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Saturday, February 20, 2021

Ethereum Breaks $2,000, Bitcoin at $57,000: History in the Making


Thar she blows! That's right: Ethereum just broke $2,000 for the first — and almost certainly not last! — time. Bitcoin meanwhile is in the high $50K range. With companies like Master Card, Tesla, and various banks investing potentially billions of dollars into blockchain technologies, none of this is going away any time soon. Which raises an interesting question: How much money does the world spend daily on cryptocoin mining?

I've run the numbers, and best-case, the Ethereum miners are using well over a billion watts of power, and Bitcoin mining is about five times that amount. That's going off how much power would be required if every miner was using the most efficient hardware possible, which obviously they're not, and so real-world power use is about three times as high as what I just estimated.

That's three billion watts, every hour of every day, just to keep Ethereum humming along, and roughly 15 billion watts for all of those Bitcoin ASICs. It's nuts! It's also completely unsustainable to keep growing at this rate, so if you're looking at mining profitability right now and wondering how long it will stay this high, I'd estimate another month or two at most, and in three to six months it will likely be less than half as profitable. But what do I know? I thought $40,000 per Bitcoin was the limit for now, and clearly that was wrong.

Anyway, back to power, at $0.10 per kWh, Ethereum would cost about $7.2 million dollars to keep running, each and every day — not including IT infrastructure and cooling, which probably makes it closer to $10 million per day. With a price of $2,000, around 6,500 ETH blocks mined every day, and 2 new ETH minted per block, that's $26 million created out of thin air. So, it's definitely got room to grow at this price. Also interesting is that there are around 1.2 million transactions per day on the Ethereum blockchain, which means each one costs something like $20 in theory — that's looking at the average of around 2 ETH per block in transaction fees.

Bitcoin is, if anything, worse. The Bitcoin network runs at around 160 million terahash per second. The most efficient ASICs do about 25TH/s using 1000W. Using only such ASICs, that would mean we'd have 6.4 million ASICs running Bitcoin, using 6.4 billion watts. But lots of older ASICs are in use, so triple that and we can estimate roughly 19.2 billion watts. Each day, every day!

Total cost at $0.10 per kWh would be about $46 million per day in power costs. Lots of big miners are getting lower cost power than that, but lost of places in the world also cost a lot more, so let's just stick with 10 cents per kWh. Bitcoin is a slow block time of around 10 minutes, so there are only 144 block per day (give or take), but the block reward is 6.25 BTC newly minted, plus around 160 BTC per day in transaction fees, so roughly 1.1 BTC in tx fees per block.

Given those stats, Bitcoin creates 900 new BTC per day, with a value of around $50 million. Notice how much closer that is to the power costs? What's more, at 160 BTC per day in transaction fees, and around 300,000 transactions per day, that means the average BTC transaction costs around $30. Fewer transactions take place, and a lot of places like mining pools and Coinbase seem to be doing transactions largely off the books — using internal mechanisms to track who has what BTC — but the net result is a lot of power and heat used for blockchain technologies.

I'm curious to see where this goes, and if we end up with a lot more regulation and at the same time more uptake of cryptocurrencies in the coming years. The potential influx of cash into the network via banks and other large companies helps ensure things will continue for a while, but we know banks and others could pull out just as quickly as they joined — manipulating the market on a large scale and trying to make a buck in the meantime.

Don't get caught holding the bag, in other words. We saw massive amounts of hype in 2017 and 2018 for blockchain, and much of that went nowhere. Then again, here we are in 2021, with BTC at more than double the previous high and closing in on triple the value. If you had and held BTC for three years and triples your value, that's a nice improvement. All the 'weak' hands that folded? Too bad for them!

Personally, I'm trying to only sell enough of what I earn to pay for power these days. Because it feels like at some point in the coming years, we'll see $100,000 per BTC, and potentially even $1 million. Also potentially $10,000 or less again, so who knows?

Monday, January 11, 2021

GPU Cryptocurrency Mining Profitability, January 2020

Bitcoin is up, and mining is making a comback. Again. At least for the time being. If you're looking for advice on the best GPUs for mining, right now, here's my breakdown and analysis, based on testing over the past few days. These are the best GPUs for mining cryptocurrency, which currently means Ethereum. I'm putting prices in as MSRP, which you probably won't find anywhere for many months. But these are theoretically prices you could pay if supply was keeping up with demand. Adjust your expectations accordingly!

All of my values are based off mining via Nicehash. That's because, frankly, I want either Bitcoin or Ethereum, not one of the other potentially garbage coins. Plus, you can easily trade BTC or ETH for a different coin if that's what you're after. You can probably earn 10% more via mining ETH directly, but then you have to manage things more and it's frankly a pain I can't be bothered to deal with. I use a standard cost of $0.10 per kWh for power, with my own power measurements taken at the outlet, using an 850W 80 Plus Platinum PSU.

Component $ per Day Power per Day Profit Break Even
GeForce RTX 3090 ($1499) $7.50 $0.96 $6.54 ~229 days
GeForce RTX 3080 ($699) $6.50 $0.86 $5.64 ~124 days
GeForce RTX 3070 ($499) $4.50 $0.62 $3.88 ~129 days
GeForce RTX 3060 Ti ($399) $4.40 $0.58 $3.82 ~104 days
GeForce RTX 2080 Ti ($1199) $4.40 $0.72 $3.68 ~326 days
GeForce RTX 2080 Super ($699) $3.40 $0.61 $2.70 ~259 days
GeForce RTX 2070 Super ($499) $3.30 $0.52 $2.69 ~186 days
GeForce RTX 2060 Super ($399) $3.10 $0.48 $1.82 ~154 days
GeForce RTX 2060 ($299) $2.30 $0.48 $1.82 ~164 days
Radeon RX 6900 XT ($999) $6.00 $0.84 $5.16 ~194 days
Radeon RX 6800 XT ($649) $5.25 $0.84 $4.41 ~147 days
Radeon RX 6800 ($579) $4.50 $0.72 $3.78 ~153 days
Radeon RX 5700 XT ($399) $4.00 $0.66 $3.34 ~119 days
Radeon RX 5700 ($349) $3.75 $0.55 $3.20 ~109 days
Radeon RX 5600 XT ($279) $2.70 $0.48 $2.22 ~126 days

So, there you have it. If you could buy the GPUs, the best options right now are the RTX 3060 Ti and the RX 5700. Neither one is readily available at the pricese listed, and we could see prices more than double the MSRP in the coming months, depending on how things develop. But if you get the right hardware, assuming you already have a PC, breaking even on the GPU in just four months still looks possible. At the outside, you might break even in a year. Assuming of course that Bitcoin doesn't go tits up again.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Rise and Fall of Bitcoin, Round Four

The only thing predictable about cryptocurrencies at this point is that they're unpredictable. Sure, there are larger patterns that repeat, but knowing when a new swing up is starting, or a new trend down is on its way, is tricky business. The past month has seen Bitcoin eclipse the previous high of 2017, followed by a surge to more than $40,000. That appears (maybe!) to have been the peak, as prices dropped over 20 percent just today (Jan 10, 2020). Will Bitcoin and the other cryptocurrencies rebound and head back up? Will they collapse back to early 2020 prices? I could guess, but then I'm no better than the rest of the pundits. All I know for certain is that cryptocurrencies are extremely volatile, the past month or two being a prime example of that volatility.

I've spoken with a few people over the past week who basically wanted to know what I thought about Bitcoin. One is an investment advisor, and naturally people he advises right now are asking about Bitcoin. Others were computer enthusiasts wondering if now is the time to start mining. My answers to both were somewhat nebulous, but I'll share them here.

Should you invest in Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency, right now? No, I don't think so. We're already far into the surge upward, and the inevitable collapse will eventually follow. As fast as Bitcoin rocketed to $40,000, it can drop back to $10,000. Since we're still at about $33,000 (update: now past $50K), I wouldn't want to get caught holding the bag. Maybe we'll see $50K before a crash, maybe even $100K! Maybe not.

Longer term, you could still buy in today and very likely recoup your investment in the coming years, but history suggests we'll see $10,000 long before we see $100,000. Wait for the next drop, and if you still want to buy into Bitcoin or some other cryptocurrency, that's the time to make your move. Play the long game, buy when it's low, sell when it's high, but don't buy everything and don't sell everthing — I'd sell 25, 50, or even 75 percent right now, then set a target where you'll buy back in with a similar 25, 50, or 75 percent of what you put aside.

If you have 1 BTC today, then, sell half of it for $20,000 (give or take) right now and keep the other half. Then plan on buying $10,000 worth of BTC when it reaches your desired threshhold, like maybe $10,000. That theoretically gets you $10,000 of profits, plus increases your BTC holdings to 1.5 BTC. Do that a few times over the coming years and you could end up with $50,000 in the bank and 4 BTC or whatever.

As for mining, if you have the hardware available (meaning, a graphics card), I figure any time the net gains from mining are at least double the cost of the power you put into it, that's an okay time to mine. Right now, a GPU that uses perhaps 350W of power (including the rest of the PC) can generate about $5-$7 per day of BTC, using Nicehash. The power cost for running such a PC 24 hours a day is going to be 8.4 kWh, so if you pay $0.12 per kWh, that's $1 per day in power, which means it's a good time to mine.

If you pay $0.30 per kWh, that's $2.52 in power per day, which means it's still a viable time to mine ... but you really ought to consider lower power locations rather than mining in California or Europe or wherever. Cheap power can get as low as $0.05 per kWh, which means it's usually far easier to turn a decent profit.

But more on that in my next post...