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Why China’s new digital currency could quickly become a global currency

China announced recently that it will launch its own digital currency based on the Chinese renminbi, probably with its own centralized blockchain. The currency might launch in early 2020 already and I believe it could be much bigger than just a China domestic payment system.

China, like many other countries, wants to control the way its citizens pay for goods and services, so that’s an important incentive to launch a digital currency. Cash is hardly used anymore in China, even beggars now use QR codes to receive digital money. However, the current digital payments are not run by the state, but managed by private companies Tencent (WeChat Pay) and Alibaba (Alipay). WeChat has over 1 billion users and Alipay has 1.2 billion users, meaning that if China would use their platforms it will be much easier to roll out a state-owned digital currency.

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WeChat Pay and Alipay signs in the T&T supermarket in Vancouver

I believe China may have something bigger in mind, however. Until about a week ago non-Chinese residents could not use WeChat Pay or Alipay in China, simply because you needed a Chinese bank account or Chinese credit or debit card. All of a sudden this changed: first Alipay announced that foreigners could now prepay money into their Alipay account and 2 days later WeChat announced that you can now link non-Chinese credit cards to WeChat. Coincidence? I don’t think so. I believe the government pushed (or allowed?) them to start adding non-Chinese customers in an effort to make WeChat and Alipay more international.

For a while you could pay in some stores in Vancouver with WeChat or Alipay already, but it seems the 2 payments giants are now actively pushing this payment method and they are coordinating their efforts. I noticed large signs in stores promoting payments with WeChat or Alibaba, and I was surprised to see that even Canada Post has this payment option already. This means that Chinese when traveling abroad won’t have to change money anymore, but they can keep on using RMB. Nor do they need to use credit cards, they can simply use the same apps as they are using in China. Obviously merchants like it as well, because they don’t have to pay the 2-3% credit card fee. A very smart idea to slowly get the Chinese RMB accepted as payment outside China.

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Canada Post accepts WeChat Pay and Alipay

I don’t think Vancouver, or North America in general, is important yet to these two payment methods. Most likely WeChat and Alipay are looking to roll out their services in countries where the financial system is not so well developed yet, such as Africa or parts of Asia. Those markets are relatively easy to conquer because people are used to cash and most don’t have bank accounts.

The game changer will be that China might integrate its new digital currency with WeChat and Alipay. Once they do that their domestic digital currency could suddenly become a digital currency for large parts of the world. And once it gets a good reception in parts of Africa and Asia it will automatically expand to other parts of the world, simply because people demand to use it. I think it’s a brilliant strategy, especially because so many people outside China already use WeChat for communication and it has a digital wallet built in.

The US has been so focused on stopping Facebook-coin Libra that they may have overlooked the risk of China doing something similar. By stopping Libra they may have shot themselves in the foot: if the US would have embraced Libra they could have been in the same position (by using WhatsApp to roll out internationally a Libra coin based on the US dollar), but because they tried to stop innovation they may now lose out in the upcoming digital currency wars. I don’t think Libra will be allowed to launch in the US any time soon, so China can move full speed ahead.

And what does this mean for Bitcoin? Just like when Libra was announced I think the effect of a Chinese digital currency will likely be positive. Simply because it introduces more people to crypto: once you have used a cryptocurrency and have a wallet on your phone, the step to using Bitcoin will be a lot smaller. We don’t know much about the Chinese digital currency yet and whether it will be supported by external wallets, but if that’s the case they sky will be the limit. Because if other wallets can also hold the Chinese digital currency, people could change it for Bitcoin and hold it in the same wallet! That probably seems a bit far fetched right now given the capital controls in China, but if they allow customers to spend RMB outside China already they may also allow them to change some of it to Bitcoin. Time will tell, but for sure there are interesting times in crypto land ahead!

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Will we stop the climate crisis? I now have serious doubts.

After working on climate catastrophe solutions and investments for the past year or so I have come to the conclusion that what we are doing is not going to make any difference. The grassroots movement and Greta Thunberg mean really well, but it won’t make a difference. We need extreme global solutions right now (banning cars and banning flying for example), anything less won’t be enough. Let me explain why I have become so negative.

To start, I still believe we can stop and turn around climate change. But we have to move very fast because time is running out. And more important, we have to make huge global decisions that will be very painful for all of us. And that’s what the biggest problem is.

People are not willing to make sacrifices for the climate, simply because they don’t see the big picture or because they feel others should make changes first. I have seen it during the Canadian elections last month where many people felt that Canada should keep on using its natural resources to create jobs and prosperity. They feel other countries should take steps first. The problem is that people in these other countries say the same thing, they all want others to take action first. Arguments about jobs are so short sighted: yes, you can keep a few more jobs for now, but the future cost of those jobs will be so much higher of the temporary wealth they create. Once we get to the point of no return these jobs will be gone (probably long before that already) but the additional burden they have created will not go away anymore.

A few weeks ago I went to a Greta Thunberg rally in Vancouver. I was really excited about it and felt stoked about being part of it. But the event had the opposite effect on me and I felt it was depressing. I realized that the people in the climate change movement are the wrong ones to force a change. Not only was the organization of the demonstration terrible (speakers were hardly visible from the crowds, the speeches lasted way too long and were all similar), but instead of trying to be an inclusive group of people they were actively trying to exclude other groups. I fully agree with them on stopping the oil pipelines, but why combine that point in a speech with supporting the staff of the hotels in Vancouver that were on strike? Keep these issues separate, they are completely unrelated. The same with the support for the demonstrations in Chile that came up a few times in speeches, they are unrelated. Even though I feel sympathy for both the hotel staff on strike and the demonstrators in Chile, I feel they just don’t belong in a climate crisis march.

You need to rally as much people behind you as possible, by excluding others on issues that are not related you don’t do that. The people at the event did not seem like the ones that can make a change in the world, but they did not seem to realize it themselves. It made me feel a bit depressed to be honest. I thought Greta Thunberg was doing a great job until I saw her in action. I highly respect what she is doing, but she is not a very likeable person and I don’t think these climate strikes will make any difference. The grassroots movement may think they are changing the world, but they are not. They are just not the right people to make the change and they won’t get the right people on board with this kind of events.

The only thing that can save us are extreme global measures, things that might seem over the top until it is too late. Once we hit a level of about 450 ppm of CO2 in the air we will get into an unstoppable cycle that will make the current climate crisis seem a like a minor nuisance. At that point the effect of the melting permafrost will lead to methane being released into the air, something that will have catastrophic effects. We have to do everything we can to stay below 450 ppm. At the current rate we will get there by 2030, at which point it will simply be too late to do anything.

That means taking drastic global measures to cut CO2. What kind of measures? I believe the only way to save the planet is to immediately ban flying, to ban fossil fuel cars, and to reduce meat consumption by a large percentage. Sounds crazy? Yes, but if we don’t do it the effects on the planet will be so much worse that we would wish that we would have taken these measures when there still was time.

It will be very painful if we can’t fly anymore. Of course all the airlines will be out of business and hundreds of thousands of people will be out of their jobs right away, but we have no choice! We need to change our lifestyles and we will have to be forced to change them. Voluntarily we won’t do it. The same is true for fossil fuel engines in cars. We will need to make the switch to a different kind of transportation, most likely (shared) electric vehicles in the short run or potentially even autonomous vehicles. I am sure this will lead to new innovations very quickly (fully electric planes with much longer ranges for example), innovations to come out with products that are currently not economically feasible. The same for eating meat, there are simple and cheap solutions to drastically reduce the methane belching of cows (adding a bit of seaweed to their feed or to the water they drink), but there is no real economic incentive to implement it.

We have to make a transition to 100% renewable energy in a few years, while taking out as much CO2 as possible, for example through technological solutions like carbon sequestration. We need to change our lifestyles to a slower kind of life. No more flying to a holiday summer destination, but going there by train or other cleaner modes of transportation. Crossing an ocean might mean taking a boat. Or maybe Elon Musk’s hyperloop trains will be the solution to intercontinental travel. Things will take more time, but is that really a big problem? In the short term yes, but we will get used to it very fast. The Internet, virtual reality and free global communications make it a lot easier to achieve this than it would have been 20 years ago. It will impact me a lot more than most people, but I am willing to sacrifice this.

Of course I realize that the world will not come together to do this until time has run out. Partly because some people do not believe in the climate crisis (most will eventually, but by then then it will be too late), but mostly because people don’t realize how close we are to a complete catastrophe. A democracy seems like the best political system to most people in the West, but it is not fit to solve problems like this in time. I believe yuou actually need unelected (but smart and humane) leaders to be able to get things done, like in a corporate environment. Leaders that are respected by the people they represent, but that do not have to work on their re-election every 4 years or so.

Because of all of this I have come to the conclusion that we might as well party like it’s 1999, because we won’t come together and fight the approaching disaster. The grassroots movement is not going to make a difference. We need global measures to force people to change their lifestyles 100%. Not just by buying carbon credits to offset their emissions, but by completely stopping their emissions. It’s sad, but it seems to be the reality. For a while I thought I could make a change but except for creating awareness and investing in new technologies I just don’t see that it will have enough impact. We will need a global political force willing to make very painful decisions and we will need that right now. Unfortunately we are further away from that now than we have been in a long time.

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Climate change: flooding at the Annapolis Boat Show

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Last week I spent a few days on the US east coast, among others visiting the Annapolis Boat Show. I had never been there, but because it is the largest sailboat show in North America I wanted to check out some of the new boats. It also gave me the chance to meet up with some of the round-the-world sailors that I have been following on YouTube and/or that I support on Patreon, such as SV Delos, Sailing Doodles, Sailing La Vagabonde and 59 North.

During the first day of the boat show I noticed that a water main had broken next to the Fleet Reserve Club and the Annapolis Waterfront Hotel, and that the road was partially flooded. When I came back a few hours later it seemed a lot worse, but because there were now police cars parked at the flooding I assumed they would be able to quickly solve the problem.

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The next day I was at an event with among others Brian and Brady from SV Delos, when someone asked them a question about how climate change was changing ocean sailing and the sailing routes. The answer was interesting, it seems that the ocean sailing routes that have been used for over a century are suddenly not optimal anymore because currents and winds are changing. Sailors that still follow them take 50% more time to cross the Atlantic than others who create their own routes based on new weather and ocean current data. Then someone mentioned that the flooding in Annapolis was also related to climate change. I thought, flooding? And then I realized that what I had seen the day before was not caused by a broken water pipe but it was the Chesapeake Bay water that had risen.

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I went back to the boat show and was surprised to see how far the water had come up in the mean time. Many exhibitors could not be reached, simply because of the water. I did a quick Google search and found that this was indeed partly related to climate change. One article mentioned that flooding on the east coast is up 50-75% since 2000, and that in 2017 there had been 63 days with flooding in Annapolis!

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Click here for a link to the article 

But most people seemed to dismiss it, saying the flooding was just due to a hurricane that passed by in combination with high tides. I am sure that was an important reason for the floods, but when I read some of the comments on sailor’s forums, people were saying that the extend of the flooding was unusual and that in the past this never used to happen. My take is that of course there were unusual circumstances, but that without climate change it would not have been this bad.

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I talked to a number of people at the show but hardly anybody saw it as a serious issue. People did not seem to consider that it could be the beginning of something that will hit many more cities over the coming years and decades. And that is the scary thing, people are like frogs in a pot of water that slowly starts to boil. The frogs don’t realize it until it’s too late.

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Flooding is not normal but soon it might be the new normal. Politicians are not doing enough to stop the climate crisis and grassroots movements do not have sufficient power to make a real change. We still have time to stop the climate catastrophe if we act now, but I am getting less confident every day that we will be in time to avoid the consequences. Be prepared…

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Could the US be on the brink of a civil war?

The gap between the richest and the poorest in society has grown fast over the past decades. I remember traveling in the south of France in the early 2000s and when you would see a superyacht at anchor you would point it out. But when I was on the French Riviera last week I saw superyachts literally everywhere. And not just ’smaller’ ones of 30-40 meters, but also many with a length above 100 meters and a helicopters on deck. Maybe it was partially due to the Monaco Yacht Show, but to me this is a clear sign that the super rich have gotten a lot richer over the past decades, while incomes for the bottom 50% have only gone down in real terms.

This is a scary development that can’t continue like this. Why? When people need to have 2 jobs just to survive (unusual in Europe, but not uncommon in the US) and feel left behind, they will eventually revolt against this. That can take a long time because someone needs to take the lead in that revolution, but that person may actually be Trump.

For a long time my thinking was that if Trump would not get reelected in 2020 he would fight it, because he needs it to be reelected to stay out of jail. The most likely scenario would be that he would accuse the ‘deep state’ of rigging the election and then using Fox News and Twitter to stir the masses to fight for him. Trump would make his supporters feel wronged by the liberals, telling them they are trying to ‘take their freedoms away’ just like he is now already doing day in and day out on Twitter.

Many of the gun carriers in the US are Trump supporters and the situation could very quickly get out of hand. And if it would not get out of hand by itself, Trump’s enablers like Steve Bannon might not mind helping to get the situation to get out of control. Remember Steve Bannon and his obsession with the Fourth Turning? That’s not a coincidence of course. If Trump would not be reelected, this could literally go from a war of words to an emerging civil war in a matter of weeks.

The election is still over a year from now and a lot could happen in that time, so I did not give it too much thought so far. However, the fact that Trump might (finally) be impeached could accelerate these events. Trump is now already fighting it and using ‘his’ media to fight for him and accuse the Democrats of anything he can think of. And worse, he indicated on Twitter that if he gets impeached this could lead to a civil war. The fact that a sitting president says that is a very scary thing and it shows it is on his mind. Suddenly a potential civil war could be much closer than many believe.

You may think that everything is fine in your life, so it won’t affect you. You may go for a walk in the park, in the woods or just on a quiet street in your town and believe that a civil war would never happen where you live. But don’t underestimate how quickly things can change. Lots of people are fed up with the situation in the world and hope that chaos might be a good thing to give them a better life. Farfetched? Read this article about populism and you may change your opinion.

I see it on Twitter, the discussions seem to have become a lot more heated there. Not just about Trump, but also about climate change, and about the financial system (printing money to save the current system, bashing Bitcoin etc.). I personally feel things are getting out of hand and Trump is only pushing that. The USA seems to be more divisive than ever and I am genuinely worried that if an impeachment would be successful Trump would use his populist skills to start a civil war.

I hope I am wrong, but I just can’t imagine that Trump would quietly go away and risk ending up in jail after he left the Presidency. Maybe it can be avoided if he gets a non-prosecution deal, but I have my doubts. He and his enablers may have a lot more to gain from chaos than from keeping the status quo. Like I said in a recent post, be prepared.

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Being prepared

Last week I finally started watching The Handmaid’s Tale, after reading the book a few years ago. I was blown away by the series, it’s one of the best series I have seen in recent years, both in terms of camera work and the story line. The drama series shows an alternate reality, in which a totalitarian regime based on fundamental religious views takes over the US. The story takes place around 2016, a few years after faked terrorist attacks allowed the government to radically change its laws and create a new country (Gilead) in which women are second-class citizens, who are not allowed to work or even read. A public security system with spies (‘Eyes’) was set up and people can get arrested for minor things and get publicly executed. The story goes much deeper, but this is the basic structure of society.

One reason the series is so good, is because I realize this is not just fiction but something that could happen in reality. In a way Gilead is an exaggerated version of Trump’s America. What Trump is doing with fake news is done in Gilead at a much bigger scale (season 2 makes that clear when June is hiding in the now closed offices of The Boston Globe). It’s not unthinkable that Trump and his GOP enablers would try to turn America into a kind of Gilead, the signs are there if you look for them (polarizing and dividing society (“us against them”), creating fear among the masses, mass surveillance). It has been done before, even in recent history: look at East Germany after WWII, China during the Cultural Revolution, North Korea right now (and Trump admires Kim Jong Un!), or what ISIS is trying to create in the name of religion.

The thing is, it seems most people don’t want to see. They live their lives as if it’s business as usual, just as in the Handmaid’s Tale. The series shows flashbacks in which you learn how the US changed within a short period from a normal society to a dystopian one. Just like frogs don’t realize they are slowly dying when you put them in water and slowly turn up the temperature, people in the Handmaid’s Tale don’t realize what is happening until it is too late. When they still had time to prepare (=flee) they did not do it. Women were suddenly not allowed to work anymore, but people still stayed around. The signs were all there but most people just lived live as if this would blow over. People were not prepared for what was going to happen.

Guess what? The same is happening right now in the world. To me it has been clear for years that the financial system is not sustainable. Fiat currencies are being debased by printing money and interest rates have dropped below zero in parts of the world so governments can finance their huge debts. We are living in a huge bubble, a bubble that pushes up stock prices (the printed money has to be invested somewhere) and that allows us to live our lives in luxury just a little bit longer.

But it won’t last, the bubble will eventually burst. And then we are in big trouble. People will lose their jobs, pensions and investments, and we will get into a huge recession. Governments could in theory stop this by going back to some kind of gold standard, but they are not doing that because they are addicted to printing money to finance their deficits. So you have to be prepared yourself, get out of fiat currency as much as possible and buy assets that will go up in value when the markets start to crash (gold, silver, and if you are smart of course cryptocurrency). Most people won’t do it, they don’t see that the water around them is starting to boil until they are caught in it and can’t get out anymore.

The climate crisis is another example where people keep on living life as if we are not heading for the end of a cliff. Over the past couple of months I have become much more pessimistic about how this is going to end (just like Jonathan Franzen in the New Yorker…). The world does not seem to wake up even though it is probably too late already. Yes, there will be a climate strike and yes there will be new IPCC goals, but it feels like too little too late. Maybe carbon sequestration or other new technologies can still save us, but time is running out fast. Most people don’t seem to be preparing for this while there is still time. Look at Grand Bahama, people are actually starting to rebuild there… Next year it will probably be business as usual there again – until the next big hurricane hits.

History repeats itself. Even though people know rationally that something bad will happen they will not be prepared for the consequences. People know it but don’t want to see it. Because their friends and neighbours are not doing anything they don’t do anything either. Until it’s too late.

Be prepared!

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Melatonin and jet lag

One of the biggest downsides of flying a lot is the constant jet lag. Even though I try to fly much less than I used to do (mainly because of climate change), I normally still have at least one intercontinental trip per month to either Europe or Asia. From Vancouver to Europe that means a 9 hour time difference and in China it’s 15 hours earlier than here. Over the years I have developed strategies to deal with that (such eating at specific times, doing sports before departure or upon arrival, alcohol or no alcohol on the plane, and the number of hours I sleep on the plane), but it remains a challenge to quickly get over jet lag.

Over the years I heard a lot about melatonin as a solution for jet lag, but I never gave it a try. I always saw melatonin as a kind of sleeping pill and I just never want to take medicine when I am healthy. But about a year ago I was talking to a medical doctor about my travel schedule and he told me to take a closer look at melatonin instead of just dismissing it. Well, when a doctor recommends it I might as well give it a try I thought.

So I bought some at Vancouver airport at the start of my next trip and took 3 mg a few hours after take off to China. I did not really believe in it to be honest, but I was proven wrong quickly. I got sleepy about half an hour after taking a pill and then managed to sleep for about 4 hours, waking up feeling great. I worked a bit during the remaining few hours of the flight and did not feel drowsy at all. I still had a business dinner that night and felt tired of course, but managed to stay awake. When I got to my hotel I took another melatonin and again slept for about 3-4 hours. Perfect!

Since then I am taking melatonin after (and depending on the flight also during) every single long distance flight and it works well for me. Especially for eastbound flights, where you travel against the time so you will have to go to sleep while your body clock thinks it’s afternoon, it’s a great solution. Melatonin makes me sleepy and I get at least 3 hours of sleep after it. In case I wake up very early (say at 2 or 3 am) I sometimes take another melatonin to fall asleep again and that works for me.

I wish I had tried this before. I spent so many jet lagged nights reading books or doing emails, followed by daylight hours where I needed literally liters of coffee to stay awake. Melatonin is the answer to this! It’s a natural hormone that makes you feel sleepy, but that is not addictive (sleeping pills are). Just knowing that you’ll get a decent night of sleep helps a lot already.

For me the dose of melatonin that I take does not make much of a difference. I have played around with 3 mg, 5 mg and 10 mg pills, but the effect seems similar to me. I always sleep about 3-4 hours and even higher doses don’t make me feel sleepy after I wake up. I have tried different brands, but also there I don’t notice a difference.

Generally I am now over most of my jet lag in 2-3 days, even for 12 hour jet lags, instead of 5 or more days in the past. And during those 2-3 days I normally get a decent sleep as well, although it is generally shorter than it should have been. I am much more productive and generally feel a lot better after a long flight.

If you travel regularly across multiple time zones you should really give this a try. Maybe there is some placebo effect involved, but for me it has been a huge help. Most pharmacies in North America and Asia carry melatonin over the counter and you should be able to buy it on most airports as well.

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American Factory

Two weeks ago I watched the new documentary American Factory (美国工厂) on a long plane ride. I had read a few reviews but wasn’t sure if I would like it, but it turned out to be excellent. The film, distributed by Barack & Michelle Obama’s production company, tells the story of Chinese automotive glass company Fuyao buying a closed down GM factory in Dayton, Ohio and re-employing 2000 local workers – at half their former salaries… The local American workers are taught glassmaking skills by Chinese that are relocated to Ohio for 2 years.

As is to be expected in such a setting, the culture clashes start immediately. It becomes clear quickly that the Americans are very happy to have jobs again but that they only work for money. There is no pride in their work, in the company or in the products they make. The Chinese on the other hand will sacrifice everything for the business and can’t understand that the Americans are so lazy. The 2 groups try to integrate, but although a few superficial friendships develop that’s about it. For the Chinese the only thing that counts is good quality products and a higher output, even if that means working day and night to get it done.
 

Once the Chinese billionaire who founded and runs Fuyao comes to visit it is clear that he has a very different management style than the Americans are used to. He micromanages and he wants to decide everything, which is typical of self-made Chinese business men. But it’s something that’s difficult to understand and accept for the American workforce. Very recognizable to me after 13 years of working in China and now over 6 in North America. 

Things get really interesting when workers want to unionize, something the Chinese can’t relate to and of course won’t tolerate. Lots of food for thought about the excesses of capitalism, the state of the economy in (rural) US, but also more generally about the meaning of life in different cultures. Work to live or live to work?
 
Highly recommended, also if you have never lived and worked in China. It shows an important reason why the US is on the decline and what you can expect when China will start to take over the world. 
 
Watch the trailer here on YouTube  or the full documentary here on Netflix.

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Fusion energy – a solution for the climate crisis?

The past weeks my research focus has mainly been on potential solutions for the climate crisis. I looked at many climate solutions that are feasible, but most are very hard to achieve. My favourite one is carbon capture, basically sucking CO2 out of the air, which is possible but extremely expensive. When we visited carbon capture company Carbon Engineering a couple of weeks ago I think they told us that one plant would cost about half a billion dollars to build. And if I remember correctly, in order to take out all the CO2 you would need to build 40,000 plants. That means trillions of dollars of investment capital…

I was impressed with what Carbon Engineering achieved though. They may be able to pull this off (there is a demonstration plant already), which is fantastic news, although it remains to be seen if the world is willing to pay for it. But I am optimistic and think there will be solutions for this. Carbon credits come to mind for example, but also the fact that currently the oil & gas sectors get annual global subsidies of over $5 trillion (!). So the money is there, it would just need to get redistributed.

There are many other solutions to go to a carbon neutral or carbon free world, but they all seem to come with their own set of problems. Personally I am in favour of quickly changing the world to nuclear power to solve the climate crisis. Current nuclear technology is light years ahead of where it was a few decades ago, and it is now even possible to build personal nuclear reactors. But the general public is afraid of nuclear power because of accidents in conventional nuclear reactors like Fukushima. That is understandable and I was afraid of it myself for a long time as well. But I know technology has come a long way and we can now build safe nuclear reactors that will not be able to blow up. Of course there is still the issue of nuclear waste, but if that’s the price to pay for stopping climate change I believe it’s worth it.

One thing I had missed so far is the potential of nuclear fusion, which is very different from nuclear fission (current nuclear reactors are all nuclear fission). I have been following companies like General Fusion (located just outside Vancouver), but I did not realize how far they have come until I read an article by my friend Wal van Lierop in Forbes this weekend. Wal is Dutch as well and like me he also lives in Vancouver. He is the founding partner and executive chairman of Chrysalix Venture Capital, which among others invested in General Fusion.

The article that Wal wrote about fusion energy was eye opening to me. It turns out we are only 5 years away from the first proof-of-concept fusion energy demonstration plant and 15 years from a commercial roll out. It could have been much faster but it has been very hard to raise money for fusion energy.

That’s partly because of the difficult technology, but the main reasons seem to be economic and political. As Wal puts it in his article:

Fusion is an existential threat to the existing energy industry. If fusion worked cost-effectively at scale, it would complement renewables and provide abundant, safe, affordable and clean energy for everyone on the planet. International relations and economics would be upended in ways that are hard to predict. Fossil fuel companies would be rendered obsolete. This could cause massive disruption on the world stock markets.

Just a few billion dollars would be needed to bring fusion from where it is today to being commercially viable, and to shorten the timelines to the availability of commercial fusion energy. To me it seems like a no-brainer, especially in the age of the rapidly developing climate crisis. The oil and gas industry has the money to do this, but it also has the power to slow it down because it is not in their best interest. They want to keep on burning fossil fuels, and that is why they fund companies like Carbon Engineering that will allow them to keep doing what they are doing. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad that they fund carbon capture technology because it has the potential to save the world, but it does not give them an incentive to stop mining for oil and gas.

The best thing about fusion energy is that it safe, simply because the process stops once the energy input stream stops, so there is no risk of overheating and blowing up. There is hardly any waste and the waste has a half live of just a few hundred years. And it’s very efficient, to quote the article:

It takes roughly 55,000 barrels of oil to heat 10,000 homes for one year. With fusion energy, it would take one liter of deuterium and tritium, extracted from water, to power those 10,000 homes. And whereas those 55,000 barrels of oil would release 23,500 tons of carbon dioxide, fusion produces no emissions.

To me investing in fusion energy seems like a huge opportunity that will pay off big time, especially once the climate crisis starts really hitting us. It’s something I am going to spend more research on.

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Visiting Hut 8’s bitcoin mining operations in Medicine Hat with my son Scott

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I just came back from a short trip to Medicine Hat in Alberta, where Hut 8 Mining has its largest Bitcoin mining data center operations. I went on the trip with a Chinese investor, and my son Scott (now 11 years old) decided to join us as well. Scott had never seen Bitcoin mining data centers, despite already giving presentations at school about Bitcoin when he was 7 years old, so it was a great opportunity for him.

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Hut 8 Mining operates Bitfury chips inside so called BlockBoxes and the facility in Medicine Hat is our biggest one. BlockBoxes are basically mobile shipping containers full of chips that can be deployed anywhere, which means that in theory you can move them to areas with cheaper power. In reality we invest heavily in the locations where we build our data centers and we negotiate long term power contracts, so in practice BlockBoxes will never be moved.

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Scott really liked seeing it and he loved the ‘sound of money’, the loud buzzing of all the computers running at full speed. If you go inside a BlockBox it is so loud that you need to wear ear protection. He also liked the fact that inside the BlockBox it’s quite cold, but when you stand outside it the heat gets blown out so it’s much warmer.

In Medicine Hat Hut 8 currently operates 56 BlockBoxes that have a total capacity of over 62 MW (as a comparison, a city like Oakland, California, uses about 10MW) and they can perform 515 PH/s (515 quadrillion calculations per second). Just our operation in Medicine Hat currently mines about 20 Bitcoin per day, so at current prices we create over $200,000 in revenue per day. In North America we also have operations in Drumheller, AB, and we are always looking for other strategic locations to deploy our BlockBoxes.

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Hut 8 is doing extremely well, today the company announced its 2019 Q2 results and they were very good. In Q2 the company mined a record 2816 Bitcoins at an average cost of just $2757 per coin, so based on today’s Bitcoin price of $10,800 the company makes about $8000 per coin for the coins it mines (or about $240,000 in profit per day in Q2). I am very impressed with what Hut 8 achieved so far, despite going through a very deep bear market last year in which many of its competitors went bankrupt.

Hut 8 is outperforming all other publicly listed crypto mining companies, simply by focusing on efficient, low cost operations and by only mining Bitcoin. I believe the stock price is very much undervalued: earnings per share were $0.43 in Q2, with the stock price closing at $2.56 today (basically valuing the company at 1.5 times earnings). Of course I am biased as a founder and as a strong believer in Bitcoin, but I believe Hut 8 is a hidden gem and the best pure play exposure to Bitcoin via a public stock.

Note: As mentioned, I am a co-founder of Hut 8 and am a shareholder, so keep that in mind when you make investment decisions. This is not a recommendation to buy or sell securities.