On January 20, 2022, the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce (the “Committee”) held a hearing on the energy consumption associated with cryptocurrency activity. In announcing the hearing on January 12, 2022, Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Oversight and Investigations Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO) stated: “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.”
By the close of the hearings, committee members received a two-hour lesson about a wide range of topics: blockchain (and its varying types of consensus mechanisms) and its energy impact to the climate; how crypto mining can affect utilities’ management of energy resources and ultimately the price consumers pay for their electricity; how utilities work with energy-intensive miners; and where to strike the balance between green energy goals and the economic development of cryptocurrency. A number of members of the Committee appeared open to preserving the potential innovations and economic growth from blockchain while still improving efficiencies in power usage and achieving growth in renewables.
This is Part I of a two-part post on the issues raised by the Congressional hearing on the energy usage of blockchains. In this part, we will discuss how different blockchain consensus mechanisms impact energy usage and some potential solutions discussed at the hearing. In Part II, we will delve into some ESG considerations now affecting businesses as related to cryptocurrency investments and blockchain usage.