#FutureProof: What does Elon Musk want?

Elon Musk, the world’s third-richest man, has emerged as a divisive determine amongst Bitcoin’s most ardent admirers. A mid-May tweetstorm over Bitcoin’s power consumption despatched retail traders scurrying, resulting in crypto’s largest crash since 2020.

Musk’s tweets got here days earlier than China introduced renewed sanctions on crypto mining, suggesting the billionaire is aware of greater than he’s letting on. It additionally comes at a time when Tesla is coping with elevated scrutiny of its enterprise mannequin.

Contrary to fashionable perception, Musk has not sworn off Bitcoin. Instead, he seems to be alarmed on the surge in fossil-fuelled crypto mining operations within the US, the place Tesla is headquartered.

Tesla watchers know the corporate earns an enormous chunk of its earnings by promoting renewable power credit to automobile makers that fail to satisfy regulatory emission necessities. This enterprise has come below stress as extra conventional auto makers ramp up the manufacturing of electrical autos (EVs). One of them, Stellantis — the worldwide auto large fashioned by merging Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and PSA — lately stated it’s going to not want to purchase credit from Tesla. This will not be excellent news for Tesla, which is already grappling with intensifying competitors within the EV area.

Should the controversy over Bitcoin’s power utilization warmth up any additional, Tesla dangers tainting its squeaky-clean picture as a champion of sustainable power. Worse nonetheless, Tesla may alienate traders, a few of whom view Bitcoin’s power consumption as a unfavorable from an ESG (surroundings, social and governance) standpoint.

Factor in the truth that Bitcoin mining continues to be closely concentrated in China, at a time when Beijing is locked in geopolitical tensions with the US. In April, Palantir Technologies chairman Peter Thiel — a former adviser to ex-president Donald Trump — known as Bitcoin a “Chinese monetary weapon”. Tesla can’t succeed with out backing from Wall Street and the White House — and that’s the place Musk’s principal priorities lie.

As a end result, many have steered Musk’s on-and-off love affair with Bitcoin is one thing the crypto world may do with out. But his mere presence, loud as it could appear, will probably draw extra of the world’s brightest minds into this trade.


On May 11, it was introduced that Thiel would again Bullish Global, a brand new crypto-asset alternate capitalised with greater than US$10 billion (RM41 billion) in money and digital belongings.

Like Musk, Thiel was a co-founder of PayPal. Both absolutely know greater than most about web funds, and their involvement in crypto belongings will solely suck in additional mind energy from the world of excessive expertise.

Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of Twitter and funds firm Square, has been a fan of Bitcoin for years. But Musk’s jabs could have kicked issues up a notch. Speaking ultimately weekend’s Bitcoin 2021 convention in Miami, Dorsey unveiled plans for a brand new Bitcoin {hardware} pockets and a solar-powered Bitcoin mining facility. Like Bitcoin itself, the expertise behind this mine can be open supply.

The race to seek out new crypto killer apps is gaining steam. Lightning, a funds platform constructed on Bitcoin, permits prompt international transactions at little to no value. Another utility, BTCPay, permits retailers to host a Bitcoin fee processor on their very own servers, slicing out middlemen totally.

At the identical time, the mind drain from conventional finance into crypto is accelerating. John Dalby, chief monetary officer of hedge fund titan Bridgewater Associates, has left to affix New York Digital Investment Group, a crypto monetary companies supplier. Michael Daffey, chairman of Goldman Sachs’ Global Markets division up till March this 12 months, has been named chairman at crypto funding financial institution Galaxy Digital.

Crypto belongings are not seen as largely the area of cypherpunks hiding from sanctions or authoritarian regimes. Instead, monetary establishments from Goldman Sachs to Citigroup are actually making the case for why traders must personal crypto belongings. Morgan Stanley fund Counterpoint Global lately invested in Cipher Mining, a US firm that goals to be the world’s largest Bitcoin miner by 2025.

Central Bank Digital Currencies sped issues up within the crypto area

The marked change in tone in direction of crypto is pushed by seismic developments within the banking world. Research into central financial institution digital currencies (CBDCs) has sped up in recent times, within the wake of declining money utilization and questions concerning the effectiveness of current financial coverage measures.

Under one proposed mannequin for CBDCs, customers place deposits straight on the central financial institution. Accounts are held with the central financial institution, as a substitute of with retail banks. This offers governments and central banks larger management over the rate of cash and different aspects of financial coverage. Digital money can be programmed, making it simply tracked and higher fitted to stimulus handouts.

For instance, China — which is main the cost into CBDCs — has reportedly examined a digital forex that expires if it goes unused by a sure date. At the identical time, banks are seeing knowledge that exhibits growing quantities of investor {dollars} flowing onto crypto asset exchanges.

If extra folks stash their fiat money with central banks and crypto asset exchanges, the place will personal lenders discover funding to again up their loans?

This existential disaster within the making explains why tons of of banks within the US are reportedly set to supply Bitcoin-related companies, as early as this 12 months. The transfer will vault crypto into the mainstream like by no means earlier than, bringing the world nearer to a brand new period of cash.

From afar, Musk should have seen all this play out. It was lately revealed that he has labored with builders behind Dogecoin, a crypto asset fashionable amongst younger traders, since 2019. He argues he is aware of what is required to make Dogecoin the “forex of Earth”, and beat Bitcoin at its personal sport.

As the so-called “Dogefather”, Musk wields extra affect over the venture — excess of he may ever have over Bitcoin. By steering the course of Dogecoin, Musk may adapt it for his many bold enterprises. Musk has plans for a Tesla ride-hailing community and, as reported final week, a series of eating places that will make use of Tesla’s current EV charging areas.

Combining each companies, Musk may push Tesla in direction of changing into a super-app operator like Grab in Southeast Asia. Dogecoin may function the underlying funds infrastructure, making it simple for customers and retailers to transact with out having to undergo PayPal or different intermediaries.

JPMorgan Chase & Co, the most important US financial institution by belongings, lately examined satellite-to-Earth and satellite-to-satellite blockchain funds. Musk’s Starlink satellite tv for pc community may broadcast the Dogecoin blockchain in far-off locations — enabling transactions even in areas with out dependable web connections.

Now, all these may look like wishful pondering — however not on the subject of Musk. This is, in any case, the person NASA is relying on to take it to the Moon.

In the long term, Musk’s Dogecoin gambit could show to be a sideshow. The crypto motion went from zero to a trillion {dollars} in market cap over the previous decade, while not having Musk to play satan’s advocate. Crypto will continue to grow relentlessly — with or with out Tesla’s self-proclaimed Technoking.

In any case, Musk has already hedged his bets. The Fortune journal estimates Tesla owns 38,300 bitcoins — the second-largest crypto hoard amongst all public corporations. As the saying goes, watch what they do — not what they are saying.

Andrew Vong is chief future officer of EquitiesTracker Holdings Bhd

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About the Author: Daniel