United States Republican Senator Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming held a fireside chat with the founder and CEO of the Chamber of Digital Commerce, Perianne Boring, during the Bitcoin 2023 event in Miami on May 19.
The topics of discussion were the importance of Bitcoin (BTC) to U.S. national and energy security and the upcoming legislation surrounding cryptocurrency, blockchain and related technologies.
Lummis described regulating Bitcoin and related technologies as a national security issue. She opined that the U.S. government had been irresponsible with its debt and positioned Bitcoin as a decentralized safety net for citizens:
“I’m actually worried as we go into another debt ceiling debate that we will eventually increase the debt ceiling to the point where our interest payments will exceed how much money we spend on national defense. So it is a national security issue.”
The senator made clear that it was her belief that the current challenges surrounding the passing of Bitcoin-friendly bills had more to do with what she perceived as ignorance or a lack of education than concerns grounded in reality.
Addressing the audience as a whole, Lummis quipped, “Even though you all know that when FTX failed, they held zero Bitcoin, there are a lot of people in Washington D.C. that conflate companies with digital assets, they conflate Bitcoin with other cryptocurrencies.”
Lummis hopes a bill she and junior New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand have drafted as a comprehensive cryptocurrency legislative measure will serve as a catalyst for positive change. However, according to Lummis, the two senators are waiting to see how a bill introduced in the House relating to stablecoins does before introducing their own.
Lummis appeared optimistic concerning the bill’s chances, citing as a significant factor the fact that Gillibrand served on the Senate committee overseeing the Commodity Futures Trading Commission while she herself was a member of the committee with oversight of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Boring, founder and CEO of the Chamber of Digital Commerce, shifted the conversation to mining, pointing out that her company’s membership represented over 50% of the Bitcoin hash rate in the U.S. and that many of her clients were worried about the proposed 30% mining tax floated by the White House recently.
While mention of the tax solicited boos, Lummis turned the jeers into cheers by simply responding with, “Well, I want to start by saying that isn’t going to happen.” She then reiterated that several members of Congress were working diligently with the digital assets community to ensure that fair regulation would ensue.
In citing the further importance of getting regulation right, Lummis again described the issue as one of national security, this time adding that it was also imperative for the environment that the country harness the Bitcoin mining process:
“One of the advantages of Bitcoin mining is that when you drill an oil and gas well, and it is distant from other oil and gas wells, you vent the gas into the atmosphere until you can bring in a pipeline to hook it up. […] Well, while that’s being vented, you can pull a Bitcoin mining operation in a trailer, use the vented methane gas to mine your Bitcoin, and you are preventing that gas from being vented into the atmosphere.”
The senator added, “Bitcoin is cleaning up the environment,” to further cheers from the audience. She also mentioned that Bitcoin mining can be used as a tool to stabilize the energy grid, stating that mining operations could be increased or decreased to ensure proper energy distribution.
In explaining why the U.S. government had been reticent to push Bitcoin technologies, Lummis pointed to the perception by Congress that “Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are being used for criminal activities.”
“We’ve tried to educate members of Congress that companies like Chainalysis can actually solve crimes easier with Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies than they can with U.S. dollars,” explained Lummis, adding, “but there are still people that just don’t believe that.” She went on to explain that pushing Bitcoin and related technological innovations such as mining operations overseas would erode U.S. law enforcement’s abilities to operate in an increasingly digital world.