Colombia Senator: Stop Cocaine, Mine Bitcoin

A  Colombian politician, Gustavo Petro has proposed  the country look to El Salvador for incentiveness and mine bitcoin using renewable energy—instead of producing cocaine. 

The senator retweeted a story about El Salvador President Nayib Bukele’s teasing report on twitter  that the country had started mining Bitcoin using volcanic energy and commented:

“What if the Pacific coast took advantage of the steep falls of the rivers of the western mountains to produce all the energy of the coast and replace cocaine with energy for cryptocurrencies?” 

President Bukele, who made bitcoin a legal tender in El Salvador last month, claims the Central American nation will mine Bitcoin using geothermal power from its volcanoes. 

The senator, who is also running for Colombia’s presidential election next year, added via Twitter that “virtual currency is pure information and therefore energy.”

It wasn’t clear what the Senator meant but Americas energy policy analyst Wesley Tomaselli in an interview with  Decrypt that the senator was referring to the potential of Colombia’s Pacific coast to use renewable energy. 

“He’s right in that Colombia has great potential for Bitcoin mining because about three fourths of its electricity generation comes from hydroelectric power, The problem is, Petro appears to be selling Bitcoin mining as an alternative model for development to coca growing and cocaine shipments. It’s not. Unless Petro has a magic wand.”

Colombia is the world’s largest producer of cocaine, according to the United Nations, and its Pacific coast is where a lot of the coca—the drug’s base ingredient—is grown. 

The Pacific coast had the  potential to be a  renewable energy hotspot. “Colombia’s severe Andean mountain geography and river systems make it prime for hydroelectric power generation,” noted Tomaselli. 

But he added that megaprojects in the area “have grown less popular  because of resistance from environmentalists who see them as damaging to local communities and ecosystems.” 

Petro’s communication team did not immediately respond to Decrypt’s request for comment.

Meanwhile, a Columbia government adviser on blockchain technology, Jehudi Castro Sierra, said on Twitter that Petro’s idea was “absurd.” 

El Salvador’s government has said that it will use only renewable and clean energy to produce the currency, an idea that has been both applauded by Bitcoin believers and critcized by the Bukele’s critics.