"It's important to remember that if there were no bitcoin, there would be no distributed ledger technology."
That was the response from Commodity Futures Trading Commission chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo when asked by Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton about the value of the technology underlying cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.
In his remarks, Giancarlo described them as invariably linked, striking a bullish tone on the "enormous prospects" of the technology in a range of uses.
The comments came during a two-hour hearing of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee before a packed audience, touching on topics like potential new regulation, initial coin offerings and volatility in cryptocurrency markets.
To be sure, Giancarlo hedged his remarks somewhat by stating that he was "no pie-in-the-sky dreamer." But nonetheless he pointed to applications in areas like financial markets infrastructure and charity funds management as promising ones.
Giancarlo's written testimony also reinforced the point on the possible uses for blockchain – a topic that the CFTC chair has detailed at length in the past.
In his committee testimony, Giancarlo wrote that the tech has "the potential to enhance economic efficiency, mitigate centralized systemic risk, defend against fraudulent activity and improve data quality and governance." He added:
"When tied to virtual currencies, this technology aims to serve as a new store of value, facilitate secure payments, enable asset transfers, and power new applications."
SEC chairman Jay Clayton, in response to Cotton's question, pointed to applications in the areas of data verification and record-keeping – i.e., using the technology to create distributed records of information – as particularly notable use cases.
"I hope people pursue it," he said.
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