Just because miners want power doesn’t mean they get it. Some inquiries are withdrawn. And all three county public utilities have considerable discretion when it comes to granting power requests. But by law, they must consider any legitimate request for power, which has meant doing costly studies and holding hearings—sparking a prolonged, public debate over this new industry’s impact on the basin’s power economy. There are concerns about the huge costs of new substations, transmission wires and other infrastructure necessary to accommodate these massive loads. In Douglas County, where the bulk of the new mining projects are going in, a brand new 84-megawatt substation that should have been adequate for the next 30 to 50 years of normal population growth was fully subscribed in less than a year.
As a cryptocurrency, Bitcoin is generated through the process of "mining"—essentially using your computer's processing power to solve complex algorithms called "blocks." You earn around 50 Bitcoins once a block has been decrypted. The catch? Depending on how powerful your CPU is, solving a single block can take a year or more. Another means of obtaining Bitcoin is to simply buy it, exchanging physical currency for digital at a Bitcoin exchange like Mt. Gox or Bitstamp, or through a service like BitInstant.
Bitcoin solves the so called ‘’double spending problem’’ present with digital goods. For example, if I have an mp3 file or an ebook on my computer, I can freely copy that file a thousand times and send it to a thousand different people. For a digital currency, the possibility for unlimited copying would mean a quick hyperinflationary death. Bitcoin solves this by maintaining a peer to peer network and recording each transaction in a public ledger called the block chain. Say I send 1 bitcoin from my bitcoin address to my friend John. The bitcoin network records that transaction in the block chain and I no longer have possession of that bitcoin. The coin ‘’moved’’ from my bitcoin wallet to John’s wallet.
Buterin and Joseph Poon (a co-author of Bitcoin's Lightning Network whitepaper) announced in 2017 their plan to launch a scaling solution called Plasma which creates "child" blockchains to the "main" parent blockchain. The plasma project has skeptics; specifically, Vlad Zamfir (Ethereum's lead researcher on proof of stake) has publicly questioned the plasma project's viability.
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No one was more surprised than the miners themselves. By the end of 2017, even with the rapidly rising difficulty, the per-bitcoin cost for basin miners was around $2,000, producing profit margins similar to those of the early years, only on a vastly larger scale. Marc Bevand, a French-born computer scientist who briefly mined in the basin and is now a tech investor, estimates that, by December, a hypothetical investor who had built a 5-megawatt mine in the basin just four months earlier would’ve recovered the $7 million investment and would now be clearing $140,000 in profit every 24 hours. “Nowadays,” he told me back in December, miners “are literally swimming in cash.”
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More fundamentally, miners argue that the current boom is simply the first rough step to a much larger technological shift that the basin would do well to get into early on. “What you can actually do with the technology, we’re only beginning to discover,” Salcido says. “But the technology requires a platform.” And, he says, as the world discovers what the blockchain can do, the global economy will increasingly depend on regions, like the basin, with the natural resources to run that platform as cheaply as possible.
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Which is to say that MakerDAO, which launched the PETH token and related products near the end of last year, presently accounts for nearly one full percent of all ether in existence. While some feel that Dai’s practical applications are limited, it is taking a radical approach to a complex problem, with results that have not been overly disappointing. It has built-in mechanisms to liquidate positions which might destabilize the system at large:
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If the Ethereum Platform is rapidly adopted, the demand for ETH could rise dramatically and at a pace that exceeds the rate with which ETH miners can create new ETH tokens. Under such a scenario, the entire Ethereum Platform could become destabilized, due to the increased cost of running distributed applications. In turn, this could dampen interest in the Ethereum Platform and ETH. Instability in the demand of for ETH may lead to a negative change of the economical parameters of an Ethereum based business which could result in the business being unable to continue to operate economically or to cease operation.