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The critics of crypto | Action 16 Investigates

The major virtual currencies have tanked in value over the past few weeks. Does that signal crypto's doom?

SCRANTON, Pa. — YouTuber and Wilkes-Barre native Ryan Hertel is well aware of crypto's critics.

"No one's taking this even five percent as seriously as they really should. I would argue that all day. I get laughed at; I get told that I'm dumb. I can't even talk to my friends about this," Hertel said.

Hertel makes the case for cryptocurrencies on his YouTube channel — a case he says is not easily made with his friends and family in northeastern and central Pennsylvania.

"We really did lead with this pathetic and unreasonable marketing idea. 'Buy bitcoin, it's not real, but it's real if you buy it!' And everyone's like, 'Well, yeah, this sounds like a Ponzi scheme!' Well, of course, they think that!" he added.

New investors in crypto may be feeling ripped off recently as the value of many currencies has crashed.

Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency and is the most popular. Its value hit an all-time high last fall of $69,000.

That value dipped to less than $20,000 this spring.

"We're in that kind of stage now. An area of a lot of fantastic ideas, a lot of turbulence, a lot of innovation, a lot of experimentation, and yes, a lot of failure," said Lehigh University Professor Hank Korth.

Korth teaches computer science at Lehigh and leads the university's Blockchain Lab.

Korth told Action 16 Investigates that if you plan to invest your cash into crypto — tread carefully.

"Anybody who is not deeply into the space should be talking to their investment advisor and getting professional advice on how to balance this," he added.

Korth and his colleagues in academia don't see the crash as crypto's death knell but maybe a chance for the technology to evolve.

Crypto critics are quick to point out its negative impact on the environment. The mining process essential for verifying crypto transactions requires a lot of energy.

According to the environmentalist group Penn Future, bitcoin mining worldwide uses about as much energy as the entire state of New York. That's becoming an increasing concern here in Pennsylvania.

RELATED: Bitcoin mining: Old-fashioned fuel to power new technology

"Actually, it was just last summer when we really saw it start taking off as an issue in Pennsylvania," said Rob Altenburg, Penn Future's senior director for energy and climate.

Altenburg said crypto mining operations are attracted to Pennsylvania because of the available resources, including coal, natural gas, and nuclear power. But also because of available state subsidies and tax write-offs.

Penn Future is calling on state lawmakers to steer the technology toward a more sustainable future.

"We have energy efficiency standards for lots of appliances, our light bulbs, our television sets, and all of us have energy efficiency standards. Applying that same idea to mining and not doing things that are inherently wasteful when you don't need to waste that energy," Altenburg added.

See local Verify stories on WNEP’s YouTube channel.

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