Why Did Cryptos Divebomb in Value This Year? 13 845

We’ve all seen the headlines. It’s no secret that one of cryptocurrencies’ main traits is its skyrocketing volatility. When Bitcoin reached the dizzying heights of $20,000 in December last year, it sent FOMO rushing through those who hadn’t invested yet. And sparked off parties in the living rooms of those who had. Cryptos were on the up and up in 2017 and yet, this year has been positively dreadful by comparison.

So what’s going on?

Having reached a whopping $834 billion in value, CoinMarketCap reported that the market plunged sharply by over 66 percent, equating to a loss of more than $500 billion. Bitcoin’s value was slashed by more than half, and Ether and Ripple suffered similar drops.

All this upping and downing began to send shockwaves through the crypto and wider communities, provoking talk about whether the bubble is about to burst and if the end of digital currencies is in sight.

So What’s Behind Cryptos’ Fall?

There are a few schools of thought on this. Some say the fear of missing out late last year drove masses from the wider public to invest. This led to an over inflation of prices from which the market is only now beginning to stabilize, explaining the reason for the price dip. Others believe there are a combination of wider factors at play.

Negative Press

With the abundance of news of hacking scandals and the recent hack of Coincheck, which caused a $530-million loss for the company, security is a major issue for cryptocurrencies. And it’s one that’s causing many an investor to stay away or pull out. News of fly-by-night ICO teams raising millions of dollars and disappearing with investors’ money does little to add credibility either.

Tensions that are already running high are not eased by rumors of scam artists and dark deeds. Neither are investors happy to hear of increased regulation and investigation by the SEC, and concerns that many ICOs are being investigated and shut down. Economists around the world spelling doom and gloom and the Bank of Austria calling Bitcoin’s value “pure speculation,” have also served to fan the flames.

Added to that, the Chinese ban on cryptocurrencies altogether and the fact that India and other countries may follow suit, and it’s almost easy to see why cryptos plummeted.

A Comeback for Cryptos?

While some see it as the doomsday predicted by many, others see it as an opportunity to buy more or to hold. Your next move here depends on the kind of investor you are. One comfortable with sharp drops and rises, or one who panics about unexpected downturns.

After a dire start to the year, March has begun in a sprightlier way for Bitcoin, Ether, and friends. Bitcoin is clawing back its value, currently standing at $11,300. The market has surged by over $400 billion, and Ethereum and Ripple are flying high, increasing value by over 20 percent.

What does all this increase in activity mean for cryptos as we move into the future? A second surge in value, perhaps, with cryptos reaching over a trillion dollars? Or a crypto-style nuclear winter that sees digital currencies quashed by regulation? Either way, it’s going to be a wild ride.

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Christina is a technology and business communicator who has worked with high profile ICOs and blockchain influencers to break industry news.

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Bitcoin Uses As Much Energy As Austria, Could Add 2°C to Earth’s Atmosphere 2,183 13500

Bitcoin mining, it turns out, damages the earth more than more traditional environmental assaults like actual mineral mining.

According to a paper published Monday in Nature Sustainability, the power-hungry Bitcoin mining process consumes more than triple the amount of energy needed to mine the equivalent amount of gold, more than quadruple what’s needed for copper, and more than double what it takes to mine platinum.

Other coins didn’t fare much better. By their measurements, Ethereum and Litecoin consume 7 megajoules of electricity to produce the equivalent of $1, the same energy expenditure as copper mining but more than that of platinum or gold. Monero eats up 14 megajoules to produce $1.

Naturally, these measurements refer to the notoriously variable dollar valuations of such tokens. “While the market prices of the coins are quite volatile,” write researchers Max J. Krause and Thabet Tolaymat, “the network hashrates for three of the four cryptocurrencies have trended consistently upward, suggesting that energy requirements will continue to increase.”

Bitcoin’s Growing Electricity Bill is Bigger Than Some Countries

We’ve long known that Bitcoin is unsustainable. In a 2015 article for Motherboard, Christopher Malmo pointed out that a single Bitcoin transaction used 5,033 times as much energy as a Visa swipe, and could power 1.5 American homes for a day.

The electricity used to crunch Bitcoin code—and its environmental cost—has been growing with its increasing popularity. Digiconomist’s Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index shows Bitcoin currently consuming 73.12 terawatt hours (or 263.232 billion megajoules) of electricity annually. To put that in context, it’s comparable to the amount of energy it takes to power Austria for a year.

That means there are 175ish countries on earth using less energy than Bitcoin (to say nothing of crypto on the whole), while 66 countries consume less energy per capita than one Bitcoin transaction (it takes 94 thousand kilowatt hours of electricity to mine a single Bitcoin).

Iceland, a major hub of Bitcoin mining farms, spends nearly as much energy on Bitcoin as it does powering its residential homes. In this case, the damage is mitigated because most of Iceland’s power comes from renewable energy.

Canada’s Bitcoin emissions are also on the lower end due to renewable energy sources. They’re using this to court mining companies from China, where mining emissions are about four times that of Canada’s. Montreal International attracts foreign investment by calling Quebec the land of “green bitcoin”. This has caught the eye of some Chinese mining companies looking to go overseas as the Chinese government has discouraged expansion and shut down some mining operations altogether.

Depending on Bitcoin’s growth, some have projected that it could use as much energy as the entire world by 2020.

Digital Currency Has a Real Carbon Footprint

Krause’s and Tolaymat’s research reminds us of the sobering reality that all this invisible wealth has real world costs.

For the 30 months they measured between January 2016 and June 2018, they estimate their four featured tokens collectively belched out at least 3 million tons of CO2 emissions, possibly as much as 15 million tons.

These findings follow another study, published last month, which determined Bitcoin alone could add two degrees Celcius to global warming within the next three decades. That’s enough to raise ocean acidity by 29 percent.

Solving Bitcoin’s Energy Consumption Crisis

So what is the solution? If the world were to switch to 100 percent renewable energy overnight, the problem would be moot. But we can’t hold our breath for that. There could be ways of incentivizing clean energy so greener mines reap more coins, or of implementing clean energy in other ways.

It’s also possible to adopt less computationally intensive mining algorithms so the mining computers don’t guzzle as much juice. This would disappoint a lot of old school Bitcoiners who have invested in hardware, but their feelings don’t really outweigh that 2 degrees celcius that everyone will have to live with (or die by).

Whatever the best solution turns out to be, something needs to change soon. Bitcoin is growing up, and it’s time for it to mature into something more sustainable.

There’s an Inflatable ‘Bitcoin Rat’ Staring Down the Fed 94 12027

Someone has put a giant inflatable rat outside the Federal Reserve Bank in New York.

It’s covered in Bitcoin code, printed in rainbow colors, and is apparently a piece of installation art aimed at subverting the federal institution that controls the US dollar. Or is it pale, puffed-up pariah a commentary on Bitcoin bros themselves? Or does it have something to do with Warren Buffett, who earlier this year called Bitcoin “rat poison squared”? According to CoinDesk, who first reported on the inflatable rat, the meaning is intentionally ambiguous.

The artist behind the puzzling prank is Nelson Saiers. He describes his own work as “mystifying” and “singularly original”, notwithstanding the long history of rats being inflated as protests or used as economic and political icons in art and entertainment around the world.

“It’s art, so I hope they’re entertained by it,” he said, apparently implying that art is entertainment. “It’s informative, I hope people will learn [and] I’m hoping it’ll at least help people understand bitcoin better and be kind of faithful to what Satoshi would have wanted,” he added, citing the mysterious pseudonym of Bitcoin’s founder with a touch of reverence.

A $50 Million Artist

Saiers, a phD in theoretical mathematics, was a hedge fund manager who did that thing where you give up all the money to chase your dream of being an artist.

His financial experience includes a stint as managing director at Deutsche Bank’s prop trading desk, before becoming CIO of Saiers Capital, the hedge fund that bears his name. His creative career gives credence to the theory that working as an artist is more and more a privilege of the very wealthy.

CNBC estimated Saiers’s wealth to be around $50 million at the time of he departed from the financial industry to pick up his paintbrushes.

The Rat Joins a Tradition of Sculpture-as-Commentary in FiDi

The Bitcoin rat, which stands on Maiden Lane, isn’t the first pop up sculpture to grace Manhattan’s financial district. Last year, Kristen Visbal’s 50 inch bronze ‘Fearless Girl’ statue made waves by staring down the famous ‘Charging Bull’, to the outrage of ‘Charging Bull’ sculptor Arturo Di Modica. The 3.5 ton ‘Charging Bull’ itself was left on Wall Street in the middle of the night when Di Modica originally created it, obstructing traffic and drawing the curiosity of passers by.

When Saiers placed the Bitcoin rat, he initially set it up on private property and was promptly ushered off by security guards, who he says were good natured about the situation. He expects the sculpture to be more temporary than the aforementioned Wall Street bronzes, and will probably only be around for a few days.

A Critique of the 2008 Bailouts

The placement of the rat on Maiden Lane seems to be no accident, but rather a reference to the Maiden Lane Transactions, more commonly known as that time when the Fed bailed out the big banks after they all caused the 2008 market crash. The Bitcoin crowd’s antipathy towards the Fed and the big banks is palpable in Sairs’s rat sculpture, and while a more specific meaning eludes, perhaps the success of the piece depends upon its ability to start conversations about the state of finance.

We’ll leave it to the viewers to decide who’s the rat—the Federal Reserve, or Bitcoin itself—and what that means for the future of currencies.

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