Ethereum’s transition from proof-of-work to a less energy intensive proof-of-stake consensus mechanism is causing speculation among industry observers as to whether or not Ethereum continues to retain its ‘commodity’ status.
CFTC chairman Heath Tarbert last month stated explicitly that Ether is a commodity and he expects to see regulated ETH futures to be listed soon on exchanges. However, his comments at a conference earlier this week cast some doubt on Ether’s legitimacy as a commodity under the new consensus model. The key question is - would moving to PoS cause the network to be more decentralized or not; this will determine whether the CFTC/SEC will retain their existing view that Ether is a commodity. Ethereum 2.0 developers and researchers believe that making Ethereum more decentralized is in fact one of the primary reasons behind the switch to PoS.
However, in Tarbert’s, and by extension the CFTC’s view, the jury is still out on this one. In Tarbert’s view, while moving to POS will definitely bemore energy efficient, mining is more ‘decentralized’ than staking, where eventual staking is done by a small group of validators.
The launch of regulated BTC futures was the driving force behind BTC’s last bull run and cemented BTC status as a tradeable investment commodity with a clear pathway towards wider mainstream finance acceptance. The launch of ETH futures could do the same to ETH, and will also lead to better spot market price discovery as is happening with the BTC markets. However,as of now, investor interest in ETH futures is negligible compared to their interest in BTC futures, as evidenced by trading volumes on unregulated futures exchanges.