Millions of northern Europeans wore coats indoors, as energy prices skyrocket. Then the winter heat wave hit. Author & energy watcher Nate Hagens interviews writer/film-maker Nora Bateson in Sweden. Is this a trial run for living with less? Alex investigates Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) tankers to “save” Europe. Desert for this radio meal is a few minutes with the late French philosopher Guy Debord. He saw the social lie that keeps us pinned to suicidal lifestyles.

Listen to or download this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality (57 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)



Europe is experiencing spring weather at the start of January. Too many all-time heat records to count were broken. “Normally” when a new heat level is breached for a particular day of the year, it will be half or one degree higher. This time, heat records in many European cities were 4 degrees C higher (7 F), even in a few places up to 10 degrees C. (20F) higher.

Image courtesy of Scott Duncan @ScottDuncanWX

As Brett Wilkins reports in Common Dreams: “It’s ‘the most extreme event ever seen in European climatology,’ said one climatologist. ‘Nothing stands close to this.’” The headline is: “‘Absolute Madness’: Record-Shattering Heat Dome Hits Europe”. Meteorologist Scott Duncan said: “There are too many records to count. Literally thousands. Overnight minimum temperatures are like summer.” Duncan Tweets: “Warsaw in Poland just smashed its January record by over 5°C”. It was 66F (19C) in Warsaw. The average maximum is 33F or .5 C is average for maximum. People were out in t-shirts and shorts. in January. in Poland.

New heat records for January were also set in Hungary, Switzerland, Lithuania, Czech Republic, and Denmark. This comes after a serious cold spell lasting almost 2 weeks in North Europe. In the Northern Hemisphere, the waves of the Jet Stream go from Arctic cold to tropical hot these days. It was 21 degrees C (about 70 degrees Fahrenheit) in Bavaria on New Years eve!!

Europeans went to the beaches (in Spring jackets), and walked about town in glorious not-winter. Horticulturalists and farmers are nervous about possible impacts on the plant world. Unnatural gas prices dropped from stratospheric high prices to levels last seen before the pandemic. The high prices were based on cold winter, and so far this isn’t. That gas price drop is a relief to some of my European listeners and friends.


Climatologists have warned that much of the warming we make will not just come as mega heat waves in summer. Winters will be warmer, especially in the Northern Hemisphere. The winters may be punctuated by brutal influxes of Arctic cold now and then, but when the totals are in, Northern winters will be warmer. In addition, as Scott Duncan noted, the nights will warm. Both winter warming and night warming are less visible to humans, and so we may miss this facet of climate change.

I won’t go in to all the reasons why warmer winters sound great for Canadians, Europeans, and all in the Northern Hemisphere. Let’s just say bugs and food are involved, along with all wildlife and plants.

Europe is suddenly 4 degrees C hotter (about 7 deg. F). This comes after amazing heat waves last summer and the summer before. Remember? We begin to ask, has something in the climate shifted? Does warming come in steps rather than a gradual ramp of rising temperatures? I am working on a program addressing a possible cause for a jump in warming.



Millions of Europeans worry heat and electricity could be rationed or worse. In our feature interview by Nate Hagens, Nora Bateson reports from Sweden where winter coats are worn in the living room. Sanctions and Russian natural gas cuts blew up energy prices and the global market. Countries from Germany to Japan are sliding back on plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, they are contracting for decades more gas shipped from America, Qatar, and Australia.

So it’s boom time for “natural” gas. There is nothing natural about it. This is methane and liquid methane, the very same gas estimated to cause up to one third of warming and weather disruption. Methane is around 80 times more powerful as a warming gas than carbon dioxide. Methane levels more than doubled going from 790 parts per billion in pre-industrial times to almost 2000 parts per billion today. Conferences and institutions are already established to find way to capture methane back out of the air to save us from rapid warming. And yet we drag out more and more methane, shipping it around the world. We are producing a catastrophic climate shift.

It is a boom time as the biggest companies and national producers rake in trillions in profits. LNG tankers are being built as fast as they can. Big oil and gas is pouring money into the Permian Basin fracking fields of West Texas and New Mexico. Qatar and Iran are working to bring the world largest natural gas basin online. Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General, called investment in new oil and gas “moral and economic madness”. There is no shortage of investors without ethical restraints, while billions of dollars pour back into shareholders pockets. The few at the top keep it all, while the poor decide between food or heat. There are no windfall profit taxes, no thought of diverting profits into sustainable energy. Wrecking the planet never paid better.

As LNG tankers become saviors of civilization, gas supplies become the center of geopolitics. Qatar is leaning now toward China, the industrial giant that is buying up world ports and shipping facilities. Europe was rebuffed as the prime customer. More about that later.

A lot of Europeans cheer for super LNG tankers and lots more fossil fuels. Sure, everybody wants to go fossil free in the future, maybe by 2050, but right now it is a cold winter at home. The factories need to keep running. When the massive ship Hoegh Esperanza docked at Wilhelmshaven Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz was there to meet it. During war-time conditions in Ukraine, getting gas for the European population is framed as a patriotic duty.  Photo Esperanza via Bloomberg.

The Esperanza is a Norwegian owned ship, 964 feet long, or 294 meters. It is 46 feet wide and 85 feet tall. This is not just a liquid natural gas tanker, it is a “Floating Storage and Regasification Unit” or FSRU. This single ship/factory combination came loaded with enough methane gas to replace 11% of the gas formerly coming from Russia. The Esperanza is just one of five floating methane terminals expected to be operational in Germany by the end of 2023. Another, the Neptune, is already in place. The five terminals should provide about a third of Germany’s gas needs.


The Esperanza came loaded with 170,000 cubic meters, over 6 million cubic feet, of gas. This is an astounding amount of energy. Is it safe? Sort of, and we don’t know. Various authorities have produced risk statements for these giant LNG tankers and storage terminals. The biggest risk would be catastrophic fire. A former MIT Professor, the late J.A. Fay at MIT published his review in a 2003 paper titled: “Model of spills and fires from LNG and oil tankers.’

If I understood Fay’s work, and other assessments, an LNG supertanker is less an outright explosion risk as a source of unstoppable liquid fire. People living around ports are nervous. We don’t want an accident like the Halifax explosion of 1917 when a ship loaded with arms blew up, killing about 2,000 people and demolishing buildings. Instead the projections for an LNG fire is it would spread out like a fiery lake – how far would depend on the hole and the amount of fuel in the tank.

According to the very few discussions about LNG safety, there isn’t a big risk of a gas disaster from smaller warheads, as might be carried by a drone. During the so-called Tanker Wars between Iraq and Iran during the 1980’s, an LNG tanker was hit by an Exocet Missile. The ship was not sunk and did not explode, although we don’t know if the missile malfunctioned. That, thankfully, is the only real-world case I could find.

But a larger missile, like a Cruise or a Russian missile, would surely blow all four tanks of the Esperanza. That is not an scenario impossible to imagine with a war at Europe’s doorstep. Then there are accidents, grounding tearing open the hull, hitting another ship. It is also possible that a major rupture could occur without an ignition point, meaning many megatons of methane would be added to the atmosphere from that one super-source.

On another front, a major gas line from Russia to Eastern Europe exploded in December 2022.


The real leaks come built into the system. Fracking is a major source of methane, especially in the United States. Radio Ecoshock has broadcast a couple of interviews with Cornell’s Robert Howarth. He explained the whole train of unnatural gas from the fracked rock through leaky pipelines. Older cities like Philadelphia can lose up to a third of incoming gas, just through leaks in pipes and equipment. Even storing methane means more emissions as the tanks are vented regularly into the air. There is no charge for tossing methane into the atmosphere, no price per ton, no fines for doing it in most situations.

Fracking Gas = Climate Crash


The floating LNG terminals are just one link in that leaky train. I won’t go into the technicalities of freezing methane and shipping it at minus 160 C, minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit. You can imagine very large amounts of energy are required to do that for 6 metric tons of methane, to freeze it, keep it frozen over a sea voyage which may transit very hot places, and then turn it back into gas. A report by the Natural Resources Defense Council says: “LNG is responsible for about twice as much greenhouse gas as ordinary natural gas. Fourteen percent of the climate footprint of LNG comes from gas leaks, flaring, or intentional venting… during production and transport.”

The only study on the total emissions of an LNG tanker on a long shipment was fully funded by the gas industry. The paper is titled “Total Methane and CO2 Emissions from Liquefied Natural Gas Carrier Ships: The First Primary Measurements”. The study was led by Queen Mary University of London. They took a round-trip on the chartered gas carrier “Gaslog Galveston” from Corpus Christi Texas to Europe. They found “CO2 emissions were lower than what other studies have assumed while venting, and fugitive emissions of methane were also extremely low”.

Total GHG emissions from LNG carriers measured for the first time


The study was funded by Enagas.S.A., the Spanish energy company and operator of European transmissions systems. Enagas owns four methane regasification terminals in Spain, one of which filled the floating terminal recently arrived in Germany. I could not find any independent studies of emissions specifically from LNG tankers or regasification ports.

Liquid Natural Gas is also being touted as the new so-called “green” energy to power ships of all kinds. But in 2022 the European group Transport & Environment showed infrared footage of raw unburned methane coming out of ships in the port of Rotterdam. It is called “methane slip” – just another source of this super-warming greenhouse gas.

As the outside of the LNG containers warm, there will be “boil-off” causing an expansion within the tanks. In newer tankers, that boiled off methane is used to power the ships engines and generators. The generators keep refrigerating the main tanks, and generators turn out to be one of the worst for “methane slip” emissions.

But if the main engine is off, and the tanks sit heating, the excess pressure has to be vented into the atmosphere as methane. God knows how much methane is vented at sea, far from prying eyes.


Just the ship’s time is very costly. Prices tend to peak and then crash, depending on demand and the amount of new tonnage entering the market. The Average Spot Rate for LNG tankers in late 2021 was around $250,000 day. By October 2022 that was $500,000 a day and expected to go much higher. It varies, but they are seldom cheap, and certainly not during an LNG bidding war between nations dangerously close to economic or even social meltdown if the energy system cannot cope in winter.

The actual gas in a mid-sized LNG tanker was worth 15 to 20 million USD in 2011. Lately that went to $175 or 200 million dollars. Add skyrocketing shipping costs to unheard-of high unnatural gas prices, and you can see why smaller energy traders without deep financing have been pushed out of the game.


The LNG global market has doubled since 2011, but Reuters reports the methane market is now controlled by just a few energy giants. Some are brand name oil and gas companies, while others like Qatar or Norway are nationally owned.  Reuters reported in September 2022, quote: “Shell and TotalEnergies are estimated to have a combined portfolio of 110 million metric tons of today’s 400 million metric ton LNG market,” Both Shell and TotalEnergies are partners in the North Field of Qatar, thought to be the world’s largest pool of methane gas. With Qatar and BP, formerly British Petroleum, these four players control more than half the world’s market for natural gas.

Along with major gas producers Russia and Australia, these are the dozen entities which can over-heat the world.  All of them announced trillions in expansions and long-term contracts to deliver gas for 20 years or more. That locks us into a methane path instead of renewables, at least into the 2040s. Scientists and even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change say this is the path to warming beyond 2 degrees by the end of this century, if not by 2050.

In Germany, the Greens and Greenpeace warn the sudden move into LNG by the German government is moving in the wrong direction. The Greenpeace press release is here. (in German). The government paid record high prices, over $10 billion dollars, for the five floating terminals. It was all permitted and connections built in record times of just a few months. It can take years to get permits for wind towers in Germany. Methane is displacing renewables.

High energy prices and stress over fossil fuels could be a huge learning opportunity for Western consumer to live with a lower impact on nature. In the second part of this program, Nate Hagens talks this over with Nora Bateson, along with ways we can prepare to cope with fragile energy supply.  But German authorities say the public and industry have not taken enough steps to be sure of having enough energy this winter. Even with higher prices, some keep their thermostats up. Some industries, high-methane users like cement making, or glass and brick production, are having to limit production, adding to inflation.


At the, analyst Charles Kennedy reveals European countries are still importing Russian LNG right now. The importers agrue LNG is not covered by EU sanctions against Russia, and anyway, these imports help keep energy prices down for Europeans. It also adds to Russia’s war budget. But Russia is still a minor player in LNG, compared to the giants of Qatar and the United States. About 70% of U.S. LNG exports in recent months went to Europe.


Caught by geopolitical tensions and the war in Ukraine, many countries were counting on the miracle ships of LNG to fuel their economies. Pretty well unreported in the West: Japan has reversed it’s policy to move from fossil fuels to renewables. In December 2022, Bloomberg reports big Japanese companies like Mitsui are contracting for more LNG gas from the Gulf state of Oman. Bloomberg’s Stephen Stapczynski writes: “This also marks a shift for Japanese LNG importers that had been moving away from long-term deals on the expectation that a transition to cleaner energy sources would reduce gas demand this decade.”


Then there is the elephant: China. Trying to solve smog that kills millions annually, Beijing wants more unnatural gas. Unnatural gas delivers more power with less pollution than coal which is still widely used in the country. In November, the Chinese announced a deal with Qatar worth over $60 billion U.S. They are tying up more of the production from that worlds’ biggest pool, the North Field, shared by Qatar and Iran. Chinese companies have deals on both sides, with Qatar and Iran, to develop more gas than the atmosphere can tolerate.

High level European delegations went to Qatar last summer trying to secure gas for this perilous winter, to replace missing Russian methane. But the Emir choose to pivot to Asia instead. That is an important geopolitical development which could affect us all in years to come. One energy trader suggests Europe may find enough gas this winter only because China’s production was slowed by the COVID pandemic and a shortage of computer chips. If China’s economic engine recovers, it could be even harder for European consumers and factories next winter.

In the past, the United States has provided weapons and bases to protect American interests in the Middle East. But even a visit from President Biden failed to get increased production from the Saudis. Instead the Saudis went with the Russian plan.

China has created a web of controls over maritime shipping and ports around the world. Nationally-owned Chinese companies control the Panama Canal, one of the world largest shipping ports in Piraeus Greece, and dozens of other port operations from Sri Lanka to Africa. It is like the “Belt and Roads Initiative” but this maritime version is called “the string of pearls”.

Simon Watkins is an international author and advisor for oil and gas investors. On November 28, 2022, Watkins published his perceptive warning about Chinese moves to control fossil fuel resources in the Middle East. Their LNG contract with Qatar starts in 2026 and lasts 27 years, right past 2050. Watkins noted a string of Chinese high-powered energy deals began just weeks before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Watkins says that includes, quote “ a degree of foresight that seems more than coincidental”.


A whole movement rose around worry of methane escaping in the Siberian Arctic seas. Meanwhile, most of my listeners burn methane in their homes, or turn on electricity powered by gas, or work for companies who depend on methane to burn. As the comic-strip character Pogo once said: “We have met the enemy. And it is us.”  So when methane companies promote their patriotism they also mean, and the current state insists, “we will defend your way of life to our dying moments.” Their well-funded voices whisper: “You do not need to change, at least not now, maybe ten years from now. Some magic will save us.” Nuclear fusion or aliens or artificial intelligence or God will save us from this impossible way of life.

This is an impossible problem for anyone who cares about the environment and the future of life. No person of feeling wants anyone to freeze to death in the dark. But as our next guest Nate Hagens points out, we need to prepare to live without fossil fuel emissions any greater than nature can safely absorb.



Nate Hagens is the Director of The Institute for the Study of Energy & Our Future (ISEOF), an organization focused on educating and preparing society for the coming cultural transition. Two weeks ago you heard Nate along with Paul Ehrlich and Bill Rees, “Avoiding The Ghastly Future”.

The Poly-Crisis: What Is Really Going On?

In 2020 we spent an hour with Nate on his work “Reality 101”. Nate has begun a podcast series “The Great Simplification” and recently videos interviews he calls “Frank”. In this program you hear Frank #20 “Staying Warm Data”. His guest is Nora Bateson, a brilliant writer, educator, and film-maker who moved to Sweden. She reports back from a Europe where turning on appliances is a luxury some cannot afford. Nora Bateson can be found at the International Bateston Institute. Check out



Nate Hagens: The Collision


Here are a few notes from Hagen’s Frank  #20 videocast: Nora was paying about 42 Krona [Swedish currency] for electricity, about 40 cents, in October – but now it is up to about 800. Some contracted fixed rates, but others not. The Government promised reimbursement but maybe a small amount compared to over $1000 a month for electricity for a home or apartment. It was 1/20th of what it is now. How did people adapt?

Price increases are everywhere, as everyone has to pay more for power. Few were prepared. Don’t run the dryer, living with house at 14 or 15 C [58 F], just enough to keep pipes from freezing. No hair dryers, short showers. Some appliances are just metal hunks, most people can’t afford to use them. She has an App on her phone to help manage electricity use. “My house is populated with all these machines that are just sitting there.” Nate says the average home has 60 things that are plugged in all the time, amounting to 12% of use.

Nora says the culture of self-reliance in Sweden is actually working against them, when cooperation is needed. By contrast a friend in Ireland has a group of 8 people who each host a dinner in turn, sharing the energy burden of cooking.

Nate asks, do Swedes think this is just temporary and will go back to “normal” next year? Nora says Swedes blame the energy crisis on the war, and the EU is buying up the gas to replace Russian gas. Electric companies are making big profits and governments seem unable to stop it. Nora notes a general degradation of trust in the state, where people used to trust the state, as social welfare, thinking the government is benevolent – hard for Americans to understand, and others in repressive governments. “I pay big taxes and you take care of me – that is not happening now.” Expand your mind by exploring the work of Nora Bateson.


Nate says the disaster is we have a “long-age” of expectations but a shortage of energy. He expects this Swedish struggle will come to all of us eventually, but permanently. That is due to both need to control fossil emissions to avoid climate disaster, and dwindling oil and gas reservoirs costing more to get.

We need to nurture a flexibility that we don’t yet know we are going to need. We don’t know the future we need to prepare for. We need relationships with community, family, the land – and that produces a possibility for response, instead of an individual buying a survival kit. Prepare yourself behaviorally Nate says. I find Nate Hagens work is based in reality. Spend time with his work.



In a world which really is topsy-turvy, the true is a moment of the false.

– Guy Debord, “Society of the Spectacle” 1967

We know now planet Earth cannot support eight billion humans consuming resources and creating pollution killing off other life and possibly our future. No dictator or hero can intervene, because those who benefit hold ultimate weapons, the power of production, and the voice of media.

The crux of change is identified by Marxist theorists, like French philosopher Guy Debord. Our personal functions have been channeled to gather products used to build our unnatural identity: consumers. Some of us work to feed a specialized to the machine, which may consume steel, video, or user data for entire populations. Feeling down or worried? New clothes or a new car will cheer us up.

Guy Debord was born in 1931 and passed away in 1994. He wrote philosophic works, made movies, and founded activist groups often based in Debord’s Paris. Today we glance quickly at Guy’s inspirational work The Society of the Spectacle, published in 1967. The Paris revolts of 1968 quickly followed, and Debord was among those who occupied The Sorbonne University.

DeBord was also a founder of an influential French art and culture criticism called the Situationists. Anyone contemplating activism should learn more about them. In the Wikipedia entry for Situationalists International we find:

“In Debord’s terms, situationists defined the spectacle as an assemblage of social relations transmitted via the imagery of class power, and as a period of capitalist development wherein ‘all that was once lived has moved into representation’.”

A video to think more on DuBord:

Society of the Spectacle: WTF? Guy Debord, Situationism and the Spectacle Explained | Tom Nicholas


“The specialization of images of the world is completed in the world of the autonomous image, where the liar has lied to himself. The spectacle in general, as the concrete inversion of life, is the autonomous movement of the non-living.”

“The spectacle grasped in its totality is both the result and the project of the existing mode of production. It is not a supplement to the real world, an additional decoration. It is the heart of the unrealism of the real society. In all its specific forms, as information or propaganda, as advertisement or direct entertainment consumption, the spectacle is the present model of socially dominant life. It is the omnipresent affirmation of the choice already made in production and its corollary consumption.”

“The spectacle’s form and content are identically the total justification of the existing system’s conditions and goals. The spectacle is also the permanent presence of this justification, since it occupies the main part of the time lived outside of modern production.”

“The spectacle is the existing order’s uninterrupted discourse about itself, its laudatory monologue.”

“The spectacle is the preservation of unconsciousness within the practical change of the conditions of existence. It is its own product, and it has made its own rules: it is a pseudo-sacred entity. It shows what it is: separate power developing in itself, in the growth of productivity by means of the incessant refinement of the division of labor into a parcellization of gestures which are then dominated by the independent movement of machines; and working for an ever-expanding market. All community and all critical sense are dissolved during this movement in which the forces that could grow by separating are not yet reunited.”

ALEX ON DEBORD Why he still matters…

When the industrial revolution took flight in the 1830’s, it was easy to see people’s lives were rapidly redefined literally to fit the needs of the machine. In the days before mass transportation, mill workers need to live near the mill. They were moved, some forcibly, most by a desire for wages, from their homes in the countryside into row housing in a town which quickly became a city.  It was not just a physical move. The consciousness of the British lower class had to be trained to punctuality and detail in order to work with machines. Minds were re-shaped to fit the needs of production. Later, Marxists developed that knowledge further.

In a second stage, developing more in America in the 1930’s, ideas from Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Frederick Winslow Taylor enabled mass production of merchandise. The public had to be educated as consumers, and that was the role of advertising. Debord might argue consumers were needed to fulfill the capability of production.

Drawing on Debord, we might guess a key to reprogramming human desires and ideas about themselves was: the subject must never awake to a new state, or revert to an old one. Either would break the chain of production and social power. A separate state of consciousness, complementary to the needs of production, and tied to it, was created. It would replace the former direct experience of lived environment – with “the spectacle”.  These were not just circuses, or a blockbuster movie everyone talks and day-dreams about. It is not just the media or social media. There is no single image for “the spectacle” because it is a pattern of social behaviors allowing manufactured consciousness to replace the personhood innate to our species, and possibly all species.

Society of the Spectacle came out as a short book in 1967. In 1973, Debord put out a French film version. You can find an
English overdub version here on YouTube. I play a short clip in the show. The voice-over was by Dore Bowen, translation by Ken Knabb.

(Note: This video is age restricted and only available for viewing on YouTube)



I have some great guests coming up – including possibly the largest most important climate news in years. Be sure to tune in next week.


Meanwhile, I know many of you recently had COVID, or have it now. I hope it was not too bad and short. A lot of new science is coming in and it all looks terrible. Proven science shows this virus (a) damages the immune system (after COVID, people may be more likely to get other illnesses or even cancer) (b) changes the blood system toward coagulation, which can lead to blockages, stroke, or heart damage; and (c) the virus stays in our tissue for a long time.

When surgeons perform bariatric surgery, generally to limit the stomach in the fight against obesity, they have to be very careful. The gut is populated by more foreign organisms than human cells. Many are needed for digestion, but other are toxic and dangerous. In a recent study, over 50% of patients getting bariatric surgery had COVID virus RNA in their guts. They did not show signs of having COVID, did not show COVID positive on tests. Some patients claimed they never had COVID. But the RNA is there. Similar studies have found COVID RNA bits left in many organs.

Is it just dormant, waiting to re-emerge one day? Viruses can do that. Think of the Herpes virus which can return now and then all through a lifetime. Or the chicken pox virus which can return decades later as Shingles. We have no idea whether COVID-19 is like that. I guess we will find out.

I genuinely care about you as a listener. People who care enough about the future to devote an hour of listening, and read this long blog, are treasures hard to find. You are the bright and caring one. That is why I hope you will do all you can in the next few months to avoid getting a COVID infection, whether your first or your third time.

We all grew up with diseases that were defeated if we had them once. We presumed that is how our immune systems work. But this virus specializes in disabling the immune system itself. Each COVID infection further damages that immunity. Anyone who has had COVID, and that is now the vast majority of most populations, should now consider themselves immunocompromised.  For me, that means at least N95 masks worn in ANY indoor space where there are other people you don’t live with day to day. My wife and I mask up to go into a Post Office or store. Only an ugly N100 face mask would be good enough for an airplane trip where others are not wearing masks.

In my unprofessional opinion: the massive wave of COVID illness now hitting China is already starting to pump up again all over the world. Deaths are way up and hospital beds are full where I live. This could be a time to avoid social gatherings and crowds, to work at home if you can, to mask up kids and demand HEPA air filtration for classrooms. (France just mandated COVID-clean air for all schools).

Sorry for that unasked-for advice, but I hope to have you as a listener for a long time to come. We have a climate to save.

Thank you for listening, and caring about our world.