Mar 28, 2022 - Energy & Environment

White House officials open crypto climate inquiry

Illustration of a pair of binoculars viewing falling 8-bit coins

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The White House science office is seeking input about climate harm from expanding use of cryptocurrencies — and ways to tackle the problem.

Why it matters: Digital "mining" to verify and record transactions often involves the use of very powerful, energy-intensive computing equipment.

  • That's creating concerns about carbon emissions, especially when mining occurs in regions with fossil-heavy power grids.

Driving the news: The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) on Friday issued a formal "request for information" that solicits feedback by May 9.

  • OSTP wants info on "protocols, hardware, resources, economics, and other factors that shape the energy use and climate impacts of all types of digital assets."

Threat level: "Some researchers estimate that cryptocurrencies use more electricity each year than many individual countries in the world, including some industrialized nations," it states.

Yes, but: OSTP is also interested in ways crypto can help battle global warming, such as how digital assets can provide new opportunities in natural asset and carbon accounting, and greater trust in carbon measurement.

The big picture: It stems from President Biden's wider order this month on developing U.S. crypto policy and better understanding the risks and rewards of digital currencies.

  • The order requires an OSTP report specifically on the climate and energy dimensions.
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