The environmental impact of Bitcoin (BTC) and crypto mining took center stage during a hearing on digital assets in the US Senate’s Committee on Agriculture on Thursday, as some senators voiced concerns over the “astonishing” energy usage associated with mining. As reported, the Bitcoin mining network is estimated to contribute less than 0.08% to the world’s total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
In her opening statement for the hearing, titled Examining Digital Assets: Risks, Regulation, and Innovation, Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow, who serves as the Chairwoman of the Senate’s agriculture committee, took aim at what she called “the outsized climate impact of Bitcoin and other digital assets,” saying “astonishing amounts of energy” is used to maintain these networks.
“The carbon footprint of this technology must be addressed,” the senator said.
Similarly, Democratic Senator Kristen Gillibrand also voiced concerns over “how resource-intensive cryptocurrency mining is.”
“How can we simultaneously support the growth of this new technology without sacrificing the important work we are doing to stem climate change,” Senator Gillibrand asked.
The question was answered by Rostin Behnam, Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), who agreed that the energy use in mining is a challenge, calling it “staggering” and “oftentimes compared to that of entire countries.”
“Internally, I have directed the CFTC’s Climate Risk Unit and LabCFTC to examine the climate implications of digital assets,” the CFTC Chairman said.
The hearing in the Senate’s Agriculture Committee on Thursday followed another hearing on stablecoin regulation in the US House of Representatives’ Financial Services Committee on Wednesday. The hearing revealed a sharp divide among lawmakers on how stablecoin issuers should be regulated.
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(Updated at 08:45 UTC with a video.)