Elizabeth Warren calls for a crackdown on 'environmentally wasteful cryptocurrencies' to fight the climate crisis

Elizabeth Warren calls for a crackdown on 'environmentally wasteful cryptocurrencies' to fight the climate crisis
Sen. Warren questions the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2014.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • Elizabeth Warren called for a crackdown on "environmentally wasteful cryptocurrencies" like bitcoin on Wednesday.
  • The Democratic Senator from Massachusetts made the comments in a Senate Banking Subcommittee hearing.
  • Warren said "cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are terrible for the environment" and that now is the time to act.

Elizabeth Warren called for a crackdown on "environmentally wasteful cryptocurrencies" like bitcoin in order to help fight the climate crisis in a Senate Banking Subcommittee hearing on Wednesday.

The Democratic Senator from Massachusetts posted an excerpt from the hearing on her Twitter account that included the caption:
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"Bitcoin requires so much computing activity that it eats up more energy than entire countries. One of the easiest and least disruptive things we can do to fight the #ClimateCrisis is to crackdown on environmentally wasteful cryptocurrencies."
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The Senator's call for a crackdown on bitcoin quickly received backlash from the crypto community.

The first comment on Warrens' Tweet, which garnered over 5,000 likes, came from Dan Held, the director of growth marketing at the crypto exchange Kraken, who said "Cancel Christmas Lights!!!" with a picture of an article with the headline "US Christmas lights use more electricity than entire countries."

Other commenters posted charts from Cathie Wood's ARK Invest, which shows the US banking system's total energy use compared to bitcoin mining.
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In the excerpt that Senator Warren posted to Twitter from the subcommittee hearing, Dr. Neha Narula, the director of the Digital Currency Initiative at MIT, described the energy-intensive process of mining bitcoin.

Narula elaborated how proof-of-work mining works to mint new bitcoins and called the process "a pretty fundamental part of the underlying security of bitcoin." Warren replied by describing her frustrations with the thought of computers all over the world "spitting out random numbers around the clock in a competition to try to solve a useless puzzle and win the bitcoin reward." The Senator said the amount of energy required for this process is "a disaster for our planet."
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Warren went on to ask professor Lev Menand, an academic fellow and lecturer in law from Columbia Law School, if he believes bitcoin's use cases are worth the environmental impact.

Menand replied, "No, absolutely not. Especially for countries like the United States where the benefits of crypto are largely illusory."

The professor called for government intervention into cryptocurrencies saying, "if governments like ours continue to sit on the sidelines while the alternative currency systems develop…we're going to see bitcoin use expand because there's a growing group of people who would like to move the whole financial system to decentralized ledgers and that's going to lead to more and more environmental damage. So Congress really needs to act here."
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Warren concluded by saying, "cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are terrible for the environment, and that would be true regardless of whether we were getting anything productive out of that energy usage or not."

"The fact that we're not makes it even more scandalous. One of the easiest and least disruptive things we can do to address the climate crisis is crack down on environmentally wasteful cryptocurrencies, and now is the time to do it," she added.

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