Members of the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources have requested the cost of cryptocurrency extraction and opportunities for blockchain in the public sector on Wednesday
Like other hearings related to the crypt on Capitol Hill, the hearing – which features a number of public and private sector speakers – served in part as an informational session for legislators who are not familiar with the technology.
In contrast to previous Congressional hearings that sometimes became harsh towards the concept of blockchain and cryptocurrency, the senators of the Energy Committee questioned how blockchain can be applied to various projects.
The people who testified were Robert Kahn, CEO and president of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives; Paul Skare, chief cybersecurity and group technical manager of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; Thomas Golden, program manager of technological innovation at the Electric Power Research Institute; Claire Henly, CEO of the Energy Web Foundation; and Arvind Narayanan, associate professor of computer science at Princeton University.
In the commentary, President of Senator commission Lisa Murkowski of Alaska noted that "the hearing will examine all the benefits of computer security that blockchain and similar technologies could offer compared to other ways to protect our infrastructure energy. "
discussed at the hearing revolved around the energy needs of cryptocurrency miners. Work-proof networks – which require energy expenditure to prove that "work" has been completed – generally require large amounts of energy, such as bitcoin blockchain, according to Golden.
Witnesses estimated that public blockchain can be used anywhere from one to up to five gigawatts worldwide, though, as Golden claimed, "this is less than 0.1 percent of global energy consumption."
Murkowski noted that the growing demand at local level from the new cryptography mining companies can cause stress to public service providers and even damage the electricity grid. His concern is that this could translate into higher costs for the customers of the supplier.
"Can we anticipate the percentages of consumers and the concern that some may have?" My family and I might not be the ones who benefit from blockchain and bitcoin and yet I wonder if my prices will be paid for this infrastructure? "
Senator Steve Daines asked similarly how communities can prepare for the mines moving on their electricity grids.  Golden said that electricity companies should start discussing with their communities about the energy supply to these companies, as a start to solve the problem of infrastructure.
But also the strengthening of the grids of some localities may not be enough. "Henly noted that" the energy use of bitcoin it is a substantial concern … we know that the bitcoin's energy use will prevent it from being able to scale. "
His solution was to examine the alternatives to PoW, noting that while they require large amounts of energy. proof-of-stake and proof-of-authority algorithms are much more energy-efficient and can be a viable alternative to resizing a blockchain without a need to save large amounts of energy.
Federal Security Questions and Blockchains
At various times during the hearing, the conversation turned away from perceived problems and the way the blockchain could be applied to the energy sector, including for tracking shipments , the validation of security protocols or the construction of other existing technologies.
"I would like to hone the security aspect, because I think it is one of the most important here today," noted Senator Maria Cantwell during an opening statement.
On other points, the senators have tried to clarify different aspects of the elements of technology for themselves. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, for example, has asked for information on the privacy of transactions and if officials of the forces of the order could be hindered in the fulfillment of their duties.
Senator Bill Cassidy specifically asked the specific uses of the US government, asking whether it is technically possible to develop a blockchain for federal governments to track shipments sent from one country to another. Narayanan confirmed that this platform is feasible, but would require the participation of any nation involved.
While, as previous hearings, no firm conclusions were reached, Murkowski noted that the hearing was educational for the members of the stage commission for other upcoming queriers.
Lisa Murkowski picture via Energy Committee livestream