The collapse of crypto exchange FTX, reflected in its US bankruptcy filing, has delivered another blow to digital token prices. These had already plunged in response to drops in equity and bond prices. The price of bitcoin slid briefly below $16,000 this week from a peak of $67,000 a year ago.
This is categorically bad for all crypto investors, not only those whose roughly $8bn FTX is struggling to recoup. But there are three reasons beyond unworthy Schadenfreude why conventional investors should feel sanguine about the woe of crypto bros.
First, it helps the environment. Crypto mining uses a lot of electricity, about the same as Sweden, and generates plentiful carbon dioxide. When ethereum stopped being mined in September, it reduced global electricity consumption by 0.2 per cent, according to one founder.
Bitcoin mining was using about 0.5 per cent of the world’s electricity. With the bitcoin price hovering close to a theoretical break-even, mining activity has slumped. That lessens carbon costs that conventional businesses would have helped to pay for.
Second, the crypto slump should ease the global chip shortage. Crypto miners buy lots of microprocessors, diverting capacity away from traditional industries. In May, chipmaker Nvidia agreed to pay $5.5mn to settle charges that it illegally concealed how exposed it was to crypto miners.
The chip supply chain will now get some extra flexibility, badly needed amid escalating east-west trade tensions.
The third advantage is that big banks can save some money. They have been hiring crypto experts to deal with client demand for investment services in the event that regulators approve these. Both pressures are diminished by low crypto prices.
Far-sighted banks will divert tech-savvy recruits to work on blockchain-related payments technology. Applications should extend wider. They could, for example, bring property rights to countries where they are currently hard to assert.
Lex has never seen cryptos as having much use beyond speculation, secret transactions and as badges of identity. With digital tokens in abeyance, the world has a chance to focus on the wider usefulness of distributed ledger technology.