Download T-Rex Miner peaked about a month ago, on December 17, at a high of nearly $20,000. As I write, the cryptocurrency is under $11,000… a loss of about 45%. That’s more than $150 billion in lost market cap.
Cue much hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth in the crypto-commentariat. It’s neck-and-neck, but I think the “I-told-you-so” crowd has the edge over the “excuse-makers.”
Bitcoin is the product of justified frustration. Its designer explicitly said the cryptocurrency was a reaction to government abuse of fiat currencies like the dollar or euro. It was supposed to provide an independent, peer-to-peer payment system based on a virtual currency that couldn’t be debased, since there was a finite number of them.
That dream has long since been jettisoned in favor of raw speculation. Ironically, most people care about bitcoin because it seems like an easy way to get more fiat currency! They don’t own it because they want to buy pizzas or gas with it.
Besides being a terrible way to transact electronically – it’s agonizingly slow – bitcoin’s success as a speculative play has made it useless as a currency. Why would anyone spend it if it’s appreciating so fast? Who would accept one when it’s depreciating rapidly?
Bitcoin is also a major source of pollution. It takes 351 kilowatt-hours of electricity just to process one transaction – which also releases 172 kilograms of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That’s enough to power one U.S. household for a year. The energy consumed by all bitcoin mining to date could power almost 4 million U.S. households for a year.
China, South Korea, Germany, Switzerland and France have implemented, or are considering, bans or limitations on bitcoin trading. Several intergovernmental organizations have called for concerted action to rein in the obvious bubble. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which once seemed likely to approve bitcoin-based financial derivatives, now seems hesitant.
And according to Investing.com: “The European Union is implementing stricter rules to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing on virtual currency platforms. It’s also looking into limits on cryptocurrency trading.”
In fact, if subway tokens were in limited supply, a lively market for them might spring up. They might even trade for a lot more than they originally cost. It all depends on how much people want to use the subway.
That, in a nutshell, is the scenario for the most promising “cryptocurrencies” other than bitcoin. They’re not money, they’re tokens – “crypto-tokens,” if you will. They aren’t used as general currency. They are only good within the platform for which they were designed.
If those platforms deliver valuable services, people will want those crypto-tokens, and that will determine their price. In other words, crypto-tokens will have value to the extent that people value the things you can get for them from their associated platform.
That will make them real assets, with intrinsic value – because they can be used to obtain something that people value. That means you can reliably expect a stream of revenue or services from owning such crypto-tokens. Critically, you can measure that stream of future returns against the price of the crypto-token, just as we do when we calculate the price/earnings ratio (P/E) of a stock.