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Silicon Valley Congressman Ro Khanna on crypto: 'It’s a huge tool'

As regulators in the U.S. and abroad consider ramping up oversight of digital assets, Congressman Ro Khanna, who represents Silicon Valley, pointed out the benefits of cryptocurrency in a recent interview with Yahoo Finance (video above).

“It’s a huge tool,” he said. “I mean, what is cryptocurrency? At its core, it’s a technology that allows decentralization, it takes away a need for a third-party. You have a ledger, basically an accounting book that’s public, so you don’t need third-party verification.”

Khanna, who represents a district that houses the headquarters of tech giants like Intel and Apple, was recently appointed to the House conference committee for the America COMPETES Act, tech-focused legislation meant to improve the U.S.'s ability to compete with China.

The congressman operates in all sorts of contradictions: While he’s a notable critic of Big Tech, he also admires much about the tech companies of his district. His recently published book, called "Dignity in a Digital Age," calls for all sorts of changes to how Big Tech operates. Notably, he says tech jobs need to be available widely across the U.S. rather than concentrated in his district.

'Structure things in a way that gives people more ownership'

This logic, that the benefits of the digital economy must be decentralized, lines up with how he views crypto. To Khanna, crypto and other digital assets present an opportunity to “move power away from the financial or big tech centers and structure things in a way that gives more people ownership,” he told Yahoo Finance.

On Twitter, Khanna has previously expressed concerns about bitcoin’s energy use, and told Yahoo Finance that he believes comprehensive climate legislation is necessary to address the tech sector’s environmental footprint, and climate change more broadly.

“The COMPETES bill has a down payment on clean energy, in terms of the research and in terms of some of the production, but we need more,” Khanna said. “That’s why we have to pass the president's $500 billion climate package to really have a moonshot on renewable energy.”

NEW YORK - JANUARY 31: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and guest Rep. Ro Khanna during Monday's January 31, 2022 show. (Photo by Scott Kowalchyk/CBS via Getty Images)
Khanna as a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in January. (Photo by Scott Kowalchyk/CBS via Getty Images)

Regulation will be important

Despite his criticisms of tech companies, when it comes to tech, Khanna ultimately is a believer. For example, key research-oriented pieces of the America COMPETES Act are his ideas, including adding a Directorate to the National Science Foundation and creating new technology hubs across the country.

Khanna’s faith in technology’s ability to do good translates to his take on cryptocurrency. To that end, he praised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s move to make the country friendly to digital assets after it received received more than $100 million in crypto donations in the wake of Russia's invasion. It’s an example, he said, of the benefits and possibilities of cryptocurrency, assuming that it’s subject to regulation.

“There’s a lot of positive, obviously [cryptocurrency] has to be regulated and can’t be exploited for illegal purposes, but overall it’s a positive,” Khanna said.

Allie Garfinkle is a senior tech reporter at Yahoo Finance. Find her on twitter @agarfinks.

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