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Bitcoin on Coal? Cryptocurrency Mining Requires More and More Electricity

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Bitcoin on Coal

With digital currencies gaining popularity, discussions about Bitcoin’s future attract more and more attention with concerns being raised over the ways it’s being mined and the energy costs of the mining process. This article deals with different mechanisms of cryptocurrencies’ emission and outlines the main advantages and disadvantages on the example of Bitcoin and MILE, a fully decentralised, transparent and environmentally-conscious ecosystem that uses a completely different approach to money-minting.

Bitcoin is rather expensive for the economy. Even if miners use the most inexpensive electricity in the world that costs three US cents per kWh, Bitcoin’s annual electricity bills exceeded two billion USD in summer 2018. According to the most realistic estimates, it was amounted to 3.5 billion USD, if 1 kWh cost miners five US cents. Rapid growth of energy consumption was caused by exponential growth of hashing operations that are used for adding new blocks into the blockchain. Such operations were performed 26 quintillion times per second in March 2018, and now the figures are already equal to 52 quintillion.   

bitcoinIn the last year and a half, starting from 2017, Bitcoin’s energy consumption grew approximately from 7-8 to 73 TWh. Bitcoin consumes more energy now then countries like Austria and Chile (72 TWh). According to the estimates of Arvind Narayanan, a computer scientist, who delivered his speech at the US Congress, approximately 1 percent of global power capacity is being used by Bitcoin’s miners – 5 GW.

Digital money is extremely convenient. It does not take space in your wallet, and large transactions can be completed almost instantly. But how environmentally-conscious is cryptocurrency? According to the estimates of Alex de Vries, PwC cryptanalyst, Bitcoin’s production capacity last year was equivalent to 2.55 GW. It consumed approximately 22 TWh/h what is almost equal to the levels of energy consumption in Ireland. To compare, Google consumed 5.7 TWh/h with its giant servers what is four times less.

Blockchain’s energy consumption is rapidly increasing. It was increased by five times in 2017. Why does Bitcoin that exists only in the digital space require so much energy? The problem is in the mechanism called Proof-of-Work. Distributed systems that store information about money and its movement are secured from malpractices with blockchain receiving information after the completion of complicated algorithmic problems. Miners are competing in solving these problems (blocks), and once the block is being solved successfully, they are being rewarded with 12.5 Bitcoins and 1000 USD. This reward is being decreased by half every four years. 

The Proof-of-Work mechanism allows the network node to verify that another node responsible for adding a new block into blockchain has completed necessary calculations. In the process of verification, the string of the new block’s header is being discovered. It contains the link on the former block. In March 2018, such hashing operations, according to de Vries, were performed 26 quintillions times per second in the world.

This mechanism created the mining industry and made it a giant consumer of electricity. In 2012, Bitcoin’s total capacity exceeded the most powerful supercomputer in the world. Computers require a lot of energy to solve algorithmic problems, but they become more and more powerful. Consequently, Bitcoin’s protocol gets more complicated upon the completion of the next 2016 blocks once every two weeks as otherwise miners would have been generating too many Bitcoins. It is a perpetual cycle: the faster the computers get, the more complicated problems miners are solving become. People engaged in mining have to upgrade their devices that consume more and more energy.

It is impossible to win this race. The cheaper and the more effective the mining equipment gets, the more complicated the problems become, and the more energy is required to solve them. Fortunately, the original number of Bitcoins is not infinite. Therefore, the energy consumption of Bitcoin’s blockchain will gradually decrease, but the final outcome will depend on its price. According to Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index, energy consumed by miners will soon reach the level of Austria or 20 percent of the UK’s energy intensity.

De Vries is concerned with the fact that Bitcoin’s overall electricity consumption will grow from current 0.5 percent of the global figures to 5 percent. This year’s profit of the mining industry will exceed 5 billion USD, and its costs (electricity and equipment) will amount to 3.7 billion USD. However, de Vries’ estimates are just one of the models assessing Bitcoin’s energy consumption. His opponents argue that in reality, Bitcoin’s energy consumption is approximately three times lower.

If miners’ profit no longer exceeds the electricity and equipment costs, mining firms will be dismantled. There are cases, however, when miners do not pay their electricity bills or buy mining equipment. According to the report prepared by the University of Illinois, National Science Foundation’s supercomputer was used to mine Bitcoins worth of 8.000-10.000 USD what caused the university 150.000 USD in charges. In Orenburg, Russia, the authorities ceased the operations of the biggest mining firm in Russia and Europe stationed in the building of an abandoned factory that did not pay the bills for 8 million kWt/h it used. Miners’ profit exceeded almost half of the costs in August 2018. It means that we will not be able to witness the growth in Bitcoin’s energy consumption if its price remains the same. One can only imagine what the mining costs will be if it reaches 50.000 USD.

Entrepreneurs are finding different locations for mining where they would either have cheaper electricity bills or they would not have to pay for it at all. This is the reason why the main mining equipment producer is the Chinese company Bitmain and the center of mining industry in Inner Mongolia in China, where 1 kWt per hour costs 4 US cents, what is five times lower than in the UK.

bitcoin mining21 thousand computers work at the biggest mining firm located in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, what is amounted to four percent of the global energy consumption to mine Bitcoin. Each of these computers generates 14 trillion hashes per second and consumes the same amount of electricity as a microwave. Approximately 30-40 percent of energy consumption in a lot of data-centers is being used for cooling: Bitmain computers cannot function when the temperature reaches 38 degrees Celsius. Electricity supplied to the firm in Ordos is being produced from coal (the fifth in China, coal production-wise), that’s why it is argued that mining is not an environmentally conscious activity. Bitmain consumes 40 MWt/h, the number equivalent to the energy consumption of 12 thousand apartment buildings. Bitmain pays its bills with industrial tariffs, approximately four cents for kWt/h: if the electricity costs the same as for households, this type of business would not be considered attractive. The amount of electricity used in order to serve Bitcoin’s entire industry is equal to the amount consumed by 7 million households in the US.

Bitcoin is extremely unecological.  A single Bitcoin’s transaction in summer 2018 consumed 934 kWt. In comparison, 100.000 transactions in the Visa system require 5.5 times lower energy. Bitcoin’s “carbon footprint” is equal to 17.7 million tons of CO2. Mining capacities will reach its economic limits with Bitcoin’s current price as profit will no longer cover the electricity costs. However, if its price hits the 20.000 USD target, a steady increase in its energy consumption will be observed. It is not surprising as Bitcoin’s protocol offers a 200.000 USD reward every ten minutes to those who will be able to find inexpensive electricity and fire their laptops.

It can cause problems for Ireland with cold climate where it is not necessary to spend money on cooling of computers and where almost 80 percent of electricity is being generated on hydro stations. It makes it so attractive that this year local crypto firms would need more electricity than households.

It is possible that crypto industry will find the way to decrease its energy consumption. One of them is the substitution of the Proof-of-Work mechanism with Proof-of-Stake (PoS). In this case, those blocks will have higher chances to generate the next block that already have a large number of tokens and keep them longer. It is not necessary to build mining firms that are competing in solving algorithmic problems. If the entire crypto industry has transferred to the Proof-of-Stake simultaneously, its energy consumption would have decreased significantly. Keeping one coin in the wallet in the system of delegated Proof-of-Stake is equivalent to having the right to add the next block into the blockchain. MILE’s emission is built in a similar manner. Each participant of MILE’s ecosystem can become both the owner and the emitter of the money and get a small percentage from issuing it.

The difference lies in the fact that MILE uses a mining protocol (environmentally conscious mining) sdBFT that only slightly resembles PoS. Any PoS protocol has limitations in the form of several dozens of active masternodes what increases the probability of decentralisation. It can be observed in case of Ethereum or stablecoins like Bitshares. As opposed to conventional strategies, in MILE’s ecosystem, the first ecosystem that was able to implement sdBFT on practice, decentralisation is programmed in the way that only hundred nodes are selected from thousands in order for the block to be solved. Selection happens according to the algorithm that guarantees high-level entropy combined with energy consumption.

Bitcoins’ emission requires a lot of energy, and with the Proof-of-Stake mechanism, it is necessary to have cryptocurrencies in order to emit it. If in the process of Bitcoin’s emission miners compete with one another, money is being emitted by the community itself in Proof-of-Stake. The drawback of such a mechanism is in the fact that cryptocurrency is being concentrated in the hands of a limited group of people. There are hybrid versions as well, and one of them is described above, that combine both mechanisms and help to save the energy. Insignificant time constraints and financial costs of finding the consensus make it possible to assume that the future is ahead of energy efficient minting, and not mining.

This guest post was contributed by the Mile Unity Foundation, an international, non-governmental organisation, announces the launch of a broad network of its Embassies with the aim to popularise the knowledge about the digital assets industry and to inform the population about ultra-effective mechanisms for the development of the global economy.

*Readers should do their own due diligence before taking any actions related to the company, product or service. BitcoinAfrica.io is not responsible, directly or indirectly, for any loss or damage caused by or in connection with the use of or reliance on any content, product or service mentioned in this guest post.*

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Twitter CEO Thinks Africa Will Decide the Future of Bitcoin

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The CEO of microblogging platform Twitter, Jack Dorsey, believes that Bitcoin’s future will be decided in Africa. The celebrity CEO has stood behind the first cryptocurrency over the years saying that it’s the only digital currency that has stood the test of time, gone through boom and bust cycles, and handled fierce criticism only to stay tenacious.

One of the recent tweets of Twitter CEO says that although the currency is seeing increased adoption in European countries, the future of bitcoin is in Africa. His opinion came at the end of his tour of Ghana and Nigeria. His tweet read:

Mr. Dorsey is convinced that Africa will play a crucial role in deciding bitcoin’s future success and he’s willing to stand by his words by promoting the currency in the region through tours and meet-ups. Earlier, he participated in a meet up in Ethiopia where ideas were exchanged about promoting bitcoin and the related services.

What Will Drive the Future of Bitcoin in Africa?

So, what are the factors that will drive cryptocurrency in Africa? According to the Twitter CEO, one of the largest continents is at a crossroads where economic turmoil, poverty issues, and lack of infrastructure development and financial opportunities are pushing people toward cryptocurrencies, and bitcoin is one of them. They are placing their trust in cryptocurrencies and blockchain to bypass government corruption and incompetence.

It is really interesting to note that Dorsey isn’t alone in this. There are other crypto celebrities who share his opinion including Nate Hindman, who is the head of growth at Bancor. Mr. Hindman is quite confident in cryptocurrency’s future in the African countries as he says:

“In emerging markets like Africa, the shallow reach of traditional money systems means there’s less resistance to new financial technology.”

Another nod of agreement comes from Ray Youssef, CEO of Paxful, which is a peer-to-peer marketplace for trading bitcoin. He says that we’re only noticing the growth now because we haven’t been paying attention.

Africa hasn’t gotten big into bitcoin suddenly. In fact, they’ve been using the currency for many years and not only that, but they’ve taught us a lot about the real-world use cases of bitcoin.

However, this development hasn’t come without its own challenges as cryptocurrency laws in African countries can be quite restrictive, especially in Nigeria. Ray Youssef says:

“We found a way for them to export an asset, which is gift cards, as a way to go around financial restrictions. Now, bitcoin is flooding out of Nigeria and into other African countries because of the ambition of the Nigerian bitcoin community and Paxful.”

Paxful has seen immense growth with a total of three million subscribers and almost half of them come from African countries and the subscriber base is growing at a rapid pace. According to the recent stats, Nigeria, US, and Ghana made over 15 million trades in the last year, which is 65% year-on-year growth.

And it’s not just Paxful that is witnessing amazing growth in Africa. Binance also launched a new service by the name of Binance Uganda, where citizens can purchase bitcoin directly with their fiat currency. This step is helping the country to gain access to crypto markets, improve liquidity and increase the foothold of cryptocurrency trading in Africa. Belfrics is another exchange that’s offering its trading services in Tanzania, Nigeria, and Kenya.

Having said that, the growth of the cryptocurrency industry in the continent is also going to depend on the legislation and regulations around crypto trading. Just like online gambling, as in NCAAF college games betting, cryptocurrencies must be legislated and done responsibly, putting the trust into consumers.

If reigning governments don’t decide to be intrusive and keep the markets open, cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin, are going to play a massive role in the economic growth of African countries, and the prediction of Jack Dorsey may come true.

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Is Pipcoin a South African Scam Coin?

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Pipcoin

Pipcoin, a South African based “cryptocurrency” project, has been a major point of contention over the years. In this review, we look at the controversies surrounding pipcoin and highlight why the project is most likely a scam.

Who is Behind Pipcoin?

David Schwartz and Ref Wayne Nkele founded pipcoin in 2016. Very little is known about Schwartz while there is a lot of information on Wayne Nkele.

PipcoinRef Wayne is a forex trader from South Africa, who calls himself a self-made billionaire. Further, Wayne Nkele has made several appearances on South African television and radio stations to promote his company, African Forex Institute.

African Forex Institute is a South African forex trading company that claims to train people on how to make money through online trading. He started this company on the back of his popularity and large social media following. 

The company promised to make people millionaires through its paid events and groups. Unfortunately for Wayne, his business model that had also been made popular by Sandile Shezi of the Global Forex Institute was clamped down upon.

It was alleged that although these trainers charged for a premium membership, their content came from free sites that charged absolutely nothing. At this point, Wayne had to move into a new industry. He entered the cryptocurrency industry, which was rising in interest and popularity in 2016.

As of 2016, South Africa was part of the top ten countries with the highest search volume for the keyword bitcoin. Later in 2017, South Africa became number one on the same metric on Google Trends.

With the growing interest, Pipcoin became extremely popular.

How Does Pipcoin Claim to Work?

Pipcoin describes itself as a “cryptocurrency” that provides an investment opportunity that pays interest every month. The project promised up to 35 percent of interest every month to individuals who bought the “cryptocurrency”.

The “cryptocurrency” was launched without any blockchain or code to back up its existence and creation. Pipcoin gained a lot of popularity due to its outlandish claims, making it a very popular crypto-related investment. 

Below is a video of an interview of Wayne on SABC, a big television network in South Africa. 

It’s growing popularity in 2016 to late 2017 can also be seen via Google Trends data from 2016 to 2019 on the search trends for the keyword “Pipcoin” in South Africa.

Pipcoin Scam

To use pipcoin, users have to go to the project’s website and purchase coins on the website. The “cryptocurrency” has no wallet and is not traded on any exchange. 

If you invest in pipcoin and you want to sell your coins, you will have to sell it on the same website to other people who are interested in buying it. 

Why Pipcoin Is Likely A Scam

Pipcoin has all the markings of a classic Ponzi scheme. First, Pipcoin guarantees that your investment will grow at least 1 percent every day and up to 35 percent by the end of the month. There is no clearer red flag than that!

Secondly, Pipcoin lacks the features of all legitimate cryptocurrencies. The project has no code backing it, no working blockchain explorer, no mobile or desktop wallets, and no exchange support. 

Initially, Pipcoin had no record of its “blockchain” until it launched pipchain.com, its version of a block explorer that never worked as it was supposed to.

The block explorer has no records of pipcoin transactions. Instead, it contains records of bitcoin transactions. It seems to be a forked version of blockchain.info’s block explorer with all bitcoin words, changed to pipcoin as pointed out by a Reddit user.

Another important detail about pipcoin is the unavailability of an inflation model or coin supply information. What’s more, there is no information on how new coins are created. 

Currently, several investors in pipcoin cannot access their coins or money since the project website is down. A visit to their website will redirect you to a domain sales page. This would suggest that its founders have exit scammed their users. 

List of Red Flags

  • Makes claims of impossibly high guaranteed monthly returns
  • Claims that investors cannot lose their investment
  • The company has failed to pay investors
  • The technical details on the project are sketchy
  • Its website is offline

Avoid the Next Pipcoin

While you cannot technically refer to something as a scam until a court of law rules it as such, everything points in that direction for this South African “crypto” project.

The story of Pipcoin should act as a cautionary tale for other projects that show similar characteristics. We urge readers to stay away from such investment schemes to avoid losing money. 

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Bitcoin in Zimbabwe: Are Zimbabweans Really Embracing Cryptocurrencies?

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Bitcoin in Zimbabwe

If you read crypto media, you may be under the impression that bitcoin plays a major role in helping cash-strapped Zimbabweans. The “bitcoin is saving Zimbabwe” story may sell but the reality of cryptocurrency adoption in the Southern African nation is quite different. In this article, you will discover the real story of bitcoin in Zimbabwe told by a local journalist.

Zimbabwe Today

Zimbabwe’s deteriorating socio-political environment is widely blamed on the mismanagement of the country’s failing fiat currency and the standoff between the country’s main political parties. Since the August 2018 disputed elections, the country has witnessed a number of demonstrations that turned violent resulting in the destruction of property and loss of lives.

Introduced in 2016, the Zimdollar – which briefly traded at par with the USD – has depreciated by as much as 900 percent leading to an inevitable spike in inflation and the subsequent social unrest. While the government has suspended the announcement of inflation figures, John Hopkins University’s applied economics professor, Steve Hanke, currently estimates it to be 558 percent.

To compound matters for Zimbabweans, the government has since introduced different regulations that have essentially curtailed the use of foreign currency as a hedge against inflation. Zimbabwe has had a dollarised economy since 2009 but this was discontinued in June 2019 when a statutory instrument made it illegal to conduct local transactions in USD.

With the USD option now seemingly closed, Zimbabweans are now seeking other alternatives that shield earnings and savings from hyperinflation. Bitcoin would be such an option.

Bitcoin in Zimbabwe

bitcoinIn fact, to many people outside Zimbabwe, the aforementioned conditions make it seem logical for Zimbabweans to switch to bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general. So, have they embraced cryptocurrencies?

Indeed, local bitcoin trading has been growing but it is the extent of this growth that remains far from what some would expect.

Despite this narrative being overhyped by the global media, bitcoin use in Zimbabwe remains insignificant. The reasons for this lack of enthusiasm range from the usual challenges like price volatility, regulatory uncertainty as well as country-specific ones like the lack of reliable exchanges, ignorance, and limited internet access.

Cryptocurrencies are borderless and thus not subject to Zimbabwe’s stringent foreign exchange controls. Yet, the technology remains relatively a novel one to ordinary Zimbabweans. Few see it as a solution to the country’s long-running fiat currency troubles.

While there might be a general consensus when it comes to identifying the genesis of the country’s fiat currency troubles, the ensuing debate suggests that decentralised cryptocurrencies are not (yet) seen as a viable alternative.

Some economic experts including one of Zimbabwe’s most successful finance minister, Tendai Biti, believes the adoption of the South African rand as the best solution to attack the country’s currency problems. Cryptocurrency is generally seen as a far-fetched solution. Although, the current finance minister, Mthuli Ncube did talk up its potential soon after being appointed to the job. 

Lack of Peer-to-Peer Exchanges Presence

It would seem that only a few Zimbabweans are aware that it was Golix, a crypto exchange, which briefly brought this crypto alternative to the country. Golix (previously known as Bitfinance) opened its doors to provide a bitcoin trading platform for local users. In early 2018, Golix stated that it has grown its userbase to over 50,000 and had experienced $20 million in transaction volume in the three years since its launch.

In fact, Golix managed to grow its platform and userbase and announced plans to expand into South Africa, Kenya, and Uganda after a successful ICO (initial coin offering) in 2018. However, during that year the country’s central bank issued a moratorium that essentially barred financial institutions from supporting cryptocurrency exchanges. Golix even had its Bitcoin ATM seized as authorities pushed back against cryptocurrencies prompting the exchange company to seek redress at the High Court.

The court did overturn the central bank’s decision in May 2018 but Golix ultimately decided to shelve its Zimbabwean exchange business. In spite of this setback, some Zimbabwe-based traders were unperturbed and continued trading. They simply circumvented local central bank regulations by conducting deals on foreign domiciled exchanges like LocalBitcoins, Paxful, Reminato, Coindirect, etc.

For example, on one of the world’s largest peer-to-peer bitcoin trading platform, LocalBitcoins, there are six offers for bitcoin in Zimbabwe, at the time of writing, with a total supply of less than $30,000 worth of BTC. On the bid side, there are six traders who are willing to purchase the crypto but it should be emphasized that some of these traders could be based outside Zimbabwe.

At the same time Paxful, which has managed to establish itself as one of the most popular peer-to-peer exchanges in Africa, does market bids and offers for Zimbabwe-based users. On first glance, there seems to be more activity in this Zimbabwean bitcoin market than on LocalBitcoins with dozens of listed advertisements. Closer inspection, however, shows that there are no cash in person, EcoCash or local bank transfer purchase options that local Zimbabweans would typically use to trade bitcoin. There are also no available advertisements for transactions in the Zimbabwean dollar (ZWL). Zimbabweans are seemingly not using the platform.

Other peer-to-peer exchanges with a presence in Africa include Coindirect, Remitano, and Cryptogem. However, all of them show little to no activity involving Zimbabwean traders.

Informal Crypto Trading Groups

informal trading groupsEvents of 2018 forced Zimbabwe-based crypto traders to use other platforms to facilitate crypto trading. Facebook, Whatsapp, and Telegram have since emerged as some of the popular platforms where buyers and sellers meet.

For instance, one such chat group has about 31 members but only five members traded over the past 31 days while the value traded did not exceed $2000 at the time of writing.

Interestingly, on August 15, 2019, when cryptocurrency prices dropped heavily, one trader posted that they were selling 25 BTC. Bemused group members apparently not accustomed to such amounts, responded by asking if the seller had possibly made a typo error when posting.

Nevertheless, it is also possible that the traded values could be higher between peers or in other groups to which this writer is not exposed to. BitcoinAfrica.io reached out to one member of Zimbabwe’s crypto community who – besides actually working for a blockchain startup – has been involved in this space for five years, three of which are on a full-time basis. The member who preferred to remain anonymous had this to say:

“Now that the bull run period is confirmed, we are seeing around 30-40k per day of new money entering into the crypto industry locally, with 95 percent plus of that being USD into bitcoin. Potentially, you could double that as we are not exposed to all the groups in Zimbabwe.”

Still, such traded values do not support the hype, which reached a zenith in July 2019, when one online crypto media outlet claimed Zimbabwean traders were paying up to $76,000 USD for one BTC! Of course, this was incorrect.

In activities seen in one chat group, Zimbabwean bitcoin buyers are asked to pay a small premium of between 5 and 10 percent on the global USD bitcoin price. Sellers can choose to receive funds in local ZWL through the mobile money application Ecocash. At the current exchange rate (1:10), a seller receiving funds in ZWL via Ecocash will get about $105,000 to $110,000, a figure that should not be confused with the USD. That is how most bitcoin trades are currently being conducted in Zimbabwe. 

Ignorant Diaspora

Meanwhile, a case has consistently been made for the utility and cost-effectiveness of using cryptocurrencies when sending remittances. Zimbabwe, which has a sizeable Diaspora community, should naturally see more funds channeled via this route. However, statistics from the country’s central bank and other sources like the World Bank show that many Zimbabweans abroad still use formal money transfer agencies (MTA) like Western Union, Moneygram or Mukuru.com to send money home. Many more use informal channels but no one can really ascertain the values transferred therein as there is no reliable data.

It would seem Zimbabweans remain ignorant of the potential benefits of cryptocurrencies while the lack of a properly registered local crypto exchange remains a key deterrent to those interested in buying and using bitcoin.

The anonymous crypto enthusiast also added:

“Zimbabweans need a crypto application that is reliable, fungible, cheap and one that allows for swift transfer of funds. When such a platform becomes available, Zimbabweans will embrace cryptocurrencies in large numbers.”

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