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《金融时报》:极端天气也会影响比特币产量?

极端天气条件造成了一批新的受害者——加密货币矿工。

上周,四川洪灾和欧洲热浪相结合,短暂削弱了衡量加密货币挖矿能力的全球“哈希率”(hashrate),并让世人领略到:如果中国成功取缔境内比特币挖矿业,那可能会发生什么?

根据在社交媒体和加密货币网站上传播的照片,暴雨使许多人无家可归,淹没了大量农田,也淹没了该地区的挖矿农场,业主们在竭力抢救自己的挖矿设备。

“四川洪灾的照片令人震惊,给人的印象是比特币哈希率肯定受到了打击,”加密货币交易平台Carboneum的创始人和首席执行官马克斯·科特拉库尔(Max Kortrakul)表示。

中国矿工生产全世界50%至70%的比特币,以及大量其他主要加密货币,所以此次洪灾恰好暴露了该行业的脆弱性。摩根士丹利(Morgan Stanley)分析师们估计,四川洪灾可能影响全球8%至10%的比特币挖矿活动。

求解复杂数学问题以形成新交易的矿工,需要大量的计算能力。所以,他们倾向于在电力便宜的地方落户,以降低冷却电子设备的成本。其他受欢迎的地点包括俄罗斯、冰岛和委内瑞拉。

与其他国家的政府一样,北京方面对挖矿业的大规模电力需求感到不满,并正在尝试取缔该行业。根据加密货币数据平台Digiconomist的计算,全球用于比特币挖矿的电力消耗,足以向逾650万美国家庭供应电力。

一些行业观察家则对四川的重要性更为怀疑。去中心化应用的应用商店平台Centrality的联合创始人和首席执行官亚伦·麦克唐纳(Aaron McDonald),将哈希率下降归因于一系列因素的结合,包括洪灾、欧洲的热浪和比特币的较低价格,后者削弱了矿工的回报。

香港比特币协会(Bitcoin Association)主席Leo Weese表示,虽然一些公布的图表似乎显示洪灾导致哈希率下降30%,“实际上这些图表只是猜测,基于一天内发现的区块数量”。

交易平台Wyre的主管聂尔(Neil Woodfine)表示,哈希率的下降“只不过是普通的方差”。他说,此外,在线照片显示的设备包括图形处理单元,似乎表明其被用于其他加密货币的挖矿。“通常情况下,只有比特币在专门硬件上挖矿,而其他币在游戏级的图形处理单元(GPU)上挖矿。”

Extreme weather conditions have claimed a new victim — cryptocurrency miners.

A combination of floods in Sichuan and heatwaves in Europe last week briefly dented the global “hashrate”, which measures crypto mining capacity — and offered a glimpse of what might happen if China succeeds in wiping out its bitcoin mining industry.

The storms, which made hundreds of thousands of people homeless and flooded thousands of hectares of crops, also engulfed mining farms in the region, leaving owners trying to salvage what kit they could, according to photos circulating on social media and cryptocurrency websites.

“The pictures of the flooding in Sichuan are alarming and give the impression that the bitcoin hashrate must surely have taken a hit,” said Max Kortrakul, founder and chief executive of social trading platform Carboneum.

Given that Chinese miners produce between 50 and 70 per cent of the world’s bitcoins, as well as a significant amount of other major cryptocurrencies, the floods expose the sector’s vulnerability. Morgan Stanley analysts estimate that the Sichuan floods could affect up to 8-10 per cent of global bitcoin mining activity.

Miners, who solve complex maths problems to form new transactions, require hefty computing power. As a result, they tend to congregate where electricity is cheap to keep the costs of cooling their electronic equipment low. Other popular spots include Russia, Iceland and Venezuela.

Beijing, like other governments, is irked by mining’s massive power demands and is endeavouring to shut down the industry. Digiconomist, a cryptocurrency data platform, calculates that global electricity consumption used for bitcoin mining is enough to power more than 6.5m US households.

Some industry observers took a more sceptical view of Sichuan’s significance. Aaron McDonald, co-founder and chief executive of Centrality, an app store platform for decentralised applications, attributed the hashrate dip to a combination of the flooding, a heatwave in Europe and the lower price of bitcoin, which erodes returns for miners.

Leo Weese, president of the Bitcoin Association in Hong Kong, said that while some published charts suggested a 30 per cent drop in the hashrate as a result of he flooding, “in reality these charts are just guesses based on how many blocks have been found in a day”.

Neil Woodfine, director at trading platform Wyre, said the dip in hashrate “was really no more than standard variance”. Moreover, the kit shown in online photos included graphics processing units, said Mr Woodfine, suggesting it was dedicated to mining other cryptocurrencies. “Typically, only bitcoin is mined on specialised hardware and the alternative currencies are mined on gaming graphics processing units.”

Some analysts doubted that even a significant hit on the Sichuan mining community would be likely to have a global effect on the hashrate, but added that Chinese miners still dominated cryptocurrency. “I think it’s still safe to claim there is a ‘key man risk’ with Chinese mining for bitcoin,” said one.


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