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From New York to Washington, US Anti-Bitcoin Mining Discourse Gathers Steam

The anti-Bitcoin mining movement that started in New York seems to have gradually found its way to the centre of the U.S. government seat, Washington. Reports say the U.S. government is now working on policy recommendations to lower cryptocurrency mining’s energy consumption and emissions footprint.

Set to be ready in August, the report is likely to be one of the first studies to come out of President Joe Biden’s March 9 Executive Order in which he called for a whole-of-government strategy on digital assets suggesting ways to address issues related to their use, impact, and underlying technology, according to Bloomberg Law

The development coincides with New York lawmakers passing a bill to ban certain Bitcoin mining operations that run on carbon-based power sources. Still needs the governor’s approval, the bill would make New York the first state in the U.S. to ban blockchain technology infrastructure if passed into law.

It didn’t start now

As of March, the New York State Senate sought to establish a moratorium on cryptocurrency mining operations that use energy-intensive proof-of-work (PoW) authentication methods to validate blockchain transactions. It was the first of such moves from within the U.S. to suggest a possible start to the similar opposition that China raised against mining operations within its territory.

The moratorium hindered miners in New York who were not using renewable energy from expanding or renewing their permits but did not do much to affect Bitcoin itself, says Galaxy Digital’s head of mining, Amando Fabiano.

“Bitcoin would be fine, just like when China shut down. Bitcoin is resilient, the network would continue to operate. New York shutting down mining is really like marginalizing one industry. It makes it seems like New York is close for business for all things related to Bitcoin mining,” she said in a CNBC interview, adding that those affected may have to move elsewhere.

 The U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) also later put out a request for information (RFI) to solicit public views on the energy and climate implications of digital assets to examine potential impediments or advancements to the transition to a clean and reliable electricity grid. It receive comments from the public until May 9. 

Like China, Like US?

Many miners moved their crypto mining activities to other parts of the world – particularly to the U.S. – after China placed a ban on related activities in 2021. The exodus was likened to a trillion-dollar gift to the U.S. which quickly took over as the leading country for crypto mining following China’s near-zero activities at the time.

Meanwhile, no official stance has been taken by the U.S. government against crypto mining in the country thus far and the eventual outcome of the consultations being held have not been completed. But the developing focus on Bitcoin mining’s possible impact on the U.S. effort to achieve its climate change objectives – a key reason for China’s ban – raises concerns for some proponents on what the U.S. is likely to take from China’s approach.

Some of the Chinese miners moved to the U.S. for its stable regulatory environment despite higher running costs. It is not clear that the growing opposition to their activities in the U.S. would be met with an outright ban.

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