比特币一个变化,全球更缺电了 – 财富中文网

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今年早些时候,在经受长达数月的集中打击之后,全球最大的比特币(Bitcoin)矿工群体选择离开中国,而邻国哈萨克斯坦则成为了最受出走矿工青睐的目的地之一。根据剑桥大学(Cambridge University)估计,到8月,这个中亚国家在全球区块链行业算力(hashrate)的份额已经跃升至18.1%,相当于6月份额的两倍还多。但在10月中旬,哈萨克斯坦宣布将矿工可用的发电量从2000吉瓦时降至100吉瓦时,大降95%,消息一出,整个行业为之震惊。该国政府之所以做出此种决定,是因为大量矿场全天24小时运营,ASIC计算机堆成了一座座小山,耗电量巨大,导致该国电网已经到了崩溃边缘,停电时有发生,居民用电得不到保证,工厂也因此而停产。在哈萨克斯坦成为全球“挖矿”中心、蓬勃发展数月之后,该国政府也开始清理挖矿设备和矿工,让这些“无家可归者”只得再次寻找欢迎他们的落脚点。
哈萨克斯坦重拳出击,为行业敲响警钟
从哈萨克斯坦此次的政策调整可以明显看出比特币面临的一大潜在风险,其影响之深远甚至可能远超令埃隆·马斯克这样的拥趸担忧的巨大碳足迹风险。简而言之,一国所能够供应的能源有其限度,在许多情况下,矿工使用的能源越多,可供家庭和企业使用的能源就越少,甚至可能导致停电事件,引发公众强烈抗议,进而迫使政府采取相应行动。其他率先向矿工递出橄榄枝的国家,包括伊朗和加拿大(特别是魁北克省),为避免出现能源危机,现在也纷纷对矿工所能使用的电量加以严格限制。危险在于,随着一个又一个国家对挖矿祭出禁止或限制措施,矿工只得转移到其他电力成本较低并对其持欢迎态度的新地点,随着矿工不断聚集,这些地方的电力负荷也会不堪重负,导致矿工不得不再次迁移,直到最后,愿意接纳矿工的国家越来越少,流离失所的矿工数量却越来越多。而愿意接纳矿工的国家越少,这些国家背负的负担也就越大。哈萨克斯坦或许就是倒下的第一块多米诺骨牌,这场危机或将让全球最大的加密数字货币大伤元气,甚至就此消亡。
荷兰经济学家亚历克斯·德·弗里斯说:“矿工现在必须找到其他可以供应大量能源的安身之地。哈萨克斯坦削减的电力供给相当于爱尔兰全国的发电量。现在,矿工必须在其他地方找到这么多电力供应。”弗里斯的网站Digiconomist专门追踪比特币的碳排放和能源使用情况。大批流离失所的矿工和新入场者有很大的动力去寻找新的落脚地。其原因主要有两个:首先,中国严打挖矿企业减少了行业竞争,让那些正在运营的矿工在全球市场上获得了更大的份额,也吸引了许多新入场者来填补中国矿工留下的空白;第二,比特币价格再次迎来暴涨,现在已经高出成本数倍。这让比特币挖矿变得非常有利可图,甚至已经成为全球最容易赚钱的行业。德·弗里斯估计,矿工平均每度电的电费支出约为5美分,挖一枚比特币需1.9万美元电费。相较之下,目前比特币的售价在6.2万美元左右,是其成本的三倍有余。就目前而言,矿工挖矿的利润率可谓闻所未闻,甚至连奢侈品、香烟或软件都无法望其项背。
如果价格继续保持在目前水平,那么无论是持证矿工还是非法矿工都将继续蜂拥而至。德·弗里斯表示:“只有当生产比特币的成本接近比特币价格时,这种情况才会停止。”换句话说,除非电力消耗过大、电费成本让挖矿变得无利可图,否则将会有越来越多的矿工继续耗费越来越多的电力来争夺新生成的比特币。德·弗里斯指出:“当比特币价格达到4万美元时,电力消耗已经出现上升。我估计,当价格达到62000美元时,电力消耗将从现在的180太瓦时增加到260太瓦时(译者注:1太瓦时为10亿度电),增长44%。”因此,随着越来越多的国家开始禁止挖矿,剩下的几个“挖矿中心”将需要为该行业提供远超当前水平的电力供应。
越来越多的国家开始禁止或限制比特币挖矿活动
大规模挖矿导致的电力短缺问题已经在一些曾经欢迎比特币的地区引发强烈反弹。为对抗贸易制裁对经济的影响,伊朗曾经大力支持挖矿活动,将比特币视为赚取数十亿美元收入的重要产业。但在今年5月,受全面停电影响,伊朗总统鲁哈尼决定在夏季叫停挖矿活动。鲁哈尼担心,矿工用电过多会导致伊朗公民在炎热的夏季无法正常使用空调。此后,伊朗政府又准许矿工重新开始挖矿,但对该行业能够使用的电力总量实行了严格的配额限制。伊朗曾经迅速增长的算力份额现在已经下降到4%以下。伊朗打击挖矿产业的行动甚至引发了多起热点新闻事件,比如矿工向试图关闭矿场的政府人员开火,甚至德黑兰证券交易所(Teheran stock exchange)的负责人也因为在交易大厅非法挖矿而黯然下台。这个波斯国家将不会再为新入场者和流离失所的矿工提供避难所,他们需要到地球的其他地方寻找安身之地。
或许你从未听说过阿布哈兹(我以前就不知道这个地方),更别说可以念出它的名字了。但长期以来,这个由俄罗斯支持、地处格鲁吉亚北部、拥有25万人口的自治国家一直被视为比特币的“狂野西部”。挖矿在阿布哈兹已经走入千家万户,当地家庭为购买矿机甚至不惜卖掉自己的牲口和汽车,并在厨房里堆满了电脑。为了利用这个小国低至每度电1美分(相当于全球平均水平的五分之一)的超低电价,俄罗斯矿工纷至沓来。2018年,由于电力短缺问题日趋严重,政府决定禁止挖矿活动,尽管非法的“厨房矿场”依然存在。2020年,阿布哈兹曾经短暂解除了“禁挖令”,但由于矿工迅速增加,甚至有变电站因此被焚毁,迫使该国政府再次祭出禁令。该国曾经计划于今年5月解除禁令,但后来又延长期限,改为最早2022年5月解除。受此政策影响,俄罗斯矿工纷纷踏上归途。
事实上,俄罗斯许多地区也已经感受到了压力。来自中国的矿工正在北上到冰天雪地的西伯利亚(开展挖矿活动)。10月中旬,地处西伯利亚东南部,幅员辽阔的伊尔库茨克省的地方长官在给俄罗斯副总理的信中发出了警告。他抱怨称:“按照民用电价格收费的用电量出现了爆炸式增长”,较去年增加了159%。这封信件传达出的信息是,中国矿商带来的矿工应该迁往他处。
别忘了还有魁北克。由于有瀑布、河流带来的巨量水力发电供应,2018年,矿工纷纷将目光投向了这里,并递交了挖矿申请,获批后,相关挖矿活动将消耗大量电力资源。由于担心完全放开挖矿活动会使电网负荷过重,魁北克当局对可以用于挖矿的电力总量进行了限制,而一家挖矿企业就用掉了大部分配额。目前,阿尔伯塔省的大草原已经成为了想要获得廉价天然气的矿工的主要目的地。我们很快就会看到,在这个盛产石油的地区,挖矿产业会否给电力供应造成过重负担,导致家庭、企业无电可用,进而导致魁北克也加入禁止挖矿的行列。
矿工将去向何方?
事实上,比特币世界的版图正在缩小。德·弗里斯认为,拥有挖矿业11%算力、现在排名第三的挖矿中心俄罗斯是一个说得通的去处。但问题在于,普京总统一直谴责比特币是洗钱工具,而西伯利亚也已经开始抵制比特币浪潮。美国目前已经取代中国,成为全球第一算力大国,截至目前,美国还没有出现很多因为挖矿增加而导致电力短缺的情况。
但这种情况并非不可能发生。2017年,华盛顿州的小村镇——韦纳奇(Wenatchee)还对比特币矿工抱持着欢迎态度,后者也希望利用哥伦比亚河提供的水电资源来降低自己的运营成本。2017年,亚历克斯·皮卡德辞去了自己在金融服务业的工作,在韦纳奇的车库和仓库中堆满了各式矿机,并趁着币价暴涨赚得盆满钵盈。他回忆道:“韦纳奇吸引了很多矿工,但问题是,蜂拥而至的矿工数量远远超过了本地人的预期。”很快,由于皮卡德和其他矿工的用电量过大,韦纳奇开始出现居民用电供应短缺的情况。在此背景之下,当地开始加强监管,驱逐矿工。皮卡德称:“当地改变了原有政策,我也是受害者之一。”
但皮卡德对比特币是否会遭受“连环打击”表示怀疑。他说:“大型挖矿企业的风险不会太大,很多此类企业都是上市公司,他们会根据可用电量来规划自己的用电需求。”尽管如此,由于很多人对挖掘比特币、一夜暴富充满渴望,很难想象矿工们能够在不断迁移的过程中不会对已经或接近满负荷运转的电厂和变电站构成冲击。德·弗里斯指出:“比特币挖矿的用电量已经超过英国发电量的一半,并且还在持续增长。当这些矿工离开像哈萨克斯坦这样可以生产大量电力的地方时,他们带走的电力需求往往与一整个国家的发电量相当。”在一个个国家对其关上大门之后,比特币价格的惊人涨势或许正是其面临电力紧缺问题的原因所在。(财富中文网)
译者:梁宇
审校:夏林
今年早些时候,在经受长达数月的集中打击之后,全球最大的比特币(Bitcoin)矿工群体选择离开中国,而邻国哈萨克斯坦则成为了最受出走矿工青睐的目的地之一。根据剑桥大学(Cambridge University)估计,到8月,这个中亚国家在全球区块链行业算力(hashrate)的份额已经跃升至18.1%,相当于6月份额的两倍还多。但在10月中旬,哈萨克斯坦宣布将矿工可用的发电量从2000吉瓦时降至100吉瓦时,大降95%,消息一出,整个行业为之震惊。该国政府之所以做出此种决定,是因为大量矿场全天24小时运营,ASIC计算机堆成了一座座小山,耗电量巨大,导致该国电网已经到了崩溃边缘,停电时有发生,居民用电得不到保证,工厂也因此而停产。在哈萨克斯坦成为全球“挖矿”中心、蓬勃发展数月之后,该国政府也开始清理挖矿设备和矿工,让这些“无家可归者”只得再次寻找欢迎他们的落脚点。
哈萨克斯坦重拳出击,为行业敲响警钟
从哈萨克斯坦此次的政策调整可以明显看出比特币面临的一大潜在风险,其影响之深远甚至可能远超令埃隆·马斯克这样的拥趸担忧的巨大碳足迹风险。简而言之,一国所能够供应的能源有其限度,在许多情况下,矿工使用的能源越多,可供家庭和企业使用的能源就越少,甚至可能导致停电事件,引发公众强烈抗议,进而迫使政府采取相应行动。其他率先向矿工递出橄榄枝的国家,包括伊朗和加拿大(特别是魁北克省),为避免出现能源危机,现在也纷纷对矿工所能使用的电量加以严格限制。危险在于,随着一个又一个国家对挖矿祭出禁止或限制措施,矿工只得转移到其他电力成本较低并对其持欢迎态度的新地点,随着矿工不断聚集,这些地方的电力负荷也会不堪重负,导致矿工不得不再次迁移,直到最后,愿意接纳矿工的国家越来越少,流离失所的矿工数量却越来越多。而愿意接纳矿工的国家越少,这些国家背负的负担也就越大。哈萨克斯坦或许就是倒下的第一块多米诺骨牌,这场危机或将让全球最大的加密数字货币大伤元气,甚至就此消亡。
荷兰经济学家亚历克斯·德·弗里斯说:“矿工现在必须找到其他可以供应大量能源的安身之地。哈萨克斯坦削减的电力供给相当于爱尔兰全国的发电量。现在,矿工必须在其他地方找到这么多电力供应。”弗里斯的网站Digiconomist专门追踪比特币的碳排放和能源使用情况。大批流离失所的矿工和新入场者有很大的动力去寻找新的落脚地。其原因主要有两个:首先,中国严打挖矿企业减少了行业竞争,让那些正在运营的矿工在全球市场上获得了更大的份额,也吸引了许多新入场者来填补中国矿工留下的空白;第二,比特币价格再次迎来暴涨,现在已经高出成本数倍。这让比特币挖矿变得非常有利可图,甚至已经成为全球最容易赚钱的行业。德·弗里斯估计,矿工平均每度电的电费支出约为5美分,挖一枚比特币需1.9万美元电费。相较之下,目前比特币的售价在6.2万美元左右,是其成本的三倍有余。就目前而言,矿工挖矿的利润率可谓闻所未闻,甚至连奢侈品、香烟或软件都无法望其项背。
如果价格继续保持在目前水平,那么无论是持证矿工还是非法矿工都将继续蜂拥而至。德·弗里斯表示:“只有当生产比特币的成本接近比特币价格时,这种情况才会停止。”换句话说,除非电力消耗过大、电费成本让挖矿变得无利可图,否则将会有越来越多的矿工继续耗费越来越多的电力来争夺新生成的比特币。德·弗里斯指出:“当比特币价格达到4万美元时,电力消耗已经出现上升。我估计,当价格达到62000美元时,电力消耗将从现在的180太瓦时增加到260太瓦时(译者注:1太瓦时为10亿度电),增长44%。”因此,随着越来越多的国家开始禁止挖矿,剩下的几个“挖矿中心”将需要为该行业提供远超当前水平的电力供应。
越来越多的国家开始禁止或限制比特币挖矿活动
大规模挖矿导致的电力短缺问题已经在一些曾经欢迎比特币的地区引发强烈反弹。为对抗贸易制裁对经济的影响,伊朗曾经大力支持挖矿活动,将比特币视为赚取数十亿美元收入的重要产业。但在今年5月,受全面停电影响,伊朗总统鲁哈尼决定在夏季叫停挖矿活动。鲁哈尼担心,矿工用电过多会导致伊朗公民在炎热的夏季无法正常使用空调。此后,伊朗政府又准许矿工重新开始挖矿,但对该行业能够使用的电力总量实行了严格的配额限制。伊朗曾经迅速增长的算力份额现在已经下降到4%以下。伊朗打击挖矿产业的行动甚至引发了多起热点新闻事件,比如矿工向试图关闭矿场的政府人员开火,甚至德黑兰证券交易所(Teheran stock exchange)的负责人也因为在交易大厅非法挖矿而黯然下台。这个波斯国家将不会再为新入场者和流离失所的矿工提供避难所,他们需要到地球的其他地方寻找安身之地。
或许你从未听说过阿布哈兹(我以前就不知道这个地方),更别说可以念出它的名字了。但长期以来,这个由俄罗斯支持、地处格鲁吉亚北部、拥有25万人口的自治国家一直被视为比特币的“狂野西部”。挖矿在阿布哈兹已经走入千家万户,当地家庭为购买矿机甚至不惜卖掉自己的牲口和汽车,并在厨房里堆满了电脑。为了利用这个小国低至每度电1美分(相当于全球平均水平的五分之一)的超低电价,俄罗斯矿工纷至沓来。2018年,由于电力短缺问题日趋严重,政府决定禁止挖矿活动,尽管非法的“厨房矿场”依然存在。2020年,阿布哈兹曾经短暂解除了“禁挖令”,但由于矿工迅速增加,甚至有变电站因此被焚毁,迫使该国政府再次祭出禁令。该国曾经计划于今年5月解除禁令,但后来又延长期限,改为最早2022年5月解除。受此政策影响,俄罗斯矿工纷纷踏上归途。
事实上,俄罗斯许多地区也已经感受到了压力。来自中国的矿工正在北上到冰天雪地的西伯利亚(开展挖矿活动)。10月中旬,地处西伯利亚东南部,幅员辽阔的伊尔库茨克省的地方长官在给俄罗斯副总理的信中发出了警告。他抱怨称:“按照民用电价格收费的用电量出现了爆炸式增长”,较去年增加了159%。这封信件传达出的信息是,中国矿商带来的矿工应该迁往他处。
别忘了还有魁北克。由于有瀑布、河流带来的巨量水力发电供应,2018年,矿工纷纷将目光投向了这里,并递交了挖矿申请,获批后,相关挖矿活动将消耗大量电力资源。由于担心完全放开挖矿活动会使电网负荷过重,魁北克当局对可以用于挖矿的电力总量进行了限制,而一家挖矿企业就用掉了大部分配额。目前,阿尔伯塔省的大草原已经成为了想要获得廉价天然气的矿工的主要目的地。我们很快就会看到,在这个盛产石油的地区,挖矿产业会否给电力供应造成过重负担,导致家庭、企业无电可用,进而导致魁北克也加入禁止挖矿的行列。
矿工将去向何方?
事实上,比特币世界的版图正在缩小。德·弗里斯认为,拥有挖矿业11%算力、现在排名第三的挖矿中心俄罗斯是一个说得通的去处。但问题在于,普京总统一直谴责比特币是洗钱工具,而西伯利亚也已经开始抵制比特币浪潮。美国目前已经取代中国,成为全球第一算力大国,截至目前,美国还没有出现很多因为挖矿增加而导致电力短缺的情况。
但这种情况并非不可能发生。2017年,华盛顿州的小村镇——韦纳奇(Wenatchee)还对比特币矿工抱持着欢迎态度,后者也希望利用哥伦比亚河提供的水电资源来降低自己的运营成本。2017年,亚历克斯·皮卡德辞去了自己在金融服务业的工作,在韦纳奇的车库和仓库中堆满了各式矿机,并趁着币价暴涨赚得盆满钵盈。他回忆道:“韦纳奇吸引了很多矿工,但问题是,蜂拥而至的矿工数量远远超过了本地人的预期。”很快,由于皮卡德和其他矿工的用电量过大,韦纳奇开始出现居民用电供应短缺的情况。在此背景之下,当地开始加强监管,驱逐矿工。皮卡德称:“当地改变了原有政策,我也是受害者之一。”
但皮卡德对比特币是否会遭受“连环打击”表示怀疑。他说:“大型挖矿企业的风险不会太大,很多此类企业都是上市公司,他们会根据可用电量来规划自己的用电需求。”尽管如此,由于很多人对挖掘比特币、一夜暴富充满渴望,很难想象矿工们能够在不断迁移的过程中不会对已经或接近满负荷运转的电厂和变电站构成冲击。德·弗里斯指出:“比特币挖矿的用电量已经超过英国发电量的一半,并且还在持续增长。当这些矿工离开像哈萨克斯坦这样可以生产大量电力的地方时,他们带走的电力需求往往与一整个国家的发电量相当。”在一个个国家对其关上大门之后,比特币价格的惊人涨势或许正是其面临电力紧缺问题的原因所在。(财富中文网)
译者:梁宇
审校:夏林
As the world’s largest community of Bitcoin miners fled China amid a months-long crackdown earlier this year, neighboring Kazakhstan has ranked as a favorite destination for the exiled players. By August, according to estimates from Cambridge University, the central Asian nation’s share of the industry’s global “hashrate” had jumped to 18.1%, over twice the level in June. But in mid-October, Kazakhstan shocked the industry by announcing that it was lowering the volume of electricity miners could tap by an incredible 95%, from around 2,000 gigawatt hours, to just 100 gWh. The reason: The huge influx of farms running towering racks of ASIC computers 24/7 was straining its grid to the breaking point, causing outages that darkened homes and shuttered plants. Within months of Kazakhstan’s flowering as one of the world’s leading hubs for mining, its government is uprooting the equipment and people minting coins, sending the displaced searching once again for new, welcoming destinations.
The Kazakhstan earthquake is a harbinger
The shakeup in Kazakhstan underscores a potential threat to Bitcoin that may prove far more dangerous than the giant carbon footprint that worries even such fans as Elon Musk. Put simply, nations’ supply of energy is finite, and in many cases, the more juice the miners use, the less is available for families and enterprises, to the point where blackouts cause a public outcry, forcing governments to take action. Other countries, including Iran and Canada (notably Quebec province), that first reached out to miners are now severely restricting the electricity they can use to avoid an energy crisis. The danger is that as one nation after another bans or limits mining, producers will move to new, initially friendly locales with low power costs, eventually overtaxing their power generation capacity, so that a growing diaspora keeps moving to a shrinking number of places. The fewer the nations open to miners, the bigger the burden on the few that keep taking them. The Kazakhstan debacle could signal a rolling disaster that kills or wounds the world’s premier cryptocurrency.
“We’re talking about miners that now have to find an enormous amount of energy in new locales,” says Alex de Vries, a Dutch economist whose website Digiconomist tracks Bitcoin’s carbon emissions and energy use. “The shutdown in Kazakhstan takes away the amount of power used by the nation of Ireland. Now the miners must find all that electricity somewhere else.” The hordes of displaced producers and multitudes of newcomers have a rich incentive to find new venues to settle. Why? Because two factors are coinciding to make the Bitcoin game incredibly lucrative—what this writer has labeled probably the most profitable legal enterprise on the planet. First, the flight from China reduced competition, giving the up-and-running miners a bigger share of the global market, and luring new entrants to fill the void. Second, Bitcoin’s price has soared to a level that’s a multiple of the cost to produce it. De Vries estimates that miners on average are spending about 5 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) on electricity, or $19,000 a coin. Bitcoin’s now selling at around $62,000, more than triple that number. Miners are garnering margins unheard-of even in luxury goods, cigarettes, or software.
If prices remain around that mark, licensed and illicit producers alike will keep rushing in. “Only when the cost of producing a Bitcoin approximates the price of a Bitcoin will that stop,” says de Vries. In other words, a rising tide of miners will keep using more and more power to win newly issued coins until they’re using so much electricity, and paying power bills so big, that the venture is no longer profitable. “When the price was $40,000, the electrical use was already rising,” says de Vries. “At $62,000, I estimate that consumption will increase from today’s 180 terawatt hours to 260 tWh, a jump of 44%.” Hence, as more and more nations nix mining, the remaining hubs will be supporting an industry that hogs far more electricity a few years hence than it devours today.
The roster of nations banning and limiting Bitcoin mining grows
The power shortages from heavy mining are already caused a backlash in places where Bitcoin was once embraced. Iran viewed Bitcoin as a vehicle for gaining billions in revenues to counter the ravages of trade sanctions. But in May, sweeping blackouts prompted President Rouhani to halt mining over the summer. Rouhani feared that the miners would use so much electricity that his citizens’ AC units would stop whirring in the broiling desert heat. The government has since allowed producers to reopen, but it put a tight new quota on the total amount of electricity the industry can deploy. Iran’s once burgeoning share of the hashrate has dropped below 4%. The crackdown is sprouting spectacular headlines: Miners opened fire on authorities trying to shut them down, and the chief of the Teheran stock exchange lost his job for operating an illegal mine on the trading floor. The Persian state will no longer offer a refuge to newcomers and homeless miners. They’ll need to spin the globe for new places to move or establish operations.
Maybe you’ve never heard of Abkhazia—I’d missed it—let alone succeed in pronouncing the name. But the Russian-supported, autonomous state of 250,000 north of Georgia has long raged as a Wild West of Bitcoin. Digging for coins is a cottage industry in Abkhazia; families sell cattle and cars to buy equipment and stack computers in their kitchens. Miners invaded Abkhazia from Russia to profit from the tiny nation’s super-low electricity costs of 1 cent kWh, one-fifth the world average. In 2018, the blackouts got so bad that the government banned mining, though the illegal “kitchen” trade persisted. In 2020, it briefly lifted the stoppage, until the miners ramped up so fast that they burned out a substation. Abkhazia was scheduled to reopen in May but instead extended the lockdown until May 2022 at the earliest. The Russian miners are heading home.
In fact, regions of Russia are already feeling the squeeze. Miners booted from China are going north to icy Siberia. In mid-October, the regional governor of Irkutsk, a giant province in southeastern Siberia, sounded the alarm in a letter to Russia’s deputy prime minister. He complained of “an avalanche-like increase in electricity consumption at consumer [power] prices” that swelled consumption 159% over last year. The message: The miners led by Chinese invaders should move on.
Don’t forget Quebec. The province, powered by gigantic supplies of hydropower harnessed from its cascading rivers, was a big target for miners in 2018. They filed for permits that would have consumed gigantic volumes of electricity. Concerned that fully opening its doors would overload the grid, the Quebec authorities capped the gigawatts that can go to mining, and a single company absorbs most of that allotment. Right now, Alberta’s prairies stand as major destination for miners feasting on cheap natural gas. We’ll soon see if the industry in that oil-rich region drains so much power from homes and businesses that it pulls a Quebec.
Where will the miners go?
Indeed, Bitcoin world’s map is shrinking. De Vries see Russia, now the third-ranked hub, hosting 11% of the industry’s hashrate, as a logical place to land. The rub is that President Putin reviles Bitcoin as a haven for money laundering, and Siberia’s already resisting the Bitcoin tide. The U.S. has replaced China in the top position, and so far, we haven’t witnessed many cases where a rise in mining causes shortages.
But it can happen. In 2017, the hamlet of Wenatchee, Wash., was happy to welcome Bitcoin producers that relished operating at low cost, courtesy of hydropower fed from the Columbia River. In 2017, Alex Pickard left a job in financial services to pack garages and warehouses with hash-spewing machines in Wenatchee and made tons of money as prices spiked. “Wenatchee attracted lots of miners,” he recalls. “The problem was that they attracted a lot more than they thought they’d attract.” Soon, Pickard and the other settlers were grabbing power needed to light Wenatchee’s homes. The town tightened the regulations to expel miners. “The town changed the regs,” says Pickard, “and I was one of the casualties.”
Pickard doubts, however, that the Bitcoin regime will suffer the “rolling disaster” scenario. “These big mining outfits won’t be much at risk,” he says. “A lot of them are publicly traded. Hopefully they’ll plan out their electricity needs based on what’s available at the time.” Still, the hunger to mine the Bitcoin bonanza is so powerful that it’s hard to see how the players can keep picking up their gear and moving, and not overwhelm power plants and substations already at or nearly at full capacity. “Bitcoin’s electricity use is already more than half the size of the U.K.’s and growing,” says de Vries. “When these miners leave a place where they’re producing heavily like Kazakhstan, they’re often taking the need for the equivalent of an entire country’s electricity with them.” Bitcoin’s amazing rise may be the source of its own rolling blackout as door after door keeps closing.

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