I do not own any Dogecoins. I have never had held any. I didn’t see the premise of buying into it. But Elon has taken it too far and hence I thought to finally write about my thoughts on the situation.
Yesterday, Elon Musk tweeted that he no longer supports Bitcoin due to it’s massive carbon footprint.
Later that day, he expressed his plans that Dogecoin could be that alternate cryptocurrency which also happens to use <1% of Bitcoin’s energy.
Let’s dive into this to see if this could realistically be an alternate to Bitcoin or not.
A few weeks ago I recorded an impromptu podcast with my friend ZSM to share my views on the biggest benefits of Bitcoin. Full podcast can be heard here. But the TL;DR was that Bitcoin’s limited supply vs infinite fiat money is what makes it a potentially attractive store of value. In order for Bitcoin to deliver on this promise, it needs to be really safe and temper proof. This is where Bitcoin’s 150 TWh energy consumption comes in. Bitcoin network has no ceiling to how much energy it can consume. The miners are incentivized to provide hash power (security) to the network to earn/mine bitcoins. So as long as the cost of mining bitcoins is lesser than the price of bitcoins mined, they can continue to add hash rate profitably, infinitely. Since Bitcoin price has no ceiling due to its limited supply and high demand, you can not predictably say what would be the maximum amount of energy bitcoin needs to operate.
Bitcoin consumes a lot of energy but also provides an opportunity to billions of people. An opportunity for them to protect their wealth and be free from the state-run money. An opportunity at a better life.
Bitcoin also incentivizes renewable energy. For maximum profitability, miners are encouraged to secure bitcoin by incurring the least amount of cost. Renewable energy is usually the cheapest form of energy source with least amount of carbon emissions and hence >75% of the miners and ~50% of the hash rate comes from renewable energy sources.
Bitcoin is not just money, it’s also a payments network. Hence to compare Bitcoin to traditional fiat money on the basis of energy consumption, you wouldn’t just look into the number of trees that need to be cut to print paper money, but would also need to look at energy consumed by millions of banks and financial institutions that act as payment networks for the fiat money.
Unfortunately, like Bitcoin, Dogecoin is also a proof of work cryptocurrency. Which means it is also secured by energy and not through another consensus mechanism (more on this later). Since Doge has had a massive price appreciation this year, miners are incentivized to provide more energy to Dogecoin in order to mine/earn Dogecoins. This is a perfect opportunity for more and more miners to flock in and profitably mine Dogecoins. This translates into higher energy consumption by Dogecoin as compared to before.
So a lot of critics would suggest that Dogecoin has the same reward-loop as Bitcoin and hence even if it consumes lesser energy today, it would consume the same amount of energy as Bitcoin (or more) as long as the price continues to appreciate.
But there’s a catch. Dogecoin price can not appreciate infinitely. Dogecoin has infinite supply and infinite new issuance, hence Dogecoin can never have a sustainable price appreciation. Since there’s a cap to how much it can grow, there will also be a cap for miners’ interest in the network. Hence, IMO, dogecoin will always continue to be less energy-intensive than bitcoin, just as Elon has pointed out.
Does that make dogecoin better than bitcoin? I don’t think so. It is just like fiat-money. But worse. Dogecoin comes with many of the cons of Bitcoin (energy consumption, price instability) and also many of the cons of fiat (inflationary, infinite supply, bad store of value etc). Hence any amount of energy needed to protect dogecoin network is a wasted energy. The lower carbon emissions are not going to give billions of people a chance at a better life. A chance to be inflation-free. A chance to store their wealth reliably.
Dogecoin is infinitely worse than Bitcoin, at least in my opinion.
Ethereum (or other Proof-of-Stake alternates)
Ethereum is having a fantastic year. Thousands of decentralized finance (Defi) apps are being built on Ethereum. It is programmable money unlike Bitcoin. It does consume energy since it’s also a POW asset, but will soon be a proof of stake asset with ETH2.0 (beaconchain for which is already live). Hence, in the future Ethereum will be consuming <1% of the Bitcoin’s energy. It will also have a deflationary/reducing supply after EIP1559 which will be implemented in the next quarter this year. In short, Ethereum has a fantastic narrative going on right now. It is often dubbed as “ultra-sound money” these days.
ETH2.0 will come with many of the pros of Bitcoin (store of value, deflationary, limited supply) and will also be consuming less than 1% of Bitcoin’s energy.
However, POS is still a lesser-proven alternate to POW. There is a lot of criticism on it by POW-proponents. One of which is that Bitcoin is protected by “external costs” in the form of energy. Ethereum 2.0 will be protected by staked Ethers hence the protection will come from within the network which is akin to a snake eating it’s own tail.
I like Ethereum. And I like Bitcoin. But I don’t understand Doge. It offers no value and it solves none of the problems. If Elon had to pick a crypto that was envoirment friendly, he could have just gone ahead with Ethereum. He seems to like it anyway.