Senator Lummis questions government’s role in regulating energy use in crypto mining

In a March 7 Senate hearing committee on cryptocurrency and the environment, Senator Cynthia Lummis (R – Wyoming) emphasized that energy efficiency standards must not be utilized to target particular energy use cases like crypto mining.

During the committee, evidence was presented by both sides on how the crypto-asset industry impacts the environment.

Witnesses discussed energy consumption, efficiency, and the potential for overregulation in the industry. The hearing also touched on the negative effects of crypto mining sites on air, water, and noise pollution.

According to Chair Ed Markey (D-MA), the Senator responsible for introducing the bill last December, “In the United States, carbon dioxide emissions for bitcoin mining are equivalent to the annual emissions from as many as 7.5 million gasoline-powered cars.”

Crypto-Asset Environmental Transparency Act

That bill seeks to enforce the disclosure of emissions by crypto miners and obligate the Environmental Protection Agency to evaluate the consequences of crypto mining.

The Crypto-Asset Environmental Transparency Act would require miners utilizing over 5 megawatts of power to disclose data about their emissions, while the EPA would be required to study the impact of such miners on greenhouse gas emissions.

During the March 7 hearing, Senator Cynthia Lummis, a Republican from Wyoming and a standing member of the financial innovation caucus, questioned Rob Altenburg, director of the Penn Future center, an environmental think tank, about the logic underlying the bill in its current form.

Lummis asked whether it was Congress’ role to legislate how energy use is deployed. In her questioning, she noted the similarities between mining for cryptocurrency on a computer and electric vehicles.

“There is a long history of that,” Altenburg replied. “We have energy efficiency standards for appliances. For most air pollution, there is a legal requirement that they install the best available technology to reduce the pollution before they operate,” Altenburg responded.

Senator Lummis alludes to double standards in EV market

Lummis also noted it should not be Congress’s job to meddle in how electricity is used.

“Shouldn’t EVs [sic.] also have the same monitoring that is being requested by this bill?” Lummis asked.

“All sources of electricity, whether it’s the lights or the speaker system here, are going to use electricity and produce a certain amount of work for that electricity,” Altenburg responded, but said that “the issue with bitcoin and proof of work cryptocurrency is the work that we are doing is not actually necessary to have cryptocurrency or to have blockchain technology.”

Courtney Detlinger, vice president of the Nebraska public power district, testified before the hearing that she believes crypto mining can also serve a net benefit to the environment, especially when diverting natural gas that would otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere.

“I certainly don’t speak for the entire power sector, but within the state of Nebraska, we’ve actually seen benefits,” Detlinger told the hearing. “We have not seen the drawbacks that have been mentioned during the hearing today, and most of those have just been managed locally, whether by the municipality, by the county, or by the Nebraska department of environment and energy.”

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