Investor Kevin O'Leary touts proactive regulation and policy at Bitcoin 2022

Quick Take

  • Kevin O’Leary argued Wednesday that good policy will open the floodgates of capital to the crypto space.
  • During his Bitcoin 2022 keynote, he touted separate Congressional bills from Senators Lummis and Hagerty.
  • O’Leary also criticized a proposed carbon audit policy from the SEC but said it could end up paving the way for renewables in mining.

Investor and Shark Tank personality Kevin O'Leary gave a decidedly pro-policy message during his keynote at the Bitcoin 2022 conference in Miami .

During his keynote on Wednesday, O'Leary argued with meaningful regulation in place "spigots of capital are going to flood into the sector like you've never seen." That includes becoming the 12th sector of the S&P 500 in the next decade, according to O'Leary.

And that crypto-savvy regulation is on the horizon, he said.

"I've been spending a lot of time in Washington in the last three months," he told attendees. "The good news is, on a bipartisan basis, there are many senators and reps that are thinking about this in a proactive way."

Policy in the works

He pointed to the much-hyped bill from bitcoin-friendly senator Cynthia Lummis and recently announced co-sponsor Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. The concrete details of that bill have yet to come to light, but Lummis and Gillibrand said on a recent panel that the bill will establish a broad regulatory framework for crypto. 

He also touted the concise format of the recently introduced "Stablecoin Transparency Act" from Senators Trey Hollingsworth and Bill Hagerty. The two-page legislation requires stablecoins to be backed by dollars or government securities that mature in less than a year. It also mandates issuers publicly release third-party audits of their reserves. O'Leary said stablecoin regulation is a priority for his own business aspirations.

"My own auditor won't let me and my operating company do anything with stablecoins because there's no regulation on it," he said. 

Regulatory minefields for miners 

But O'Leary sees some regulation on the horizon as potentially onerous.

He pointed to the Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) proposed carbon audit standards, which would require public companies to obtain a quarterly third-party audit of their carbon footprint.

Because bitcoin mining is an energy-intensive business, this could spell trouble. And as miners mainly mitigate their carbon use by purchasing offsets, the regulation could prove troublesome for the industry at present.

"The problem with a carbon offset is the tracking error is so huge that no public auditor will sign off on those statements," said O'Leary.

Though O'Leary said a carbon audit is "bad for proof-of-work and bad for bitcoin mining," he also said the policy could ultimately lead to leaps in renewable energy use. In an effort to divest from carbon, some miners are exploring hydroelectricity, wind and nuclear power, among other technologies.

O'Leary argued that bitcoin mining is a valuable enough enterprise that miners will fund the next generation of renewable energy in order to avoid a carbon audit.

"I'll install the turbines," O'Leary quipped. "Why? Because it's great economics if I can use that and not be hassled by a carbon audit. This is the future of bitcoin mining. We will be developing power for all communities while we mine coins in an ethical and 100% green mandate that we can do with hydroelectricity." 

O'Leary has a variety of crypto projects in his portfolio. He backs decentralized finance platform WonderFi, which recently acquired Toronto-based exchange Bitbuy. At the time of the acquisition, O'Leary also pointed to Canada's progressive regulatory stance as a main driver of the deal. 

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