How To Protect Yourself From A Possible Recession

You may soon start hearing pundits talk about the dreaded term “recession.” It’s one of those words used by finance people that comes across as ominous and foreboding. When people discuss recessionary times, it conjures up fears of long lines at the gas station, a fading economy, high inflation, job losses and general malaise.

A recession is a decline in GDP for two or more consecutive quarters. Although it’s not a perfect science, there is an old joke about economists who often get things wrong— “He’s predicted nine of the past five recessions”—implying the prognosticator is merely guessing and missing the mark on too many occasions to be taken seriously.

The Signs Of An Upcoming Recession

The United States is starting to see some of the warning signs of a recession. When the stock market plummets by 20%, it’s called a “bear market” and the massive losses contribute to a recession, as people lose faith in the economy and curtail expenditures. When people invest in the market and realize substantial profits, there is a wealth effect created. The windfall from investing emboldens people to spend more money, as they are confident that the good times will last forever.

When dramatic declines in stocks, bonds and cryptocurrencies happen, it has the opposite effect. Fear and panic take hold. Risk-taking is over and people go into survival mode, ruthlessly curtailing expenses.

Another factor for a recession is that inflation is raging to 40-year highs, further causing Americans to lose confidence. To pour more cold water on the economy and stock market, the Federal Reserve plans on continuing to raise interest rates. There is a fear that all of the strides the U.S. has made since the economy reopened will evaporate.

Many, if not all, of the stock gains from the meme subreddit Wallstreetbets crowd over the last year have already been lost. The same holds true for other investors too. If you have a company-sponsored 401(k) plan or IRA account, don’t look at the statements, as it will ruin your day.

Deutsche Bank economists wrote in a report to clients last month, “We will get a major recession,” becoming the first major bank to bearishly predict a U.S. recession. Bank of America has publicly stated that the mood in financial markets has been “recessionary.” Goldman Sachs said the tight labor market has “has caused a meaningful increase in the risk of recession.”

What Happens In A Recession

Recessions are usually characterized by job losses. You may think to yourself that is not indicative of the current labor market. Within the past year, the job market has seen a robust recovery. Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that 428,000 jobs were added in April, with the unemployment rate remaining steady at 3.6%.

Job openings hit a record 11.5 million in March. That same month, a historic 4.5 million people quit their jobs, showing that Americans feel confident enough to quit their positions, as they believe there are plenty of other opportunities available.

Nevertheless, depending upon how things progress, there could be further downsizings in other industries, as the U.S. has seen in the tech sector. As there has been so much hiring due to the buoyant economy, it could turn out the executives were too optimistic and now need to trim the staff.

Concerns over a slowing economy could take the steam out of the venture capital engines that have been producing numerous unicorn startups. The unprofitable outfits may not gain further funding and resort to layoffs.

What happens is that the U.S. could enter a situation in which things spiral downward. Rapidly rising unemployment is also another driver of a recession. As more people lose their jobs and business conditions deteriorate, those who find themselves in between roles will find it harder and take longer to procure a new role.

Fear Takes Over

It’s almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. Fear of a recession prompts businesses to cut costs to conserve financial assets. They want to have the cash to get through the rough patches. The aggressive cost-cutting measures usually include pay cuts and job losses. Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence. The economy goes through these boom-and-bust cycles fairly regularly. For many people, there are not many other choices than to hunker down and ride it out until better times arrive.

There is a behavioral component too. As there is an eroding level of confidence in the economic and financial system, demand for goods and services declines. There comes a point in which the business cycle reverses course, due to the toxic confluence of rising inflation, loss of faith, joblessness, plunging stock market and housing prices, followed by a fear of further losses, making the economy contract.

How To Get Through A Recession

Now is the time to hyperfocus on your job and career. Make sure your position is secure. Lock in any verbal agreements for a raise, promotion and bonus. It will be awkward and uncomfortable, but ask your boss about how stable the company is and where you fit in. Ask them if they view you as irreplaceable and a future rising star.

If the answers are not to your liking, don’t sulk. Take action. Immediately go into job-hunt mode. Get in touch with top recruiters in your space. Speak with career coaches and résumé writers. Start networking on LinkedIn. Now is not the time to be shy. Push yourself to ask everyone in your network for job leads and introductions.

If you lose your job, make sure you put money aside to get through the time between now and when you secure another position. Keep expenditures down and pay down your credit card and other balances that charge ludicrously high interest rates. Switch investments from risky assets to something more secure or dividend-paying.

Consider going back to school to learn a new profession that is marketable and pays well. This is what happened after the dot-com bubble burst, the financial crisis and the beginning of the pandemic. People took shelter, not only at home, but in colleges, MBA programs and law school.

They used the economic downturn to learn and earn more, once they’ve finished their education. You could also take on gig work, start a side hustle or pivot toward starting a business. Use the time wisely to reevaluate what you really want to do with your work-life.

I am a CEO, founder, and executive recruiter at one of the oldest and largest global search firms in my area of expertise

Source: Don’t Panic: How To Protect Yourself From A Possible Recession

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Cryptocurrencies are Crashing So How Low Will Bitcoin Go

With bitcoin crashing – in fact, the entire cryptocurrency sector crashing – I thought I should quickly cover it today. Needless to say, it’s not pretty. At all.

Faith in cryptocurrencies has been battered – in most cases, quite rightly

This time last year, bitcoin went on one its monster runs above $60,000. It then had one of its monster crashes. I can’t remember if it was on these pages or on Twitter, but somewhere I suggested that a reasonable target for the correction might be $20,000.

$20,000 was the old high from the 2017 boom and bust and an obvious pivotal price point. But the correction stopped at $30,000, or just below.The conclusion I drew – and on current evidence wrongly drew – was that, as bitcoin matured, its volatility was declining. The 90% corrections of previous bull markets were now 50%-60% corrections.

Bitcoin had a second run above $60,000 in the autumn, followed by another of its humongous corrections, and lo and behold, $30,000 held again (actually just below, but I use round numbers as they are more readable).

As an asset, bitcoin has become highly correlated to the Nasdaq and tech stocks and, as we all know, tech stocks have been walloped. Peloton, for example, which we wrote about yesterday, is down over 90%.So over the past fortnight, I was quite encouraged to see bitcoin holding up quite well relative to other tech stocks. $30,000 looked like it was a floor.

Then we got the collapse in the protocol Terra, and its so-called stablecoin UST, which John covered earlier in the week, and the sector has been absolutely battered.This is big, and it’s going to take some recovering from. The bubble of 2016 was verging-on the-fraudulent ICOs. Today it’s staking and stable coins. The yields on staking – over 20% in some cases – were unsustainable and so they have not been sustained. (If you’re baffled as to what I’m talking about here, don’t worry, you haven’t missed out and at this stage it’s very much for the best).

Hundreds of thousands of people have lost money, in some cases fortunes, and the reputational damage to crypto is considerable. All those who declared that “crypto is a fraud” are now looking wise, while those, myself to an extent included, who made the argument that bitcoin is a hedge against currency debasement are looking stupid, given that it is off some 65% from its highs.

Bitcoin will survive (again) but it’s likely to hit $20,000 and could go even lower

Of course, bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are not one and the same. Bitcoin remains a product of technical and open-source genius, but forever in its wake, and surrounding it, are disasters, gaffes, frauds and scams.Altcoins, NFTs, the Metaverse, Defi, staking, whatever the latest buzz thing is – all of it is puking value, and the bubble has well and truly burst. Again.

And there lies the keyword – again. This is not the first time this has happened, and it will not be the last. And, for all the junk that surrounds it, bitcoin keeps plodding on. As I write it sits at $27,500. I can’t see how it doesn’t retest $20,000 in the coming days.

We hope $20,000 holds, but these are horrible, horrible, horrible markets – and I’m not just talking about crypto. It was oil going bananas in 2008, rising to $150 a barrel, which triggered that collapse. It seems like something not too dissimilar is happening now, following oil’s spike to $130 last month.

There will be a lot of forced sellers out there – leveraged players (those using borrowed money) and so on. So we are going to see a lot of liquidation. My advice, if you own quality assets, and you don’t have to sell, is not to.

Gold, bitcoin, good companies – whatever. Their price may go lower, but if you are not confident you can beat the market, then don’t sell. Because just as bubbles always burst, so does quality always come good. And bitcoin itself – I’m not talking about other cryptocurrenciesbitcoin itself is a quality asset.

There’s even a chance it could go back to its corona-panic lows of March 2020. Heck, everything else seems to be going that way. That would take us to $3,000. I would have thought that unlikely, but never say never, especially in these markets. If you think you can beat the market, as I say, go for it. If not, HODL quality. Don’t trade it.

By: Dominic Frisby

Source: Cryptocurrencies are crashing – so how low will bitcoin go? | MoneyWeek

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How To Buy Bitcoin At 26% Off The Regular Price

Here’s a scorecard on eight ways to own crypto. The most intriguing: a low-cost coin trust available at a nice discount.

Are you interested in virtual currency, now trading at half the price it had last fall? Shop around. Among the many ways to get a piece of the action, there are wide differences in ownership costs. My favorite: a somewhat obscure bitcoin trust to be found in Fairfield, Connecticut.

There are pros and cons to every means of getting cryptocurrency exposure, including the little outfit in Fairfield. This survey covers eight bitcoin bets in descending order of my views on their desirability. You may have a different ranking, especially if you are speculating on a quick turnaround.

#1. Osprey Bitcoin Trust

This quasi-fund (ticker: OBTC), created a little over a year ago, is a knockoff of the much better-known Grayscale Bitcoin Trust. Both trusts are closed-end, in that investors have no right to redeem shares in return for cash or underlying assets.

Osprey is a lot more cost-efficient, with an annual expense ratio of 0.8% versus Grayscale’s 2%. These expense figures incorporate both portfolio management and custody costs.

The trusts trade at discounts to the value of the bitcoins they hold: recently 26% at Osprey, 28% at Grayscale. With either, you are making a bet both on crypto and on that discount. If the discount widens, you’re worse off than you would have been with a coin purchase. If it narrows, you have a windfall.

What might widen the discounts: a continued fall in crypto prices. Bear markets have a way of doing double damage to closed-ends, depressing their share prices even faster than prices decline on the assets they hold. That’s been true of stock funds since the Great Depression and it’s likely to be true of crypto trusts.

It’s happening right now. A 12% fall in bitcoin between Friday afternoon on May 6 and Monday afternoon precipitated a 16% fall in Grayscale’s price.

But the discounts might go away. That would happen if the Securities & Exchange Commission permits exchange-traded funds to hold virtual currencies. Both Grayscale and Osprey have vowed to convert their closed-end trusts to ETFs as soon as such things are allowed.

The ETF structure allows market makers to cash in unwanted fund shares (or buy new shares when shares are sought after) via a swap for underlying assets. That sets up an arbitrage that keeps an ETF’s price close to the fund’s net asset value.

So far the agency has rejected every application for a coin ETF, although last year it did green-light an ETF that holds bitcoin futures contracts. Why the distinction? The futures trade on the heavily regulated Chicago Mercantile Exchange, while coins trade in somewhat murkier venues.

A bearish view of coin trusts comes from Tyler Odean, publisher of Something Interesting, an insightful Substack newsletter on crypto. “The time horizon [for an SEC approval] is long,” he says. “Between now and then the discount is likely to deepen as the number of competitive ways to hold bitcoin also deepens.”

Still, I think the bet in favor of an eventually favorable ruling from the regulators is a reasonable one. Risky, yes, but not as risky as the underlying asset. It’s far more likely that bitcoin will crash another 50% than that the discount will make a comparable move from 26% to 63% (meaning: Your trust collapses from 74 cents on the dollar to 37 cents).

One more concern: liquidity. Osprey has but $100 million of coins in its vault, and its average daily share volume over the past year would be worth $400,000 at today’s share price. Big bettors have to step in cautiously.

#2. Your wallet

You can purchase bitcoins on an exchange, then have them exported to your cold-storage wallet. Market analyst Odean has used this for his long-term bets.

Pros: No counterparty risk. No management fee. If you do it right, no hacker risk.

Con: You might not do it right.

Self-storage entails a fairly elaborate procedure to protect your private key from being lost or stolen. Next week you might walk into an open elevator shaft, so you need some mechanism for survivors to retrieve that key. The computer you use to generate the private and public keys for your coin repository has to be permanently isolated from the internet. The medium on which the secret is stored must be secure; Odean mentions an etched piece of metal as an option.

There are services (Casa, Ledger and others) that make this process less painful, but ease of use comes with some increment of risk.

#3. Exchange storage

You could leave your coins for safekeeping at a coin exchange. If you want that asset segregated, and thus safe from the exchange’s creditors, yours’ll have to pay a custody fee.

At Coinbase Global, where the minimum account size for this service is $500,000, the fee is 0.5% a year. Some customers get a better deal. Osprey, which recently switched its custody from Fidelity Investments to Coinbase, appears to be paying 0.25% or less (its financial statements don’t reveal an exact amount).

If you can stomach some counterparty risk, or you just want assets available for trading, you can leave your coins in a deposit account at no charge. This is the crypto equivalent of keeping your Tesla shares in a margin account. But, unlike stocks at a brokerage firm, coins left with an exchange have no Securities Investor Protection Corp. to back them if the middleman gets into financial trouble.

#4. Foreign ETF

While our SEC bides its time, the Canadian regulator has authorized exchange-traded funds that hold cryptocurrency. One of them is the Purpose Bitcoin ETF, which holds coins now worth just over $1 billion.

Pro: The fund trades at very close to net asset value. The shares that are quoted (in Toronto) in U.S. dollars see $4 million of average daily volume.

Cons: The 1.5% annual expense ratio is a lot higher than Osprey’s. It’s not easy to get your hands on these shares in the U.S., as most brokers will refuse the buy order. On the Fidelity platform you can find Purpose under the ticker BTCC_U:CA, but it takes some digging.

#5. Grayscale Bitcoin Trust

This entity (GBTC) is the elder cousin of Osprey.

Pro: Liquidity. This trust has $20 billion of coins and sees an average daily share volume now worth $140 million.

Con: The stiff fee, 2% a year.

#6. Futures

CME Group’s Chicago Mercantile Exchange lists bitcoin futures contracts, each for five coins. Trading volume, almost all of it in the nearest month, typically runs to $1 billion a day. Settlement is in dollars; no wallets are involved.

Pros: Good liquidity, minimal counterparty risk and the potential for leverage. You can control $2 of crypto by putting down $1 of cash.

Cons: Taxes, trading costs and contango. Bitcoin futures share these three afflictions with many commodity futures.

At tax time you have to declare paper gains and losses on futures, with 40% treated as short-term (at high tax rates).

Rolling over your futures position monthly, which you probably would do in order to stay in the most actively traded contract, will cost you 12 commissions and bid/ask spreads per year.

The contango is a big deal. It means that the futures price at which you’re buying is at a premium to the spot price. On bitcoins the contango is a volatile number usually falling between 3% and 6% annualized. Contango reflects both the cost of financing a stockpile of a commodity and the cost of securing it. In the case of crypto, securing the asset against hackers is not simple (see #2 above).

Futures aren’t bad for day-to-day trading. They are a poor choice for someone hoping to achieve a long-term gain.

#7. Futures ETF

The ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF (BITO) holds long positions in bitcoin futures. Here, atop the steep contango of the Chicago trading pits, you have the opportunity to fork over an additional fee: the 0.95% a year assessed by the fund.

ProShares has attracted $900 million for this product. From naïfs.

#8. MicroStrategy

Chairman Michael Saylor has turned this business analytics firm into a crypto betting parlor. The corporation has used mostly borrowed money to acquire 129,200 bitcoins.

The stock had an interesting day May 9. With bitcoin down 14% from where it was Friday afternoon, MicroStrategy shares went down 26%.

Tyler Odean sees these shares as a simultaneous bet on three things: crypto, a mediocre software business and Saylor’s ability to withstand margin calls. He likes the first bet but not the other two.

I aim to help you save on taxes and money management costs. I graduated from Harvard in 1973, have been a journalist for 45 years, and was editor of Forbes magazine from 1999 to

Source: How To Buy Bitcoin At 26% Off The Regular Price

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Sanctioning Russia On The Blockchain: Following The Money To A Network Of OTC Providers

Sanctions can only work if those who are supposed to enforce them understand exactly what to do so that they cannot be circumvented easily. Russia’s extensive network of Over-The-Counter (OTC) providers requires an extensive review by sanction committees, as they might be adopted to circumvent sanctions.

As described in the previous release, due to the limited liquidity of cryptocurrencies and Decentralized Finance space in general, it remains close to impossible for Russia to circumvent SWIFT-based systems by using crypto. However, Russians might still hold up to $200 Billion USD in crypto assets, besides running the third-largest crypto mining industry in the world. These funds can potentially be cashed out with Russian OTC providers.

The fifth EU sanction package on Russia limits the crypto asset holdings of Russian nationals, individuals, and legal entities established in Russia to €10,000 (with the same account, wallet or custody provider). The use of Russian OTC providers, which represents a network of physical providers offering cash payouts from crypto, could be adopted to circumvent these sanctions.

In oversimplified terms, OTC refers to a process in which individuals theoretically could agree on a price and meet to complete a transaction. An example of such a process could be a personal meeting in which one side brings bags with cash or any other pre-agreed means of value, and the other side could conduct a transaction on the blockchain on the spot. Transactions primarily with larger sums of money could be risky, to say the least.

Contrarily to peer-to-peer exchanges (P2P) which involve independent parties, OTC exchanges act comparable to physical pawn shops. At dedicated physical locations with announced opening hours, individuals can visit and exchange their cryptocurrencies in Russia for cash or bank transfers.

Depending on the business models of virtual assets service providers (VASPs), both OTC and P2P providers have existed in various jurisdictions since the beginning of financial interactions between individuals.

An example of such a platform in the EU is LocalBitcoin, registered with the Finnish Financial Supervisory Authority. Unlike Russian OTC providers which are subject to the 6th Anti Money Laundering Directive of the EU and connected to its so-called Counter-Terrorism Financing (CTF) legislation, LocalBitcoin is a unique case.

Existence of such a platform in the EU is only possible in Finland, as the rest of the EU has followed the recommendation of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to define and include Digital Assets in the national legislation and created an oversight program as a regulator.

It can be argued that the current regulatory frameworks remain far from perfect, but there is increased interest in incorporating DeFi into traditional financial compliance programs.

Such requirements to register a P2P or OTC exchange are way different within the Russian Federation. On the one hand, Russia approved use of cryptocurrency as an investment tool or a payment method as of Q1 2021 but on the other its national bank proposed a long list of bans that should outlaw the circulation of cryptocurrencies within the country.

Due to such unclear legal circumstances, licensing and supervisory programs are close to non-existent. In the absence of platforms that have chosen ‘compliance excellence’ as their differentiating business strategy, for example, Coinbase or some Scandinavian VASPs, many Russian providers have to operate in the gray space to say the least.

What is surprising is the fact that even though Russians store up to one fifth of the national bank’s reserves in digital assets, the public side has decided to not provide much clarity for the VASPs or any other players in Decentralized Finance (DeFi).

By not providing clarity for players in the Digital Assets space, the governments in Moscow and Minsk continue to lose on potential tax revenues and regulatory oversight of over 623 crypto platforms identified so far, associated with Russia and Belarus. The logic to continue to lose out on easily taxable capital gain from crypto investments remains questionable.

“Is it not paradoxical that despite the Russian Prime Minister stating that Russians hold $200 Billion USD in crypto, Russia has not yet formulated a comprehensive legislation to legalize crypto or set a taxation process for it?” — Dominika Kuberska, PhD, Faculty of Economic Sciences, University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn.

With the absence of regulated players in Russia, there is a well-developed gray market of OTC exchanges that facilitate the trade of Digital Assets in exchange for rubles using both cash and bank transfers.

Sources, who desire to remain anonymous, underline that bank transfers to individuals or entities from OTC brokers are labeled as payments for IT or consultancy services. The Russian government will officially tax profits from such transfers with personal or corporate income tax (PIT, CIT).

Moreover, for customers that desire to purchase or exchange a significant amount of digital assets, there are at least ten physical brokers in Moscow or even price comparison websites like BestChange.ru that display the current rates of OTC providers in various regions.

Due to the nature of the business model, customers can often exchange cash for digital assets at the physical offices of these exchanges which can be visited by both individuals and the members of the Russian financial supervisory authorities, in case they would acknowledge their existence.

The majority of OTC providers operate without identifying their customers. Multiple sources report on direct cooperation between dedicated Ponzi schemes or sanctioned brokers with OTC providers. Even if hard evidence such as an agreement or email exchange between confirmed parties is continuously being collected, blockchain based analytics continues to provide indications for illicit transactions.

Russia has been connected with an elevated amount of illicit activities for a country that has a population of 144 million, which is 1.5 times bigger than that of Germany.

“Russia has surprisingly large amounts of confirmed illicit “Unicorns” like BTC-e/WEX exchange, Hydra dark web marketplace, dozens of pyramid schemes like PRIZM, the largest ransomware attacks and other cybercrimes which experts consider to be possibly parts of state-sponsored-activities” – Oleksii Fisun, Co-founder of Global Ledger Protocol.

With so many confirmed illicit activities coming out of one jurisdiction, it remains worth investigating how profits from illegal activities could be potentially cashed out. As described extensively in the previous article, the advantage of a public blockchain is that it remains visible and traceable.

An example of such confirmed illicit activity that could be cashed out with a Russian OTC provider, would be funds allocated in a cryptocurrency wallet provider called Konvert.im. It includes more than 100 transactions and has more than 69% exposure to funds originating from newly sanctioned Hydra Darknet Marketplace.

As Konvert.im represents an exchange, most certainly, their compliance must be aware of the origination of those funds from sanctioned Hydra. It is within such schemes the funds might be mixed with other funds that could potentially be forwarded to OTC providers for cash out.

Regardless of the choice of the provider used for Blockchain based analytics, due to the nature of Blockchain based investigations that accumulate all of the funds and its traces on the Blockchain between different brokers, there will always be a certain exposure to illicit traffic, which most likely will be at a single digit percentage wise.

Similar to accepting a physical banknote at the local farmer’s market, there could be a possibility that this banknote was used to conduct illicit activity in the past. This connection to illicit activity remains invisible on the banknote itself, but such a transaction is perfectly visible on the Blockchain.

Having said that, it remains impossible to state that an exposure of 69% to Hydra has been a technical mistake. It should rather be perceived as a dedicated action and tracing the money from Konvert.im to a Russian OTC provider might serve as a symbol that this strategy can and might be adopted to circumvent SWIFT-based sanctions and easily bypass a limitation specified in the fifth EU sanction package.

I’ve specialised in the topics on the intersection between Information Systems, Fintech, Insurtech, Cryptocurrency, Blockchain – Distributed Ledger Technologies

Source: Sanctioning Russia On The Blockchain: Following The Money To A Network Of OTC Providers

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What Does The Future Hold For Bitcoin Mining?

From the outside looking in, it seems like a hard life earning a crust on the bitcoin mining breadline. Last year, when China imposed a blanket ban on the practice within its borders, a small army of miners hastily scrambled into action, powering down their machines, closing shop and redeploying their equipment overseas. Within a matter of months, China went from controlling two-thirds of all bitcoin mining worldwide to effectively exiting stage left.

Cryptocurrency miners are nothing if not resilient, but in few other industries would one have to up sticks and move country just to keep the lights on. It isn’t a case of hopping across a land border either. At considerable expense, ousted miners had to ship many tonnes of equipment from mainland China to far-flung territories such as the United States, Russia, Kazakhstan and Canada. If China left a gaping void it has been hurriedly filled, with Kazakhstan in particular cultivating a reputation as a mining hub.

Of course, things move fast in the much-maligned mining world. In recent weeks, Kazakh authorities have talked up significant tax increases for miners, some of whom are “severely damaging” the country’s energy system according to minister of digital development Bagdat Musin. The intrepid miners who made a home in the Central Asian Republic after being banished from China may soon be dusting off their passports, again.

Sandra Ro, the CEO of the Global Blockchain Business Council, speaking at the Senate Agriculture Hearing into cryptocurrencies in February addressed climate concerns related to bitcoin mining saying, “What we have today is actually an opportunity… mining has shifted to the U.S., Canada, and Nordic countries… [so, Congress] should encourage crypto mining firms to set up in an environment with (global) oversight, [to] champion the increase in renewables for the industry.”

Against this chaotic backdrop, it’s worth asking where is bitcoin mining headed? Will more countries join China and others in imposing outright bans? Or will stances soften thanks to the efforts of the Bitcoin Mining Council and eco-friendly innovations like Bitmain’s liquid-cooled rig?

Nothing less than the future of bitcoin is at stake, and with it the chance to exercise financial self-sovereignty via a decentralized cryptocurrency revered as digital gold. This, more that ever, in the current state of global political and economic volatility, is increasingly seen as a human right in the free world.

Bitcoin Mining: The Origin Story

Mining, of course, is the process that brings fresh bitcoin into being. The eponymous blockchain, which recently celebrated its 13th anniversary, depends on a Proof-of-Work (PoW) consensus algorithm that compels miners to solve mathematical problems that are difficult to solve but easy to verify.

Amid fierce competition from rival miners, PoW math problems are tackled and deciphered in exchange for a set quantity of bitcoin known as a block subsidy. This subsidy is then added to the sum of the transaction fees held in the block that is being mined to make up the block reward.

Just as gold-mining is the only way to increase the supply of the world’s most valuable precious metal, bitcoin mining is the only way to increase the supply of bitcoin. Of course, the currency does have a hard cap of 21 million bitcoins – so nodes can’t go on “producing” new bitcoin ad infinitum. Based on bitcoin’s predictable issuance model, the final coin will be mined some time around 2140.

Against all odds, Proof-of-Work has kept bitcoin ticking along for 13 years now with no recorded instances of double-spending. Those who expend electricity to verify transactions have a strong incentive to maintain the ledger’s integrity, and because PoW makes the cost of writing a block punishingly high, the security of the bitcoin network is more robust than it’s ever been. In fact, even if an attacker were to marshal 100 percent of the network hash rate, he would need over two years to completely rewrite the ledger dating back to January 3, 2009.

The Proof-of-Work PR War

Proof-of-Work is considered a marvel by bitcoin maximalists. As inventions go, they put it up there with the lightbulb and telephone. PoW has continued to attract criticism however, with many deeming the industrial-scale use of computing and electrical power wasteful. This has become the great bitcoin energy debate.

Such censure is not, on the face of it, unmerited. According to the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index, the bitcoin network consumes 125.1 Terawatt Hours (TWh) per year, a little more than Ukraine (124.5) and a bit less than Egypt (149), a country that has banned bitcoin, along with Iraq, Qatar, Oman, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Bangladesh. In the CBECI’s country rankings, bitcoin currently occupies 27th place.

Should a borderless cryptocurrency really consume more electricity than nation states? That depends on your perspective. If you’re a net-zero energy campaigner, the answer is probably no. If you believe the people of the world need a self-sovereign digital asset now more than ever, the answer is clearly yes.

Certainly, the miners are undeterred. 2021 saw the highest miner revenues to date, a remarkable fact given the block subsidy is halved every four years. Last year, bitcoin miners raked in $16.7 billion in revenue, more than the combined takings of the previous three years.

Evidently, China’s crackdown didn’t hit miners in their pockets the way many had expected. Perhaps that was just blind luck, China’s ban coinciding with bitcoin’s best year, but whatever way you look at it, miners seem to shrug off adversity with breathtaking ease.

Prior to Russia’s war with Ukraine, the central bank of Russia called for an outright ban on cryptocurrency mining, with a recent report claiming the “potential financial stability risks associated with cryptocurrencies are much higher for emerging markets, including in Russia.”

The pendulum has swung with Western governments concerned that Russian’s central bank, the regime, and oligarchs will now use cryptocurrency to evade sanctions, a concern that most agencies believe to be unfounded due to the inability of the cryptocurrency ecosystem to process such large volumes – bitcoin can’t fund a war.

Erik Thedéen, vice chairman of the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), has meanwhile urged the EU’s 27 member states to ban Proof-of-Work mining, claiming PoW has become a national issue in his native Sweden due to the amount of renewable energy it uses. This itself is an interesting observation, since critics normally slate bitcoin for its dirty energy usage.

A few weeks back, concerns were raised by a text circulated by the European Parliament that created a defacto ban on proof of work consensus mechanisms in the EU. Following advocacy work from the industry, MEP Stefan Berger, the Parliament rapporteur, postponed the committee vote on February 28 and revisited the text highlighting the fostering innovation mandate of MiCA and its importance in this and setting global standards. As such, the text removed the reference to the ban.

A new text was inserted on the March 9 which is the one that will be voted on Monday March 14, now re-enters wording but instead creates a phase-out approach. The operative text in article 2a, makes no reference to proof of work consensus mechanisms directly but instead refers to those crypto assets already in issuance putting in place a phased rollout plan to ensure compliance with the minimum environmental sustainability standards.

Lavan Thasarathakumar, EMEA government and policy director at Global Digital Finance says, “What this means in practice will only become clear through the delegated acts with: the intensive consumption of energy; the use of real resources; carbon emissions; electronic waste; the specifics of incentive design; and, the scale of operation of the crypto asset being the attributing factors.

The text as sent to vote does include two recitals 5a and 5aa, which includes reference to proof of work consensus mechanisms and its propensity to be energy intensive, however crucially, the call for action is in the non-legislative part of the text but also asks for action to be taken on a horizontal basis as opposed to being product specific – good policy making.”

U.S. President Biden issued an Executive Order last week on Digital Assets paving the way for a new era of digital innovation, better coordinated cross-agency collaboration with industry, and ensuring America maintains its market leading position as the world’s digital innovation hub.

E.U. parliamentarians are advised to pay close attention to the digital space race unfolding with the China ban and Russia at war, Europe’s responsibility to open and fair competitive markets should be clear, and bitcoin and the crypto industry are key to this future.

“Banning mining is becoming a trend in the medium term,” observes Louis Cleroux, CEO of Canadian crypto platform Timechain. “Bitcoin miners need to find creative ways to reach agreements with countries right now. Using wasted energy with miners should be something to consider.”

Cleroux’s latter point is worth emphasizing, particularly as the bitcoin energy debate heats up. For all its energy demands, mining could actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions by consuming methane that would otherwise be leaked into the atmosphere via flaring.

On February 15, oil and gas giant ConocoPhillips confirmed that it was selling extra flare gas to bitcoin miners in North Dakota, part of its commitment to reduce routine flaring to zero by 2030. Ostensibly, the company will allocate gas that would otherwise be burned off to a pilot project managed by a third party, effectively making bitcoin a load balancer for energy waste.

“We need to increase awareness on actual losses we incur due to our inability to store energy,” says Louis Cleroux. “Selling excess energy to miners is the best for both parties. Also, in a Proof-of-Work ecosystem, the winning miners are the ones who are able to be competitive in terms of hashrate /energy cost. This competitive system promotes healthy competition between miners to push for more efficient mining activities.”

Eco-Friendly Evolution

According to Erik Thedéen, the crypto industry as a whole should be nudged towards Proof-of-Stake, a less energy-intensive form of mining wherein users stake coins to become validators. With this model, staking replaces the computational arms race of Proof-of-Work, with validators selected at random to add a block to the ledger. Number two network Ethereum is in the process of transitioning to Proof-of-Stake, a move which it’s claimed could reduce its energy use by up to 99.95 percent.

For the moment, though, there is no sign that the Bitcoin network will abandon its tried and tested Proof-of-Work mechanism. The model has stood the test of time and PoW is more decentralized than its energy-lite counterpart, aligning incentives to secure all transactions.

According to bitcoin bull Michael Saylor, PoW architecture “anchors the crypto-asset network physically and politically to the firmament of reality, driving ferocious competition in the marketplace to decentralize, improve, and secure the network, thus assuring vitality and integrity over time.”

Saylor’s business intelligence firm MicroStrategy is one of the world’s major bitcoin hodlers, having acquired 125,051 BTC for around $3.8 billion, and earning the company huge profits in the process. Last summer, amid mounting criticism from energy activists, Saylor co-founded the Bitcoin Mining Council to promote energy usage transparency and accelerate sustainability initiatives worldwide.

In its most recent report, the Council noted “dramatic improvements to bitcoin mining energy efficiency and sustainability due to advances in semiconductor technology, the rapid expansion of North American mining, the China Exodus, and worldwide rotation toward sustainable energy and modern mining techniques.”

Overall, the report put the percentage of renewable-powered bitcoin mining at 58.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2021, a modest once percent rise since Q3. Nonetheless, things seem to be moving in the right direction. Ultimately, miners will always strive to seek out the lowest cost of power production they can find and the Council aims to highlight green options at every turn.

SpaceX founder and Tesla CEO Elon Musk was instrumental in bringing the Council into being, after all, it was the billionaire’s decision to reverse course on the acceptance of bitcoin for Tesla vehicles that reignited the debate around PoW. Musk even sat in on the inaugural Bitcoin Mining Council meeting last May. Energy concerns aside, Tesla still holds around $2 billion worth of bitcoin on its balance sheet.

“There are many initiatives that address criticism of bitcoin’s energy usage,” notes Maud Simon, COO of sharded blockchain Alephium, “Some are building alliances for clean mining, some are mining green blocks with certified hydro electricity, and others are attempting to reduce the quantity of energy required.

By capping energy consumption to less than an eighth of bitcoin’s after a certain threshold, our Proof-of-Less-Work innovation provides an example of how PoW chains can address the energy sustainability questions without sacrificing security and decentralization.”

One high-profile company that’s recently entered the mining business is Intel. Soon the California corporation will release its first crypto-focused chip, which it says provides “1,000x better performance per watt than mainstream GPUs for SHA-256 based mining.”

Dubbed Blockchain Accelerator, the chip will put Intel in direct competition with the likes of Bitmain, Canaan, and Nvidia. We’ll soon know whether the technology is all it’s cracked up to be. The first two companies to trial the chip will be Argo Blockchain and Block (formerly known as Square).

Existing hardware specialists are not deaf to the criticism of PoW. Bitmain’s latest mining rig, the S19 Pro+ Hydro, utilizes liquid cooling technology to reduce heat, power consumption and noise, with the added benefit of extending the machine’s lifespan. By deploying the machines, U.S. mining firm Merkle Standard expects to be net carbon negative by the end of 2022.

Clearly, the bitcoin mining industry as a whole is drifting away from polluting energies and embracing a more sustainable matrix that includes solar, wind, geothermal and hydro-electrical. Even nuclear sources are being tapped, as in the case of the fast-growing Mawson Infrastructure Group. Where an energy balance is not carbon free, Mawson uses carbon credits to offset its emissions.

Adrian Eidelman, Co-founder of smart contract platform and bitcoin sidechain RSK says, “The primary running costs for bitcoin miners is energy consumption, and they therefore have a clear incentive to find and maintain cheap sources, which are often renewable. Larger bitcoin mining farms are often located in remote locations, close to these energy sources, and take advantage of low energy costs that would either go to waste or be impossible to transfer to large cities.”

Mining has, to a large extent, taken place in the shadows up to this point. But that is beginning to change. We need only look at the launch of the first ever Bitcoin Miners ETF on the Nasdaq stock market. Rather than offering exposure to BTC itself, the product, which was pioneered by crypto asset manager Valkyrie, gives investors exposure to companies specializing in hardware or software used for mining the asset.

Looking to the Future

Aside from the criticism that stems from Proof-of-Work’s energy-intensive nature, questions have been raised concerning the longevity of the mining industry itself. After all, over 90 percent of bitcoin’s total supply has already been mined. With the block subsidy halving every four years (the next one’s due in 2024), won’t bitcoin have to see continual price appreciation for mining to remain profitable?

Well, yes. But that’s exactly what miners are banking on. While there is only 10 percent of bitcoin’s pre-programmed fixed supply left to mine, mainstream investors have only recently begun to look seriously at the asset class, suggesting there is plenty of room for growth. Bitcoin’s absolute scarcity, security and decentralization continue to make it a desirable digital asset for buyers.

And what happens when the final block has been confirmed, the last ever bitcoin mined?

One can only speculate what life will look like in 2140, but it’s entirely plausible that mining will continue. As mentioned earlier, miners receive a reward in every block they mine, made up of the block subsidy and the transaction fees.

In decades to come, the purchase power of bitcoin may be so strong, that the payout for the latter is enough to compel miners to maintain the ledger and mine blocks even in the absence of new bitcoins. It’s even possible that bitcoin will come to be regarded as so valuable a monetary base, that humans will allocate resources to keep the ledger alive despite money being lost when securing the network.

“Bitcoin mining will become an asset strategy of many countries in the future, and those opposing it will only be sacrificing their own prosperity by reducing innovation as well as jobs and wealth creation,” predicts RSK’s Adrian Eidelman.

Whatever happens, cryptocurrencies and mining will likely be front and center in the coming months, not just in the the great energy debate, but also in the social and political debate of the peoples’ rights to access self-sovereign cryptocurrency, a debate the will continue to be openly and productively led by the industry.

I cover fintech, crypto and digital assets, and sustainable finance and investments, and promote policies for a transparent, secure, and quality digital financial

Source: What Does The Future Hold For Bitcoin Mining?

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Ongoing global chip shortage capped the capacity of new mining machines globally.

The U.S. and Canada have quickly risen to be the uncontested hashrate capitals of the world

What Does Hashrate Mean and Why Does It Matter

Kazakhstan’s Crypto Miners Face New Regulations After Contributing to Power Shortages

Hut 8 Mining, recently closed a $173 million public offering of common shares

Crypto’s Carbon Footprint Could Hinder Adoption: Deutsche Bank

China Crypto Bans: A Complete History

Why Shouldn’t the Navajo Mine Bitcoin

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CleanSpark bought 20-megawatt-powered immersion cooling infrastructure

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