of securing our energy infrastructure.”

Murkowski voiced out her concerns that the growing demand for domestic crypto mining farms can pose a problem for utility providers, or in the worst-case scenario, damage the electric grid. This, she said, could lead to increased costs for non-mining customers.

The senator asked, “Can we anticipate the consumer rates and the concern that some might have that, ‘my family and I might not be the ones that benefit from blockchain and bitcoin and yet I’m wondering are my rates going to be expected to pay for this infrastructure?'”

For his part, Sen. Steve Daines asked how communities can prepare for mining farms moving onto their power grids. Thomas Golden, program manager of technology innovation at the Electric Power Research Institute, suggested for power utilities to begin discussing with their customers if they have plans to provide power for crypto mining companies.

Reinforcing localities’ grids may not be enough. According to Claire Henly, managing director of the Energy Web Foundation, “Bitcoin’s energy use is a substantial concern and we know that bitcoin’s energy use will prevent it from being able to scale.” This is in contrast to a recent report that debunked popular notion that cryptocurrency mining is detrimental to the environment.

Henly’s solution was to look at alternatives to PoW, noting that while they require large amounts of power, proof-of-stake and proof-of-authority algorithms are far more energy efficient, and can pose as feasible alternatives to scaling a blockchain without requiring large amounts of power.

Aside from the perceived problems in the cryptocurrency sector, the senators also talked about how blockchain could be applied to the energy sector, including for tracking shipments, validating security protocols or building on other existing technologies.

Like previous hearings, no firm conclusions were reached, but Murkowski said the session’s goal was to educate the committee members, possibly setting the stage for more hearings of its kind in the future.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

New to blockchain? Check out CoinGeek’s Blockchain for Beginners section, the ultimate resource guide to learn more about blockchain technology.