The Ethereum merger is important for everyone in Crypto

After years and years of delays, the Ethereum merger is upon us. The event formerly known as Ethereum 2.0, when the proof-of-work Ethereum mainnet will merge with the proof-of-stake beacon chain, could happen as soon as Tuesday.

(If you want a tech-free analogy for normie friends, I like this charmingly nerdy one from the Ethereum Foundation itself: “Imagine Ethereum as a spaceship not quite ready for interstellar travel. With the Beacon Chain, the community has built a new engine and a hardened hull. After considerable testing, it is almost time to replace the new engine with the old intermediate flight.”)

The eyes of every person in the crypto industry are on this event – ​​or should be.

The merger will make the Ethereum blockchain almost instantly faster, more scalable and 99% more energy efficient. In theory, that should be fantastic for Ethereum (both the network and the asset). Whether the price of ETH actually moons after the merger, or if it’s already “baked in” and won’t budge, is anyone’s guess – and we’re not predicting a price of Decrypt.

But the most interesting part of all this to me is how it will affect all other cryptocurrencies and blockchains.

First, there is the energy problem.

We will be able to see the Ethereum network’s hash rate drop to zero right away, as proof-of-work mining on Ethereum will end. That could put even more public pressure on Bitcoin’s high energy use, something Bitcoiners like Dan Held acknowledge. It will also leave Bitcoin alone (without Ethereum as a co-offender) in the sights of regulators targeting energy-intensive proof-of-work blockchains.

Just last week, the White House, in a new report on crypto and energy use, appeared to praise Ethereum and raise alarms about Bitcoin: “Bitcoin is estimated to account for 60% to 77% of total global electricity use for cryptoassets, and Ethereum is estimated to account for 20% to 39%… There have been increasing calls for PoW blockchains to adopt less energy-intensive consensus mechanisms, the most prominent response being Ethereum’s promised launch of ‘Ethereum 2.0’ which uses a PoS consensus mechanism. “

On the other hand, Bitcoiners say that proof of stake sacrifices network security. And a significant number of Ethereum miners are unhappy with the merger, which will kill mining and leave them with expensive, unusable machines; can they flow to Bitcoin instead?

Second, there are potential implications for other coins besides the two top dogs, especially so-called “Ethereum killers” such as Solana, Cardano, Avalanche and Polkadot.

You’d expect a successful Ethereum merger to benefit these other proof-of-stake cryptocurrencies – and indeed, many of them have seen healthy boosts over the past week, presumably thanks in part to the merger buzz. But the opposite is also possible: many of these Ethereum challengers presented themselves as more environmentally friendly alternatives to Ethereum. When Ethereum runs proof of stake, they lose that part of the value proposition.

Of course, this is all a matter of image and perception. Ethereum Moves to Proof of Stake should silence the critics who scream about how NFTs are destroying the rainforest. It should disconnect Ethereum from Bitcoin in the energy-guzzling crypto-mining talks. But it might not be, as mainstream narratives surrounding crypto have always been drastically misinformed and misleading. There are people (louder and prouder than ever) who will never get around to crypto no matter what.

And while Ethereum developers insist there is nothing major that could go wrong with the merger, “confusion surrounding the event could increase cases of fraudsters manipulating uninformed users.” DecryptSander Lutz points out.

Finally, as my loyal column readers well know (all tens and tens of them, to quote Dean Winters from the last Allstate “Mayhem” ad), I think the biggest post-merger wildcard, for all of crypto, is regulation. SEC Chairman Gary Gensler continues to state that Bitcoin is not a security and that he does not mind the CFTC overseeing it. What about Ethereum? He will not share his view. It is widely believed that Gensler and the current SEC regime view ETH as a security, despite what former SEC official Bill Hinman said back in 2018.

Even if the Ethereum merger is very successful, it won’t help much in the long run if it has to count on an SEC attack on ETH and all other Ethereum-based tokens.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that the merger comes and goes with a whimper, not a bang, and doesn’t move prices at all or shake the earth of cryptoland. But even that would be a big story. Follow the news closely during Merge week. Join us at decrypt, where our reporting team will be covering all angles.

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