EIP 1559 And Ethereum As A Deflationary Currency

An issue with Ethereum is about to be addressed regarding its non-capped supply of ETH (Ether) with EIP 1559. The proposal aims to introduce a new protocol for addressing the transaction fees on the network targeted for release in July/August 2021. In the proposed change, during a transaction a small amount of Ether (ETH) is “burned” every time it is used to pay for gas fees. This token burn can somehow control the circulating supply of ETH as well, leading to a more deflationary money supply. The burned tokens are removed from circulation forever but new ones can still be created. Overall, this can add some controls on the amount of ETH being put out in circulation as form of inflation control.

Transaction fees are not consistent on the Ethereum network. They fluctuate every so often, but when there is high network demand the fees surge to sometimes ridiculous levels. For the seasoned trader it may not matter, but for retail and new traders it can be too much for smaller sized transactions. More experienced traders may deal with large transactions where the cost of gas does not matter as much. The prices are still high and there needs to be some improvement in which issues like scaling and layer 2 solutions aim to resolve.

TxFee = Total Gas Used * Gas Price Paid

As of March 7, 2021, the average cost of a transaction is $15.53. Just a few months earlier on January 17, 2021 the transaction fee was only $5.41. That goes to show a sudden increase of 187%, which could have been worth at least 2 transactions back in January or earlier in 2021. The demand for ETH in the DeFi space and hodling portfolios due to the good news coming out about ETH2.0 is helping to drive prices and at the same time increasing network activity. The congestion is expected, as the same thing happened back during the cryptokitties and ICO era. This puts plenty of strain on the network, but it has problems scaling since it can do at most 15 tps (transactions per second). The promise of ETH2.0 is a bring faster consensus with more efficiency through a staking protocol (i.e. Proof-of-Stake) to scale the network.

EIP 1559 is an improvement proposal to help make transaction fees more consistent and prevent it from getting to such high levels that many are not willing to pay. Currently with Proof-of-Work, the miners can determine the fees and increase it in order to prioritize a transaction. Nodes called miners set the price of gas used to process transactions, based on the supply and demand of computational resources available from the network. It is in units called Wei or Gwei, just smaller denominations of ETH. The proposal is to use what is called a BASEFEE, that is set based on the network’s level of transactions. What it aims to provide is a market rate rather than a reference based on prices that users are paying for. This structure eliminates the guess work often involved in calculating the transaction fees.

Some see this as adding deflationary measures because of the token burning feature. As tokens are created, they are also destroyed. That keeps the circulating supply in check and prevents any inflationary pressure, according to some analysts. This form of negative inflation could lead to less ETH in circulation, thus increasing market price. While this looks good to traders and core developers, some miners don’t exactly agree with the proposal. They don’t derive the same benefit as much since the token burn benefits token holders more than miners. The miners lose out on their profits that would have been the burned tokens.

The outcome may push for EIP 1559 despite the protests. Ethereum plans on moving away from mining and into staking, so it does make more sense to implement the protocol rather than continue with the current system. Mining will also become more difficult as specified in the protocol for ETH2.0 (e.g. difficulty bomb), that nodes would rather switch to staking since mining will be less profitable until it is totally no longer possible due to the increase in difficulty level. That leads to questions about whether the miners will hard fork Ethereum, but that may be a horrible idea. If no one supports the fork then the miners have a lot to lose, while the mainnet remains profitable with new nodes entering the network. EIP 1559 will surely be activated with > 50% consensus, but the miners can signal a no to the network and not activate it. What is important that still needs to be addressed are the high transaction fees, The hopeful resolution is that the miners and developers come to some agreement to determine transaction fees which really needs to be addressed to further the momentum of growth on the network.

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