Bitcoin blackout: Proof-of-work and the centralization of mining

Scharnowski, Stefan ; Shi, Yanghua

Document Type: Conference presentation
Year of publication: 2022
Conference title: 26th Spring Meeting of Young Economists (SMYE 2022)
Location of the conference venue: Orléans, France
Date of the conference: 19.-21.05. 2022
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Publication language: English
Institution: Business School > ABWL u. Finanzierung (Theissen 2009-)
Subject: 330 Economics
Abstract: Electricity constitutes one of the main input factor for miners of proof-of-work cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, so they gravitate towards countries with cheap energy. We analyze risks associated with this geographical centralization of mining by exploiting an exogenous shock to electricity supply in a relatively small region with heavy Bitcoin mining activity. We first document a drop of about 25% in the total computing power of the Bitcoin network during a blackout that lasts several days. Compared to a control group consisting of a proof-of-stake cryptocurrency, we find evidence of blockchain congestion as fees increase substantially while the number and value of transactions decrease. The increased settlement latency on the blockchain also impacts secondary market quality. Exchange rate volatility increases while liquidity deteriorates, even though returns are mostly unaffected. Additionally, market integration drops as price differences between exchanges increase considerably.

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