At a late 2021 SF Bitcoin Devs socratic seminar, one of the attendees mentioned that “Bitcoin is for everyone,” which is a statement that I wholeheartedly agree with. Almost anyone in a developed country can set up a non-custodial wallet on their smartphone, run a full node on their home computer or Raspberry Pi, and participate in the Bitcoin network without asking for or receiving permission of anyone else. This opt-in, decentralized system is incredibly powerful and, by nature, non-political.
Unfortunately, securing the network and distribution of new coins requires use of electricity. Many articles have been written about Bitcoin mining’s energy use, and this post is not an attempt to further this conversation. Instead, I’m interested in exploring a less discussed side effect of mining’s energy use. Bitcoin miners are economically incentivized to seek out the lowest cost electricity that they can, as energy is the only variable cost in their mine. In the United States, this means that miners will predominantly choose to set up shop in states with the lowest cost of electricity . States with the lowest electricity costs tend to be more conservative , and politicians in these states have begun to embrace Bitcoin due in part to the growth in jobs and businesses seen in these areas.
This is not to say that every conservative is embracing Bitcoin or that no democrats are supportive of Bitcoin, as there are absolutely politicians on both sides of the aisle who hold both views. Nonetheless, over the last few years I have observed an increasingly partisan aspect to Bitcoin support in the U.S., which I find to be concerning.
One of the benefits of cryptocurrencies that use less electricity, such as Chia, are that there are significantly weaker incentives to seek out locations with the cheapest possible electricity. This means that anyone in the world can participate fully in the network. This applies not just between states in the U.S. but also to all countries globally. I’m optimistic that Chia will not become partisan or political, and that Chia is truly for everyone.