House panel to review crypto’s energy, climate impacts

By Jael Holzman | 01/18/2022 07:42 AM EST

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.).

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), will hold a hearing this week on the energy implications of blockchain and cryptocurrency. Francis Chung/E&E News / Francis Chung/E&E News

A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee with hold a hearing this week on the energy and environment impacts of cryptocurrency.

The hearing of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations titled, "Cleaning Up Cryptocurrency: The Energy Impacts of Blockchains," is scheduled to occur as environmental groups have pressured lawmakers and regulators to make strides to rein in the ballooning emissions from cryptocurrency, a decentralized form of digital money.

So far, lawmakers have largely ignored the climate impacts from cryptocurrency (Climatewire, Nov. 18, 2021). Energy and Commerce Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) want to change that.


“In just a few short years, cryptocurrency has seen a meteoric rise in popularity. It’s time to understand and address the steep energy and environmental impacts it is having on our communities and our planet,” Pallone and DeGette said in a statement.

“We look forward to examining cryptomining’s growing energy footprint and how proof of work blockchains, in particular, may migrate toward cleaner alternatives and renewable energy solutions.”

Producing the most well-known form of cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, uses a process known as "proof-of-work" mining that can require significant amounts of computer power to be successful. For this reason, the amount of energy used by global Bitcoin production surpasses what is used by some industrialized nations, according to research.

Companies have begun buying entire power plants to generate more Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies (Energywire, Sept. 23, 2021). Firms in the power sector are wondering whether they, too, should turn their existing power fleet into cryptocurrency mining hubs, including the family of Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chair Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) (Climatewire, Nov. 17, 2021).

The hearing could signal a shift in Congress’ attitude on producing cryptocurrency away from viewing it as a mere novelty. It also comes a week after the Biden administration cracked down on coal ash from the power sector, a move that affected a former coal plant currently used to mine Bitcoin (Greenwire, Jan. 11).

Schedule: The hearing is Thursday, Jan. 20, at 10:30 a.m. in 2123 Rayburn and via webcast.

Witnesses: TBA.