Imagine a Single Celebration That Includes Everybody

In the northern hemisphere, the summer solstice marks the longest day of the year and on that day until the winter solstice, the days get progressively shorter. The winter solstice is the moment when the days begin to get longer again. Just the reverse is true in the southern hemisphere, but the two solstices themselves occur at exactly the same moment for everyone on earth.

The origin of the word "solstice" is the Latin solstitium from "sol" meaning sun and "-stitium" meaning a stoppage. Observing the sun over time, you can see the sun rising further and further to the south until the winter solstice, when it slows and stops and then reverses.

The winter solstice in the northern hemisphere is close to the same time as Christmas, and many of our Christmas traditions originated from the days before Christianity, when the solstice was celebrated. Traditions for celebrating the end of shorter days and the beginning of longer days (winter solstice) have been practiced around the world for many thousands of years.

At Stonehenge on the British Isles, for example, the huge stones are arranged in such a way that they frame the setting sun on the day of winter solstice. The ancient Brits had a tradition of tying apples to the branches of oak trees in the dead of winter to affirm that summer would come again. The Celts put mistletoe on their altars.

The ancient Romans celebrated the winter solstice by giving gifts. And they feasted for a week. Servants traded places with their masters — the masters serving their servants during the feast. They also had a tradition during winter solstice of bringing evergreens indoors.

In Scandinavian countries, the sun disappears in the dead of winter. In the far north, it disappears for as long as 35 days. The ancient people of the far north had a tradition of feasting when the dark days were over and the sun once again shone on the horizon. They celebrated with what they called a Yuletide festival. They feasted in a long hall while a Yule log burned in the fireplace. They thought of mistletoe as sacred. Kissing under mistletoe was a fertility ritual. Holly berries were considered to be the food of the gods.

The solstice celebrations were officially replaced with Christian ceremonies during Roman times as a way of overtaking the ancient traditions, even though Jesus probably wasn't born in December. It was a political act. December 25th used to be the solstice with the old calendar. It usually happens on December 21st with the modern calendar.

But the Christian usurping of the celebration was a long time ago. It's water under the bridge and really at this point, who cares? We could start fresh and celebrate the solstice instead of (or in addition to) our other celebrations. We could celebrate the turning of the season. We could celebrate longer and warmer days ahead.

We could keep our celebrations, but change the date, and that way more people could celebrate together. In other words, if you normally drink eggnog and trim a tree and open presents for Christmas, you could do exactly the same things, except do them on the Solstice. Or people with different customs could celebrate their customs and traditions (for Christmas, Hanukkah, etc.) on their designated days, but also celebrate the solstice with everyone.

The solstice has nothing to do with religion, race, or nationality. Every one of us relies on the sun for our warmth, our sunlight, and our food. We rely on the sun for life. The time and date of the solstice can be accurately determined and it occurs at the same moment everywhere on earth.

The solstice might some day become an international holiday. This could be the beginning of something wonderful — a point of unification, a place of agreement, a universal tradition.

You can begin this year by celebrating the solstice in even a small way. Take any of the traditions normally associated with the holiday season and do some part of it on the solstice. Give a gift. Eat a feast. Be kinder to your fellow human beings. Invite people of all faiths to your home to celebrate the end of the longest night and the beginning of longer days. The celebration of the solstice in your own home could actually and concretely work for peace on earth and goodwill toward all women and men.

I wish you a Merry Solstice.

Adam Khan is the author of Self-Reliance, Translated, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

Direct Your Mind: How Can I Use This To Accomplish My Goal?

One of the best ways to get your mind to work for you rather than against you is to ask yourself a good question. Read more about this principle here

For example, when I first started speaking in public to promote my book, I got pretty nervous. I had never done much public speaking before. I tried many things to deal with it, but the one that worked the best was using the nervousness to help me accomplish my goal.

Originally, I decided that each adrenaline jolt would be my cue to go over the speech outline in my head. That worked pretty well. I stopped dreading the nervousness and stopped trying to avoid having it. An adrenaline rush became a welcome opportunity to make sure I knew exactly what I was going to say. This directly countered my main fear — that I would lose my train of thought in front of the group.

I got the general principle: To use the feeling of anxiety to remind me of something. I tried out several things. The one that worked best was saying to myself, “I will make them get how important this is.” That’s what I wanted to go through my head as I stood in front of an audience. I practiced that thought over and over whenever I experienced an adrenaline rush.

And while I practiced saying this to myself, I imagined saying it to myself while looking at the audience, so the audience became associated with that thought — the audience itself became a trigger for that statement or thought.

I came up with this after doing a few speeches. I noticed the audience listened with the attitude, “this is interesting.” But I wanted them to sit up and pay attention to what I was saying — as if it could help them or someone they loved, as if it would make a difference, as if it were important! I wanted to have a real impact on them. I wanted their lives to be forever better. I didn’t want them to listen to me as a mere form of entertainment. This was something I really wanted. It was a sincere, heartfelt desire. And that was the key.

So every time I got a jolt, I would say to myself, “I will make them get how important this is!” And thanks to the jolt, I said it with extra intensity.

In other words, I used something that seemingly was against my goal, and I used it in service to my goal.

Whatever happens that seems to directly hinder you goal, try this question on it. Ask how you can use your barrier to help you with your goal.

For example, let’s say a man has a goal to become a manager. He works as a clerk. He works a forty hour week. That’s forty hours of not being able to write resumes, take training, or in any way move forward toward his goal. True or false?

He asks himself this question. He is working as a clerk, and he thinks of that as a barrier. So he asks how he can use working-as-a-clerk to help him accomplish his goal. For several days he asks this question and so far hasn’t come up with any good answers. But then today he realizes that he interacts with his manager occasionally throughout the day.

“Maybe I could see what he’s doing right and what I would do differently if I were manager,” he decides. That’s a good idea. Then he realizes that as a clerk he deals with people all the time. Maybe he could improve his general ability to deal with people and that would help him become a better manager.

And now he’s on a roll. He realizes that he casually talks with people all the time. Maybe he might find out about management opportunities.

Maybe he could talk to his manager about managing, asking him, for example, if he had it to do over again, is there anything he would study before he started managing?

He is limited in what he can do while he is at work because he has to do his clerking job. But he could find leads, come up with ideas, and so on that he could pursue on his off-hours. And when he gets home he could make notes, keeping a notebook on what he saw that worked and didn’t work about what his manager did.

He could make notes of what it is like as an employee to be on the receiving end of the way his manager deals with him, and that could help him in the future when he’s a manager and has a manager’s point of view and starts to forget the employee’s point of view, etc.

The point of this question is to get you thinking. When something seems to be interfering with your goal, ask yourself if you can somehow use it to help your goal. Sometimes you will come up with brilliant ideas.

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

Is the Open Fuel Standard a "Dangerous Scheme?"

Someone sent me an article by Robert Werner that harshly criticizes the Open Fuel Standard Act. Werner said the OFS bill is a "dangerous scheme we can do without." Below are my responses to various statements in the article. You can read his article here.

1. In the title, Werner calls the bill "Open Fuel Standardization Act," which is not its correct name, although he provides a link to the correct bill.

2. Werner writes, "H.R. 1687 would mandate that 50% of all new cars and light duty trucks produced by 2014 be engineered to run on some type of alternative fuel." This is somewhat misleading. In the context of the rest of the article, this seems to imply that the vehicles will not be able to also burn petroleum.

The Open Fuel Standard Act makes it clear that the only type of car no longer allowed to be sold is a car that perpetuates oil's virtual monopoly over transportation fuel. So a normal internal combustion engine vehicle would need to be warranted to burn ethanol and methanol in addition to gasoline.

This is a very simple engineering tweak. In fact, according to Robert Zubrin, our cars are already capable of burning all three fuels very well, except for one thing: The flex fuel software in the cars' onboard computer is missing or has been disabled. That's an easy and inexpensive thing to remedy. Read more about Zubrin's research here.

3. Werner writes, "Step aside, Free Market, Big Government coming through! If only 'We The People' weren’t so obtuse. Unwilling to do the right thing; passing over Chevy Volts in favor of Ford F-Series Pickups and Honda Accords. Shame, shame." Again, this is misleading and inaccurate. Ford pickups and Honda Accords could very easily burn ethanol, methanol and gasoline if they were legally warranted to do so.

After the Open Fuel Standard bill passes, if someone with a Ford F-Series Pickup wanted to burn nothing but gasoline in her truck, she would be able to do so. Gasoline would still be one of the many fuels she could fill up with. But she would have other choices too — choices we don't have now.

The main purpose of the OFS bill is to introduce a free market for America's most important commodity. What we have now is a virtual monopoly. Very few cars are sold that can burn multiple fuels, so very few fuel stations have the motivation to put in competing fuel pumps (and oil companies actively block them). Auto buyers have very little incentive to purchase a flex fuel car since there aren't many fuel pumps available with anything but petroleum. The result: No competition.

The Open Fuel Standard would break through this impasse and open up the fuel market to competition for the first time in a hundred years.

4. Werner writes, "Common sense in Washington dictates that we should burn food in our cars (Ethanol, Biodiesel)." Again this misleading statement ignores the many possible feedstocks ethanol and methanol can be made from, implying that the OFS bill would make everything unavailable except ethanol made from corn. He ignores ethanol made from municipal waste, switchgrass, miscanthus, corn stover, wheat and barley straw, and algae, to name just a few non-food crops ethanol is already being made from. And he ignores methanol, which can also be made from municipal waste, agricultural waste, coal, natural gas, and waste from the paper industry, to name just a few. 

5. Werner writes, "Think you’ll outsmart them by maintaining your current gas guzzling beast? Plan on camping out at the dealership for a chance to buy a rare, new gasoline burning car?" If he means a car that can only burn gasoline, he's probably right. But with the OFS, most cars could burn gasoline like just like they do now, and just as well.

We have about 9 million flex fuel vehicles (FFVs) on the road in America, out of 250 million. According to the National FFV Awareness Campaign, a large percentage of people who already own an FFV don't even know it. They are buying gasoline, completely unaware that they have any choice. The vehicles are just as good at burning gasoline as any gas-only car, and buyers are often not even told that the car they're buying is anything different than what has always been available — a car that can only burn one fuel, a car that maintains oil's virtual monopoly over our nation's transportation fuel, a car that enables OPEC to control our economic destiny.

So once the Open Fuel Standard Act is passed, anyone who wanted to could completely ignore their new choices and stick to old-fashioned gasoline for the rest of their lives. They will have other choices, but they don't ever have to act on them. 

Robert Werner grossly misunderstood the Open Fuel Standard. And he's not alone. In our conversations, all of us need to do a better job of clarifying what this bill is and what it can do for America.

Adam Khan is the co-author with Klassy Evans of Fill Your Tank With Freedom and the author of Slotralogy and Self-Reliance, Translated. Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

Nitric Oxide: A Unifying Principle of Health (Season 4, Episode 7 of The Adam Bomb Podcast)

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The Magic of Motivation

Houdini loved magic tricks from the time he was a boy, and spent a huge portion of his time learning to amaze people. It was tremendously fun for him. As he started to perform, he didn’t make much money. It’s a difficult business to succeed in. But he eventually did succeed. He had a motivation he could not forget: The vow he made when he was young to his dying father to financially support his mother for the rest of her life.

He worked unbelievably hard to keep that vow. It was a powerful motivation. His mind was on his purpose every minute of the day.

Consider the patience, persistence, and commitment required to learn just one skill: The ability to swallow something only halfway to the stomach and hold it there, and be able to bring it up again to your mouth. A Japanese performer showed Houdini the trick, and it took Houdini hundreds of hours of practice to master it, but it enabled him to do his most famous stunts.

He would “swallow” lock-picking tools, but nobody knew this. He dared the finest jails to search him head to toe and lock him up. When he was all locked up, he brought his tools out and escaped from the jail — sometimes making it to the front gate before the jailers did!

Why did he try so hard and work so diligently? Because he had a good reason.

Nietzsche said, “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.”

Think about your own why. With a good enough reason, you can easily and even joyously bear with any suffering, hardship, difficulty, or tediousness that your goal requires.

And as you’re thinking, your mind will be electrified with earnest intention and will generate ideas. Eric Hoffer wrote, “We are told that talent creates its own opportunities, but it sometimes seems that intense desire creates not only its own opportunities, but its own talents.”

But thinking about a purpose is only what to do with your mind when it is idle and when you can’t actually work on your purpose. Or what to do when you feel demoralized by setbacks. Re-ignite your motivation by thinking about the reason you really want to accomplish your goal. Make those motivations into slotras (thoughts you practice thinking), and practice thinking them every day.

And thinking about your goals is not the same as talking about them. I tend to agree with Earl Nightingale, who certainly knew something about accomplishment. He said:

I’ve always felt that glibness is a serious danger to accomplishment. Like a steam valve, if we talk at great length about what we are going to do, we seem to lose just that much steam when it comes to actually doing it.

Make statements about what you will do. This is not only positive, it is future-oriented, so it will bring you up, and it focuses your mind on a definite purposeful action.

Read the next chapter: When You Backslide

This article was excerpted from the book, Slotralogy: How to Change Your Habits of Thought.

Direct Your Mind: What's Good About This? or How Can I MAKE Something Good Out of This?

The compass (and its use in navigation) was developed in the Mediterranean because the sailors there had several disadvantages: very deep water, winds that varied a lot in the winter, and skies that were usually overcast. So you couldn’t reliably navigate by sounding, by the wind, or by the stars. Those were the three ways sailors all over the world used to navigate. In the Indian oceans, the monsoon winds are so regular (they change directions with the seasons) you could easily determine your direction by simply noticing which way the wind was blowing. And they have clear tropical skies so they could usually navigate by the stars.

Northern Europe is on the continental shelves of the Atlantic, so the water is shallow enough that sailors could drop a lead weight attached to a rope to the sea floor to find their depth, and thus could tell where they were by how deep the water was. This was called making a sounding, and it was a very accurate method of locating one’s position in charted waters.

But the sailors of the Mediterranean had to develop some way to navigate without shallow waters, clear skies or predictable winds. And because they had to develop navigation by compass, Spain, which borders both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, was the first to find and colonize the New World.

Without having the know-how to navigate by compass, nobody in their right mind would have sailed across the Atlantic. There would have been no guarantee they’d be able to find their way back. They’d have no familiar landmarks, no soundings would work, wind directions would of course be unknown, and whether or not they’d have clear skies was unknown.

The “disadvantage” of sailing the Mediterranean turned out to be quite an advantage for Spain.

But of course, given the mind’s natural negative bias, I’m sure most people of Spain assumed their sailing conditions were only a disadvantage.

The lesson here is simple: When you think something is a disadvantage, think again. Assume there will be an advantage in it and then find it or make it. This intention is a fundamental key to a good attitude. With it, the inevitable setbacks in life won’t bring you down as much and you will handle problems more effectively.

I know some people would scoff at this idea. It’s too airy-fairy. It might remind them of some annoyingly positive people they know to whom everything is great, but somehow, behind their forced smile, you can see it’s all a facade.

But this idea can be used with depth, rather than as a way to merely show a pleasant face to the world or hide your pain from yourself. It can be done with intelligence and wisdom.

Many people think cynicism and pessimism are good in some ways. But they aren’t good. Negative attitudes are actually dangerous, unhealthy, damaging, and contagious.

In a study at Washington University in St. Louis, researchers interviewed people who had experienced a either a plane crash, a tornado, or a mass shooting. They interviewed the survivors a few weeks after the traumatic event and then again three years later.

In the first interview, some people said something good came out of the event. Some reported they realized life was too short not to pursue their most important goals, or they realized how important their family was to them. Three years later, those were the people who recovered from the trauma most successfully.

In an interview in Psychology Today, Carl Sagan said of his fight with cancer, “This is my third time having to deal with intimations of mortality. And every time it’s a character-building experience. You get a much clearer perspective on what’s important and what isn’t, the preciousness and beauty of life…I would recommend almost dying to everybody. I think it’s a really good experience.”

Think now about something you have that you normally consider a disadvantage...

Are you in debt? Did you have a rough childhood? Were you poor? Didn’t have the advantages wealthier kids had? Do you lack education? Do you have a bad habit? Has something terrible happened to you? Are you frustrated with your career? Not making as much progress as you’d like? Feel stagnant?

Pick one thing in your life you normally think is a bad thing.

Now ask yourself, “What’s good about it?” Or if there is really nothing outright good about it, how could you make something good about it?

If you don’t get a good answer right away, that only means it’s a tough question. And it means when you find a good answer, it will probably make a bigger difference. Try living with the question for several weeks or even months. Ponder it while you drive. Wonder about it while you shower. Ask yourself the question every time you eat breakfast. Live with the question and you will get answers.

And your answers will help you make things turn out better for you. As Klassy often says, “Things turn out best for those who make the best of how things turn out.” As I write this, Klassy is at her ill mother’s house, taking care of her, and I only see her on weekends, and not even every weekend. I miss her terribly. Obviously this is a bad thing.

But I’m using this time to work on a book. Instead of moping or simply suffering, I am making the most of it, taking advantage of it. When the ordeal is over, we will have gained a lot from this misfortune. That was my commitment when it started and by thought and action I’m making it come true.

It is not putting your head in the clouds to take advantage of your reality — what you have, where you are, and when you are. It’s an entirely practical way to deal with “disadvantages.”

If you have a tendency to simply feel bad about your disadvantages, even that can become an advantage. Trying to overcome your tendency might teach you something valuable — something you couldn’t have learned without it. And you can teach what you learned to your children, which could make a difference to the whole trajectory of their lives.

Trying to make the best of something that has already happened helps create solutions. It helps make things better. It is even better for your health. It keeps you from feeling as bad when bad stuff happens. It lowers your stress, and less stress is good for you. As Richard H. Hoffmann, MD, said:

The human body is a delicately adjusted mechanism. Whenever its even tenor is startled by some intruding emotion like sudden fright, anger or worry, the sympathetic nervous system flashes an emergency signal and the organs and glands spring into action. The adrenal glands shoot into the blood stream a surcharge of adrenaline which raises the blood sugar above normal needs. The pancreas then secretes insulin to burn the excess fuel. But this bonfire burns not only the excess but the normal supply. The result is a blood sugar shortage and an underfeeding of the vital organs. So the adrenals supply another charge, the pancreas burns the fuel again, and the vicious cycle goes on. This battle of the glands brings on exhaustion.

Frequent negative emotions play havoc on your system. The idea that something good may come from your misfortune allows you to consider that things might not be as bad as they seem at the moment, and in a sense, makes it possible to procrastinate feeling bad. Procrastinate long enough, and you might just skip it altogether. This makes for less stress and better health.

Volunteers at the Common Cold Research Unit in England filled out a questionnaire. The researcher, Sheldon Cohen, discovered that the more positive the volunteers’ attitudes were, the less likely they were to catch a cold. And even when they did catch a cold, the more positive their attitude was, the more mild their symptoms were.


IT WORKS IN BUSINESS TOO

W. Clement Stone became rich selling insurance and then running an insurance company. In one of Stone’s books, he wrote that whenever someone came to him with a problem, he would always say, “That’s good!” This puzzled people sometimes. They might be one of his salespeople talking about a serious problem — a problem that cost Stone’s company a lot of money — and Stone would answer back with enthusiasm: “That’s good!”

Years ago when I first read this, I thought it was over the top. Too much. But I’ve thought a lot about it over the years and I’ve tried it, and I’ve decided that maybe there are some things that sound stupid but are really smart.

When anything happens, usually some aspects of it are an advantage and some aspects are a disadvantage. For example, when you buy a new car, it will probably need less repair work than an older car. That’s one advantage. Maybe it gets better gas mileage. There’s another advantage. But it is more likely to get stolen. That’s a disadvantage. And your insurance payments are higher. You get the idea. The point is, almost any event has both good and bad aspects to it.

When you first hear about a problem, your first reaction is probably to see only the disadvantages. This is a natural reaction. You focus all your attention on the bad aspects of the event. This puts you in a bad mood — a state of mind not only unpleasant as an experience, but also one that makes you less effective at dealing with the problem. If you react like this to unexpected or unfortunate events often or habitually, it will cause extra stress, so it’s bad for your health. The habit would be a good thing to change. I suggest trying Stone’s method. It will take some practice, but it can eventually become a habit.

When a problem lands in your lap, say, “That’s good!” (Note: Don’t necessarily say it out loud. It will make some people mad.) And then immediately start doing two things:

  1. look for the advantages that might be wrapped up in this “problem” (which may be difficult at first), and
  2. look to see how you can turn it to your advantage, and take steps to make it so.

This approach will make you more effective. You can plainly see why. You don’t waste any time bemoaning what already exists, and your thoughts turn immediately to how you can turn it to your advantage. No suffering is endured getting into a worse mood than is absolutely necessary. Your attitude toward the circumstances is open.

Your point of view — whatever it may be — is not something fixed or permanent. It can be changed fairly easily. And when you change the way you think about something, it changes the way you feel about it. And when you change the way you feel about it, your actions change too — in this case, for the better. Try it.

And remember, if you have trouble at first learning to do this, that’s good!


THE ORIGINAL MISTAKEN ASSUMPTION

The people of Japan and Germany were defeated in World War Two. Many of them probably thought this was a bad thing. But aren’t the majority of the people in those countries far better off than they would have been if they had won the war? Wasn’t that really the best thing that could have happened to the majority of the ordinary citizens?

At the time, however, they didn’t know that. And I’m sure many of them were very distressed about this “bad” turn of events.

Haven’t you had a similar experience? Something happened you thought at first was terrible and you got upset about it, but later you were really glad it happened? If you can think of a time when this happened to you, keep that memory in your mind whenever something bad happens.

You don’t know what the future holds. The new “bad” event might be good. I’m not talking about fooling yourself. You’re making an assumption anyway. You really don’t know if this might turn out to your advantage. You might as well assume it will be, and start making it so.

A mistake might not be a mistake. You might think that you should have done this or shouldn’t have done that. But it would be better to ask what advantages your already-done deeds give you and exploit them in the present.

The architect Bonano erected a freestanding bell tower for a cathedral, but he built it on soft subsoil — a bad mistake which made the tower lean over. That mistake created a large tourist industry and put the town on the map. People came from all over the world to see the leaning tower of Pisa. Galileo conducted his famous gravity experiments from that tower because it was leaning.

Of course, an historical example is all fine and well, but what about you? Don’t you have things in your life right now you consider a disadvantage? Aren’t there conditions you “know” are bad? That you wish would go away?

Choose one right now and suspend your negative judgment about it for a moment and ponder this question: Is it possible your disadvantage is an advantage in disguise? Or could you make an advantage out of it?

If you don’t want to ponder this for weeks, you can do a little concentrated pondering. Write this question at the top of a piece of paper, “What is good about this?” And force yourself to come up with 15 answers and write them down.

Then take another piece of paper. At the top write, “How could I turn this into an advantage?” Make yourself come up with 15 more answers.

At the end of this exercise, which will only take you an hour or two, your perspective on the “problem” will be totally altered. The “problem” will have lost most of its power to bring you down. This process can undemoralize you. It can restore lost motivation. It can give you strength and effectiveness and even good feelings.


UNWANTED AND UNLOVED

Irwin Kahn wrote to Dear Abby. When he was ten years old, Irwin’s mother sent him to a children’s home. He was very hurt by this. She kept Irwin’s younger brother and sister, but got rid of him. Ouch! His mom said Irwin was too much of a troublemaker.

He was an emotional mess for a while and developed a severe stuttering problem. But he was assigned a “Big Brother” and the staff of the children’s home were good people, and this combination helped him develop some inner strength and a sense of values.

At age seventeen, he left the home to make his way in the world. “I educated myself,” he said, “overcame my stuttering, became a successful corporate CEO, and now enjoy multimillionaire status. I retired at 52.”

If you think about it, what seemed a terrible disadvantage — being unwanted and unloved — might have been an advantage in disguise. This conclusion seems so much the opposite of what anyone would normally think. But the fact is, he came into the care of people who were devoting their lives to helping others. He came under the influence of a Big Brother who voluntarily and out of genuine kindness spent his time to help a young person. If he hadn’t been rejected by his mother, Irwin would not have met these people or been influenced by them. Instead, he would have been raised by a mother who clearly didn’t care about him.

We’ve got to face the facts: Our natural negative bias makes us automatically reject certain kinds of events, but depending on your attitude, those events could really and truly turn out to contain a hidden advantage which you will only see if you look.

When the energy crisis engulfed the world in the 1970s, Brazil was hurt badly. Oil imports were taking half the available foreign currency, and the country was heavily in debt. But because of the crisis, Brazilians looked elsewhere for fuel. They had to look no further than their own backyard.

One of the things Brazil had was a huge sugar cane crop. So they used it to make alcohol, and started using alcohol as fuel. Today, 90% of cars sold in Brazil run on alcohol, which burns much more cleanly than gas. Almost all the cars sold in Brazil can burn gasoline and ethanol equally well, and most fuel stations sell both. To this day, Brazil is the only country in the world with true fuel competition. It has helped their economy tremendously, especially when oil prices have spiked (something that seriously hurts the rest of the world because there is no widely available alternative fuel that most of the cars can use). Brazil just passed Britain to become the sixth largest economy in the world.

They found advantages in their disadvantage. Because alcohol became their chief fuel, air quality in their cities improved.

The sugar cane is ground to a pulp, and the juice is extracted and fermented. So they had hundreds of thousands of tons of juiceless pulp. They had to pay garbage collectors to take it away.

But you and I have to drill it into our noggins that a disadvantage (like tons of pulp) may be an advantage in disguise if we think that way. Brazilians did. And they found things to do with the pulp. They burn the pulp to generate electricity, relieving the necessity of building new dams on the Amazon river — dams that cause flooding and environmental damage. And burning the pulp adds no permanent carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, because the growing plants absorb as much as is released in the burning.

The pulp is also made into a nutritious feed for cattle.

It is an old positive-thinking maxim that “trouble brings the seeds of good fortune.” It may one of those ideas that makes itself true. If you think you can make an advantage out of a disadvantage, you may try, and if you try, you greatly increase the odds of it happening.

But if you close your mind to the situation — if you make up your mind it is just bad — you are less likely to think of a way to turn it to your advantage.

You have something to gain and nothing to lose by taking this idea — that trouble contains the seeds of good fortune — and burning it into your mind. Make it an automatic part of your thinking. Practice asking the question, “What’s good about this?” Make the question come to mind naturally and easily. Have it so ingrained that it is your first thought when trouble comes your way. It will give you power to overcome difficulties and prevent life from sinking you into the quicksand of despair. It will give you a path to better future.

When Henry Ford was running the Ford Motor Company, he had to overcome one problem after another (just like the rest of us). He was exceptionally good at turning problems into opportunities. For example, on their lunch hour some of his employees used the scrap wood left over from making dashboards and burned it as firewood. They cooked their lunches with it.

The problem was all the charcoal left over. It was starting to accumulate. Ford needed to get rid of it. But how?

His first idea was to make his dealers take it. He said for every train carload of his cars they bought, they had to take a carload of charred wood with it. How they disposed of it would be their problem. As you can guess, this didn’t go over very well with the dealers.

Eventually, Ford’s “problem” was solved — in a very profitable way. A friend of Ford’s, Mr. E.G. Kingsford, bought the charcoal and packaged it with a little grill and some lighter fluid and sold it in supermarkets. Kingsford briquettes have been earning a healthy profit ever since.

By thinking about it, a problem became an opportunity in disguise. Ford actually profited from his “problem.”

The actor Edward James Olmos grew up in East L.A. and his parents divorced when he was seven. He lived with ten other people in a three-room house (including the kitchen) with a dirt floor. Growing up this way is obviously a disadvantage, right? Olmos sees it differently, and that’s why he is successful. He said, “Some people say they didn’t have a choice. They’re poor or brown or crippled. They had no parents. Well, you can use any one of those excuses to keep your life from growing. Or you can say, ‘Okay, this is where I am, but I’m not going to let it stop me. Instead, I’m gonna turn it around and make it my strength.’ That’s what I did.”

Sometimes there is a blessing to trouble without any intention to make it that way. You might get in a fender-bender and the cop who shows up asks you out on a date and you end up marrying.

But often, when something bad happens, it’s just bad, or at least it seems that way. There doesn’t seem to be anything redeeming about it. And since we’re usually in a negative state of mind when trouble strikes, we’re in no mood to try to find anything redeeming about it!

Here’s the problem with that: Your mind will tend to see what you expect to see, unless you have strong and clear evidence to the contrary.

If you see the “bad” event as bad, you are not likely to get any clear evidence you’re wrong. It happens sometimes, but not very often. Since there is no obvious reality to confirm or contradict your opinion, your mind is free to see what’s bad about the situation, and equally free to ignore what might be good about it. And that’s exactly what your mind will do if you don’t do anything to stop it.

And by seeing what’s bad, sometimes you can actually make the situation worse. If you think it’s bad and you throw in the towel, you might miss what you could have done to solve the problem, or even turn it to your advantage. And by not doing anything, sometimes the problem can get worse.

This question, “What’s good about this?” makes you open your eyes and see what opportunities you might be able to cultivate. It turns your attention to the future, to doing something about it. It changes your attitude from one of avoidance and rejection to one of acceptance and alertness. It puts you in a better frame of mind for dealing with the “trouble.”

When something “bad” happens, you can accept that it’s bad, or you can try to concentrate on what is good about it, or you can make something good out of it.

Am I beating this to death? Maybe so. But then tomorrow when someone doesn’t call you back or you burn your dinner or you see your child’s report card and it’s bad, how will you react?

If you take this idea and make it an ingrained part of your thinking, you can take many of the circumstances that in the past would have just been unfortunate, and you can change them into something that creates benefits for you and the people around you. And maybe for the world at large. At the very least, it will change your attitude for the better.

There are some things that “everyone knows” are bad: a home burned to the ground, a divorce, a lost job, a sick child, and there are millions of smaller inconveniences that if you asked 100 people, 99 of them would all agree that yes, those are definitely bad and there is nothing good about them. But what everyone agrees about isn’t necessarily true.


DO NOT STOP YOURSELF

You may already know that “assuming the worst” is bad for your life, but maybe you don’t know how to stop yourself from doing it. The negative assumptions come automatically and once you think that way, it’s difficult to make the thoughts go away.

But now you have a way to do it. Don’t try to stop thinking anything. Trying not to think something negative makes you fixate on the negative. There is a better way.

Simply ask yourself the question, “What’s good about this?” Or even, “What might be good about this?” And keep asking it over and over. Not forcing. Not with any frustration. Not trying to stop yourself from thinking anything else. Just calmly repeat that question to yourself. Keep looking at your life through this question. Ponder it.

Keep doing that when troubles big and small come your way and after awhile — a month, a year — you’ll start thinking that way automatically. You will start to trust it. It will become a natural part of your thinking. Trouble will happen and you’ll automatically and naturally start wondering what is good about it or how you can turn it to your advantage.

Can you imagine what that will do to your calm during a crisis? Can you imagine how much better you will be at keeping your wits about you?

Ask the question. All by itself, it can transform the quality of your experience, and through the change in your experience, it will change your attitude, your expressions, your behavior, alter the actions you take, and through those, actually change the world you live in, and it will benefit others. When something “bad” happens, ask the question, “What’s good about this?”

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

We Can Free Ourselves of the Oil Monopoly

I'm reading the book, Salt: A World History. It's more interesting than you might think. Because the primary method of preserving food for most of human history was using salt, it was the most important commodity on earth. Milk was preserved with it as cheese. Vegetables were preserved by pickling, which required salt. Meat and fish were preserved with salt. It was vitally important and became more so as time went on, right up until the Civil War, when other ways of preserving food became widespread (like canning and eventually refrigeration).

One of the things that surprised me was how many times and places in history someone tried (and sometimes succeeded) gaining a monopoly on salt production or distribution. It was such a vital commodity that tremendous wealth and power could be gained from a monopoly of salt.

As other ways of preserving food became available, salt lost its exalted status. Nobody really cares who (if anyone) controls the salt market.

The new vitally important commodity is transportation fuel. Everybody needs it. And one fuel dominates. Almost all forms of transportation in the world — 95% of the trains, planes, ships, cars, trucks — run on petroleum. Other viable fuels are available, but the vehicles themselves are made to only burn one. It is a virtual monopoly.

On top of that, OPEC formed a cartel to illegally control the price of oil.

When a commodity is important enough, someone will always try to control it, monopolize it or corner the market in one way or another. The English did it with salt, the French did it, different cities did it back to ancient times, China did it, the Mayans did it, the Aztecs did it. Anyone in power wanted to do it or tried to do it. Mark Kurlansky, author of Salt: A World History, wrote:

The earliest evidence that has been found of Mayan salt production is dated at about 1000 B.C., but remains of earlier saltworks have been found in non-Mayan Mexico such as Oaxaca. It may be an exaggeration to claim that the great Mayan civilization rose and fell over salt. However, it rose by controlling salt production and prospered on the ability to trade salt, flourishing in spite of constant warfare over control of salt sources. By the time Europeans arrived, the civilization was in a state of decline, and one of the prime indicators of this was a breakdown in its salt trade.


The same kind of thing can be found throughout history all over the world. It looks like a fact of life: Someone will try to gain and hold a monopoly on any important commodity. And if we (the people using the commodity) don't want to be the victims of a monopoly, it is up to us to stop it. But how?

Kurlansky wrote, "The Aztecs controlled the salt routes by military power and were able to deny their enemies, such as Tlxalacaltecas, access to salt." Before Europeans discovered America, a tribe in central America — the Tlatoque — refused to participate in the Aztecs salt monopoly. They deliberately avoided using salt.

Kurlansky wrote, "The Spanish took power by taking over the saltworks of the indigenous people they conquered. Cortes, who came from southern Spain, not far from both Spanish and Portuguese saltworks, understood the power and politics of salt. He observed with admiration how the Tlatoque had maintained their independence and avoided the oppression of the Aztecs by abstaining from salt."

We may not be able to abstain from oil, but as Korin and Luft argue in their book, Turning Oil Into Salt, we can certainly add enough competition to break the monopoly and strip oil of its strategic status and thus make the OPEC cartel no longer capable of controlling the price of transportation fuel.

We can become free of oil's monopoly by expanding fuel competition until oil is only one of many viable fuels used by combustion engines, just as salt is now only one of many ways to keep food from spoiling. Fuel competition can free us from the monopoly and its economy-smothering, national security-weakening, pocket-emptying effects.

Adam Khan is the co-author with Klassy Evans of Fill Your Tank With Freedom and the author of Slotralogy and Self-Reliance, Translated. Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

Nitric Oxide: A Unifying Principle of Health

Nitric oxide is a unifying principle behind so many things we know are good for us, like probiotics and exercising and drinking more water and eating vegetables. What these all have in common is: They increase the amount of nitric oxide in your body.

And nitric oxide has a lot of different, significantly positive effects.

We’ve got all these different diets that have been proven to help people live longer and healthier, like the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet and vegetarianism. What they have in common is an emphasis on foods that increase the amount of nitric oxide in your blood, in your cells and in your brain.

When the research first started, not many scientists thought nitric oxide was even worth looking at. Only about 40 research papers a year were being published on the subject — most of them coming from a single lab. When that lab’s scientists won the Nobel Prize for its work on nitric oxide, it electrified the scientific community. Five years later, more than 7,500 papers a year were being published about nitric oxide.

The number of things scientists have discovered that improve when you have more nitric oxide in your body is really impressive. People sleep better, they have more energy, they’re in better moods, they have less heart disease, less cancer, and have a better long-term memory. Nitric oxide plays an important role in your immune system — it kills bacteria and viruses and promotes the healing of wounds and injuries. It also helps people lose weight by stimulating the burning of fat. It keeps the veins free of plaque. It can delay or even prevent atherosclerosis. It makes your blood vessels dilate, which lowers your blood pressure. It increases blood flow, increasing endurance and strength.

One of the men who won the Nobel Prize (for discovering the effect nitric oxide has inside the human body) said he believes heart disease can be essentially eliminated by doing things that keep your nitric oxide level high. That’s a big statement from someone with his credentials.

Nitric oxide also functions as a neurotransmitter, helping to process nerve signals as they cross synapses.

The first thing researchers discovered is that nitric oxide dilates blood vessels, which means it relaxes the smooth muscle cells that line arteries, veins and lymphatic channels, allowing blood, nutrients, and oxygen to flow more easily through your body. Nitric oxide also prevents blood clotting, so it reduces the chance of heart attacks and strokes. It can lower your cholesterol level. It also prevents bad cholesterol from oxidizing into even worse artery-clogging forms. It lowers the risk of diabetes.

It also triggers the pituitary gland to release human growth hormone, which stimulates your body to build and repair and heal your muscle, bone and skin.

Nitric oxide is a signaling compound. The body uses it as a communication device. The strange thing is that it's a gas. It is released by your body into your body as a gas. That’s why it was hard to discover — the molecule’s life span is only a second or two.

There are many different pathways for raising the amount of nitric oxide in your body. For example, some foods, like spinach and beets, contain a high amount of nitrite and nitrate, which your body can convert into nitric oxide. Some of that conversion occurs in your mouth by probiotic bacteria in your saliva.

When you drink enough water, it helps the enzymes that convert a particular amino acid (L-Arginine) into nitric oxide do their job more effectively. So by drinking more water, it raises your nitric oxide level.

Some foods (like pumpkin seeds) contain more of that protein, L-Arginine, than others. If you eat more of that protein, you’ll have more of the raw material your body needs to make nitric oxide. Some foods (like watermelon) contain L-citrulline, which helps make the enzyme that your body uses to convert L-Arginine into nitric oxide. Some foods like blueberries and cherries contain anthocyanins, which prevent nitric oxide from being oxidized too quickly, which allows it to have more of a positive effect on your body.

When you exercise moderately, it stimulates your body to produce more nitric oxide. If you exercise too vigorously, it produces too many free radicals, and actually lowers the amount of nitric oxide in your body.

Fasting stimulates your body to produce nitric oxide.

Just about anything known to be good for you probably increases nitric oxide in your body. Turmeric, for example, raises the amount of nitric oxide in your body. Leafy green vegetables contain a high amount of nitrite and nitrate that your body can convert into nitric oxide. Apples contain polyphenols that help your saliva convert those nitrates and nitrites into nitric oxide.

Here’s an interesting tidbit: Since there is bacteria in your saliva that convert nitrate and nitrite into nitric oxide, when you use a mouthwash, it lowers the amount of nitric oxide in your body.

Here’s another one: Caffeine increases your blood vessels’ output of nitric oxide.

Are you as intrigued about this as I am? It all sounds good, of course, but is it safe? Can you have too much nitric oxide?

Louis Ignarro, the man I mentioned above, who won the Nobel Prize (along with two of his colleagues), said: "At extraordinarily high concentrations, nitric oxide is toxic. These levels, however, cannot be reached through the body’s internal mechanisms for producing nitric oxide from either food and supplement intake or from exercise. At relatively low levels within the body — the kind that can be attained through foods, supplements, and exercise — nitric oxide can dramatically influence our health in positive ways."

I mentioned that all the diets known to reduce heart disease and cancer have nitric oxide in common, but not all the foods in those diets are high in nitric oxide. So this discovery allows us to be more precise with our diet. There are other factors in food that are good for you, of course, but a big one has been hidden because it’s a gas, and now that we know about it, we can make even better choices.

It’s worth looking into and Ignarro's book — No More Heart Disease — is a good place to start.

Listen to this article as a podcast by clicking here.

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

Direct Your Mind: What Is My Goal Here?

Even if you have a goal, it is abstract, no matter how concretely you have defined it, because you can only really take action on it in this very moment. So it’s an excellent practice to try to keep in mind one clear goal for what you’re doing now. To know your goal at this moment. Asking the question, “What is my goal here?” — and doing it often — helps you keep your goals in mind, and it can be illuminating.

When you ask the question, sometimes you just drop what you’re doing because it's not a goal you want to pursue now that you think about it. For example, if you are busy criticizing someone, ask yourself, “What is my goal here?” You may find what you are trying to accomplish is to make the other person feel bad, or punish them for something they did. This goal might have been created without your consent by an automatic, emotional reaction. In other words, you didn’t really consciously or deliberately choose that goal.

But now that you’ve asked the question, “What is my goal here?” you can choose. You can think about what you really want in this situation. Let’s say you decide what you really want is to make sure the person doesn’t do it again. Then you’d have a clear goal and a clear path for action. You might simply decide to say to the person, “Please don’t do that again.” Or, “If you do that again, you’re fired.”

Ask yourself, “What is my goal here?” Ask it all the time. It will help you accomplish your goals faster. It’s effective. It’s therapeutic. It’s healthy. And it will make you more productive. You’ll waste less of your time doing things you really wouldn’t do if you thought about it.

Wants are fleeting, changing, whimsical, and often conflicting — and are sometimes too short-term and motivated by immediate gratification. For this reason, “What do I want?” is a lousy question. “What is my goal here?” is much better.

A bad attitude is often just insufficient purposefulness. When you’re on track, thinking about your goal and moving toward your goal, you’re not bothered by annoyances because it is counterproductive to even think about it, just as when you’re pulling your son out of the way of a speeding car, it would be irrelevant whether or not he was sassing you. Don’t resist your feelings or fight them. Just get back on purpose.

Pondering how you can accomplish your goal keeps your mind on your goal, and that’s one of the best things to keep your mind on. Make your goal the central organizing principle of your life. You can do that with this question, asked many times a day, every day, like an obsession.

Ask yourself, “What is my goal here?” Ask it all the time. You’ll feel better and get more of what you want.

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

Breaking Monopolies is One of Government's Most Important Responsibilities

Anne Korin and Gal Luft make a very persuasive argument in their book, Petropoly, that the most influential free market advocates have always been in favor of one particular use of government: To prevent or break monopolies so free markets and competition could occur.

Many people are in favor of fuel competition but think an open fuel standard would be an overreach of government. Korin and Luft's arguments make it clear that nothing could be further from the truth.

Many people believe that the reason other fuels don't compete with gasoline is because they can't — they're too expensive. But this is not so. Ethanol and methanol can both be sold today for less money per mile than gasoline. The only reason people don't use them is because their cars are not warranted to burn them. The engines themselves could burn the fuel. But the cars are warranted to burn one fuel only, regardless of how easy and inexpensive it is to make them capable of burning all three. And that's the only reason fuels are not competing today.

What we have is a virtual monopoly. And since transportation underpins our economy, this monopoly rules our most economically important commodity. What would Nobel Laureate (in Economics) Friedrich August Hayek think should be done about this? He was, as Korin and Luft put it, "One of the greatest economists and political philosophers of the 20th century and the world's leading free market proponent...In 1945, Hayek published his triumphantly successful book The Road to Serfdom, a manifest in defense of markets and competition which made him the darling of conservative parties and leaders all over the world, including Margaret Thatcher."

Hayek said that you can't rigidly stick to rules with regard to free markets, and he named especially laissez-faire as one of those rules you should not be inflexible about. Hayek believed that the government should function as "a counterweight to monopolistic coercion" as Luft and Korin put it. That's exactly what we have in the transportation sector. "Cars that block competing fuels," they write, "are a barrier to the development of a free market in fuels."

Because we don't have any other attractive options for breaking OPEC's monopolistic coercion of our economy, Hayek would probably have wholeheartedly supported an open fuel standard.

Another important and influential free market advocate was also a Nobel Laureate in Economics — Milton Friedman. He wrote that "the first and most urgent necessity in the area of government policy is the elimination of those measures which directly support monopoly."

What is something within our borders that directly supports the petroleum monopoly? The petroleum-only vehicle.

What could eliminate that monopoly? An open fuel standard.

Many people are understandably angry at our government's constant interference and meddling in the free market. But freeing markets from a monopoly's dominance of an important commodity is a good reason our government should intervene. Let's hope this understanding reaches enough people in time.

Adam Khan is the co-author with Klassy Evans of Fill Your Tank With Freedom and the author of Slotralogy and Self-Reliance, Translated. Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

Influence by Asking a Good Question

When I hear someone make a pessimistic statement, I often ask them a question I learned a long time ago: "What would be the outcome of believing that?" I've probably asked that question a hundred times. It always makes people think.

Sometimes they're not sure what I mean, so I say, "Don't you think it's possible that if you repeat something often enough you could eventually believe it? And if you believed it, that might have consequences like higher anxiety or depression?"

And I sometimes even go further and ask yet another question, "Did you know there are health consequences to thinking pessimistically?"

You don't have to change anyone's opinion immediately. In fact, if you try for that, you'll probably be less likely to change the way they think than just asking the question and then listening, and saying nothing more.

This is one of several ways to influence the people around you to become less pessimistic.

If you feel like asking this question of the pessimistic ones around you, I would love it if you would try it out and come back here and leave a comment on what happened.

Adam Khan is the author of Antivirus For Your Mind: How to Strengthen Your Persistence and Determination and Feel Good More Often and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

A Conspiracy to Rob the World

OPEC was created in order to raise world oil prices. Many conspiracies are only theories. This one is a fact. The OPEC nations do quite a bit of dissembling (to confuse the general public), but they act in the open and make no secret of their intentions. The oil ministers of the 12 OPEC nations meet at least twice a year to decide how much to limit their oil production in order to keep the world's price of oil high.

The result of high oil prices is the largest transfer of wealth in the history of the world — from the free world to some of the worst regimes on Earth (and the wealthiest rulers in history).

The only thing keeping this whole game going is an artificial limit on our cars. Internal combustion engines can burn ethanol, methanol and gasoline in any proportion with a minor tweak to the fuel delivery system. An open fuel standard would make that tweak mandatory, and thus create a free market and break the monopoly.

There may have never been such a small change that could bring about so many significant benefits. 

Adam Khan is the co-author with Klassy Evans of Fill Your Tank With Freedom and the author of Slotralogy and Self-Reliance, Translated. Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

Direct Your Mind: What Could I Do To Make Some Progress On My Goal?

One of the most important things in your life is having a purpose. And one of the best ways to feel better and have a more meaningful, fulfilling existence is to make progress toward your goal. Chores and distractions, however, can easily absorb so much of your time that you never get around to doing something toward your most important goal. That’s frustrating, and it brings you down, which makes you less motivated to work on your goal. It makes you less motivated to do the one thing almost guaranteed to bring you up.

This question — what could you do to make some progress on your goal — focuses your attention on something that will make a difference to you right now and in the long run. It makes you feel better immediately to make progress on a goal. And the ultimate achievement of your goal will make a difference to you in the long run.

And all you need to do is make some progress. It’s not either you work for ten hours on your goal or you can’t do anything about it. You can almost always do something that will make some progress toward your goal, and a little is much better than nothing. The question is what could you do, not what would be the most ideal if everything were perfect. If you think of something and it would take three hours and you only have fifteen minutes, keep thinking. What could you do?

Try it right now. What could you do to make even a little progress on your most important goal?

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

Renewable Methanol

The Methanol Institute (MI) released a new white paper from California-based environmental consulting firm TIAX entitled Methanol as a Renewable Energy Resource.

Funded by MI, the report is designed to tell the story of methanol as a significant source of renewable transportation fuel. More specifically, the white paper highlights several key facts, including:

Renewable methanol can be produced via four primary pathways: municipal waste, industrial waste, biomass, and carbon dioxide;

Biomethanol is the subset of renewable methanol produced from biomass feedstocks;

In the case of renewable methanol, feedstock availability is not expected to be a limiting factor;

Renewable methanol has an advantage among alternative fuels in that it is one of few fuels actively seeking to use CO2 streams as its feedstock; and

The renewable methanol pathways being pursued today rely on feedstocks that have little value or would otherwise incur fees for their generators, which is advantageous for the economics of renewable methanol.


The white paper also highlights the work done by BioMCN, Enerkem, Chemrec; VärmlandsMetanol, Carbon Recycling International, Blue Fuel Energy, University of California Riverside, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Syntec Biofuel, Gas Technologies, Range Fuels, and Air Fuel Synthesis.

The report can be found here: Methanol as a Renewable Energy Resource.

Direct Your Mind: What Is Another Way To Look At This?

The best way to direct your mind is with a question (read more about that here). You can make up your own question to ponder or you can take one of the questions I’ve come up with and found to be productive. This one is almost universally helpful: When you feel bothered by something, ask yourself, “What is another way to look at this?”

You look at your situation in a certain way, and it is automatic. You generally don’t take the time to think about the best way to look at the events in your life. The events happen, and you interpret them however you normally interpret those kinds of events, influenced by whatever mood you happen to be in at the moment.

But whatever interpretation you make of a particular event isn’t the only one possible. And if the way you interpret it doesn’t help you deal with it, it’s a good time to explore other ways to look at it.

How would your grandmother have looked at the same circumstance? How would the person you most admire look at it? How would you have looked at this when you were ten years old? These are all questions to help you get outside your point of view and look at the situation from a different angle.

If you feel bad or you’re not getting things done, or you’ve got a problem you can’t seem to figure out, it pays to take another look at the thing. You’ve looked at it from your automatic perspective already. So get outside your own point of view and see what you see.

One way to get outside your own point of view is to literally imagine yourself not looking out of your own eyes. For example, imagine being Mother Theresa sitting across from you as you tell her your situation. Imagine that you are Mother Theresa listening to you.

Look at yourself over there. How would you (as Mother Theresa) view this person’s (your) problem? How would you look at it if you were Mother Theresa or Gandhi or Lincoln?

And don’t try to be yourself asking how Mother Theresa would look at it, but try to imagine yourself as her, and you as a stranger and really see how she would see you. Give yourself advice from Mother Theresa’s point of view (or whoever you chose). This is a very simple way to “think outside the box.”

This is not that hard to do. It is almost like daydreaming. But it will help you tremendously if you feel stuck. It will help you change the way you feel about a situation, and help you deal with it better. You will gain more flexibility in your point of view and you won’t get so stuck in a single perspective that may be counterproductive.

Think of something you feel stuck with right now. Something that bothers you. Or something that makes you feel bad when you think about it. Choose one thing.

Now ask this question: What is another way to look at this? Keep pondering the question for several days. On your way to work, turn off the radio and ponder the question. While you’re in the shower, ponder the question. As you are lying in bed ready to go to sleep, ponder the question.

When you think of an answer that seems surprising and illuminating, write it down and then keep asking the question. Maybe you can think of something even better. There is always still another way to look at the same situation. Pondering this question is a good way to find it.

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

Does Ethanol Hurt Car Engines?

In a recent story on Fox News, the EPA's new approval of E15 (15% ethanol blended into gasoline) was condemned by AAA. The story was also carried by the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and others. The Auto Channel's Marc Rauch wrote to Fox News and Lauren Fix (the woman interviewed on the Fox story) about the errors they have perpetuated. Reprinted with permission.


From: Marc J Rauch
To: foxnewstips@foxnews.com
Cc: thecarcoach@laurenfix.com
Sent: Thursday, January 3, 2013 3:45 PM
Subject: Melissa Francis' Story on E15

I am writing to you concerning the recent video story that Melissa Francis did with Lauren Fix regarding E15: Warnings Not to Use ‘E15’ Gas in Your Car.

I am co-owner of THE AUTO CHANNEL and THEAUTOCHANNEL.com. We are the Internet's largest automotive information resource. We are completely independent and not sponsored by any fuel producer.

The information provided by Lauren Fix about E15 is almost completely untrue. Lauren's explanation of phase-separation and the food-price argument about corn are preposterously puerile. In fact, if you live in a cold climate and your fuel tank and lines have a tendency to collect condensation (water), which would then freeze and cause real damage, the solution is to put Dry Gas in the fuel tank. Dry Gas is alcohol. Alcohol is ethanol. Ethanol "absorbs" the water moisture.

Fuel left in an unused engine for an extended period of time can break down and cause a starting or running problem. This is true of all fuels, including and especially gasoline, which leaves gummy varnish like deposits. Sta-Bil, another product used to stabilize the gasoline left in dormant engines also contains alcohol to help prevent the gummy build up. And again, alcohol is ethanol.

E15 will not damage the engines of vehicles older than 2012. It has been extensively tested. It can be safely used in all modern gasoline-powered vehicles manufactured since the early 1990's, whether they are "flex-fuel" vehicles or not. Incidentally, when the EPA conducted their tests on E15 and gave their "clean bill of health," they also tested E20 and had the same positive conclusions.

I have been test driving vehicles for 25 years and have regularly used various blend levels of gasoline and ethanol with no negative reactions. Furthermore, I own and drive a non-flex fuel 2002 Ford Taurus that I run on high blend levels of gasoline and ethanol. My vehicle suffers from no problems that are not normally associated with all gasoline-powered vehicles.

The misinformation that Lauren Fix quoted is just part of the routine lies circulated by the American Petroleum Institute and other anti-ethanol entities to discredit any viable alternative fuel solution. I would be happy to provide you with, or direct you to correct information.

Regards,

Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher
THE AUTO CHANNEL LLC
www.theautochannel.com 

Marc Rauch also wrote to AAA because it was their original articles (read them here) that sparked the Fox story. He wrote to AAA's public relations manager, Michael Green. Rauch wrote:

Hello Michael -

Yesterday, I was made aware of a video story produced by Melissa Francis and FOX News that was based upon either the above titled AAA editorial written by your organization's CEO, or a very similar earlier AAA editorial that was released on or about November 30, 2012. By the way, please feel free to share this email with Robert Darbelnet and any other AAA staff member.

In the video, Ms. Francis introduced a guest, Lauren Fix, to comment on and explain the "warnings" made in your editorial. Although neither Ms. Francis nor Ms. Fix identified Ms. Fix as an official AAA spokesperson, she seems to have virtually acted in that capacity. You can view the video at: http://video.foxbusiness.com/v/2000862202001/warnings-not-to-use-e15-gas-in-your-car/ .

I found almost everything that Ms. Fix had to say about ethanol to be either a gross lie or a recitation of typical bad propaganda that has been spread by the oil industry and its lackeys over the past 80+ years. In a separate email, I made my opinion known to both Ms. Fix and Ms. Francis.

I have been test driving vehicles for 25 years and have regularly used various blend levels of gasoline and ethanol with no negative reactions. Furthermore, I own and drive a non-flex fuel 2002 Ford Taurus that I run on high blend levels of gasoline and ethanol. My vehicle suffers from no problems that are not normally associated with all gasoline-powered vehicles.

Michael, I would imagine that unless you can confirm Ms. Fix as an official spokesperson for AAA that you will not have any comments to make regarding her comments, and that's fine since the point of this email is not to get the AAA reaction to her comments. I'm simply including this episode as background for the questions that I do have regarding the above mentioned AAA editorial.

My questions to you are:

1. What oil-industry-independent "research-to-date" was Mr. Darbelnet citing that "...raises serious concerns that E15...could cause accelerated engine wear and failure, (and) fuel system damage...?"

2. What information do you have, other than unsupported oil-industry claims, that the EPA did not conduct tests sufficient to determine the safety of using E15 in gasoline-powered passenger vehicles manufactured in the past two decades?

3. Does AAA not consider that the independent E15 testing conducted by Ricardo (findings released September 2010) to be significant confirmation that E15 is safe for all modern gasoline-powered vehicles?

4. In paragraph 8 of the editorial, Mr. Darbelnet states that "Some of those supporting E15 admit the fuel may cause damage," and you give the example that "...some underground storage tank systems, both new and used, exhibited reduced levels of safety and performance when exposed to E15." Given that all fuel underground storage tank systems routinely experience problems, what information do you have - other than any oil-industry anti-ethanol biased research - that shows that E15 underground storage tanks experience problems that are greater and/or more frequent than underground storage tanks that are used for diesel, E10 gasoline, E85, or gasoline that contains no ethanol?

5. In addition, in regard to paragraph 8, how does this potential problem relate to vehicle engine damage, and wouldn't it be fair to say that combining the two points is just an irrelevant red-herring warning?

6. Does AAA agree with the overall level of warning that FOX News issued - which they based upon the AAA editorial - about E15, or did they overstate your concerns?

I look forward to your reply and any instructive information you can provide.

Thank you for your time.

Very truly yours,

Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President
THE AUTO CHANNEL LLC
www.theautochannel.com
916-273-8320

Michael Green wrote back, but I don't have his permission to reprint his reply, but it wasn't much, and it will become clear what he said from Marc Rauch's response below:

Hi Michael -

Thanks for your quick reply and clarification confirming that Lauren Fix has no official relationship with AAA.

While I look forward to receiving the AAA engineering team's comments, I'm troubled by your response to my question #4 regarding the storage tanks. You wrote, "...the warning regarding storage tanks was made by the Renewable Fuels Association to fuel retailers and was not from research conducted by AAA. They would therefore be in the best position to say why they made that recommendation." However, the AAA story called for the suspension of the sale of E15 because you claim that it damages the engines of most gasoline-powered vehicles, and you offered as part of the proof that the ethanol industry concedes that there are problems. Let's face it, engine damage is the crux of the story; it is, in fact, the salient part of the entire denigration effort by the oil industry and anyone associated with them to stop ethanol: The (false) claim that ethanol damages engines.

RFA didn't issue a warning that consumers shouldn't use ethanol as an engine fuel and then cite a storage tank issue as the reason. The storage issue has absolutely no bearing on ethanol's capability as an engine fuel. AAA took the RFA warning out of context and made a leap that should never have been made. It would be like someone using the warning that's printed on plastic bags (the suffocation warning) to claim that carrying groceries in the bag makes the items being carried dangerous to eat. One thing has absolutely nothing to do with the other. It is entirely possible that a fuel can be the safest, most efficient and economical fuel to use in an engine, but requires some degree of care when storing. Would AAA recommend that people stop drinking milk because if it's not refrigerated it could render a person seriously ill?

As I pointed out previously, gasoline also requires care when storing, and is far more dangerous than alcohol. Why not issue a recommendation that all gasoline sales be suspended until the explosion/fire/storage/pollution problems related to gasoline are solved? If AAA or Mr. Darbelnet were so unclear as to the issues regarding ethanol underground storage that you can't respond to my question, then it should never have been included in the story, regardless of whether ethanol damages engines or not. If AAA is objective on the overall issue of ethanol versus gasoline, as is alluded to in the editorial, then a big mistake was made.

Regards.

Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President
THE AUTO CHANNEL LLC
www.theautochannel.com
916-273-8320 

Marc Rauch has written before about his experiences using E85 in gas-only engines. The letter below, for example, is a response to John Kolak's article, On Using Ethanol Fuels In Unmodified Vehicles. The letter was written by Marc Rauch:

Hi John -

I just finished reading your article and I wanted to add my personal experiences to your compendium of information.

For a few years, whenever I would rent a car or get a new vehicle from a manufacturer to test drive and review, I would manually fill the tank with a blend of regular gasoline (e10) and e85, if e85 was available to me. Depending upon how much fuel I needed to fill the tank, sometimes the blend would give me only about 30-40% ethanol, and sometimes I might have 60-80% ethanol. I did this with almost every make and model vehicle you can think of, and almost none of them were "flex-fuel" vehicles. I did this specifically to see what, if anything, would happen.

Other than the "check engine" light illuminating in some instances, I never encountered a starting, driving or acceleration problem. Knowing that the "check engine" light illuminated merely because the cars' sensors detected something different, I knew that there was no problem with the vehicle. Often, if the test drive or rental period was long enough, and I had the need to fill the tank again — and only had access to regular gasoline — the check engine light would go off, confirming that there was no problem with the engine.

Of course, because the test or rental period was of rather short duration, I knew that my experiments were not really conclusive since I wasn't able to witness what ill effects, if any, might occur from longer, more sustained usage.

With this in mind, about a year and a half ago I purchased a used 2002 Ford Taurus non-flex-fuel sedan to be able to go all out on my test of e85. Because I've never had a situation in which my tank was completely empty, I've never had the opportunity to fill the Taurus fully with e85. However, I've run the vehicle on virtually all other blend levels. Similar to the short duration tests, I have run the Taurus on straight e10 gasoline to as high as 65-80%. Keep in mind that because even e85 might contain only about 70% ethanol (according to the label on the pump), it's hard to really get a blend that's much higher than 80%.

When I bought the vehicle, my friend David Blume — perhaps the world's leading expert on ethanol production and use — sent me one of the conversion kits that he endorses and sells for use on non-flex fuel fuel-injector vehicles. The purpose was for me to test the device and to maximize my vehicle's ability to handle e85. To date I have not installed the device. I've been waiting to push the car to the point where it screams "I can't take any more ethanol." That point is nowhere in sight. This isn't to say that the device is not necessary, it's to illustrate just how well an un-modified non-flex fuel vehicle can perform with e85.

Long before I purchased the Taurus, David and his associates alerted me to the need to transition into using a lot of e85, rather than going cold-turkey and make the immediate shift. The reason, they explained, is that the ethanol will loosen (and clean) the deposits left by the gasoline and that the gunk could clog the system. Because of this, I did transition to high ethanol blends through the first 3 or 4 fill-ups. I don't know if I would have experienced any problems if I didn't heed the advice, but I have not had any fuel line clogs.

In the nearly 18 months, I have driven the vehicle a little less than 25,000 miles  —  enough time and enough miles to make a more enlightened evaluation. I can report that the results are what they were in the short-term evaluations: my car runs fine, as good  —  I think  —  as any 10 year-old car should run. And I have noticed no difference in how the vehicle runs regardless of how much ethanol I use.

At an early stage I did have an interesting experience with Meineke. After watching one of their TV commercials about bringing your car in for a free test if the engine light goes on, I brought the Taurus in for the free check-up. After the test was completed the service manager told me that my O2 sensor had gone out and that it needed replacing (for a cost of about $200). I knew the light was on because I was using e85, I just wanted to see if the test system could discern the reason.

I declined the O2 replacement and told the service manager why I thought the engine light was illuminated. He reacted as if I was speaking Martian; not comprehending what I was saying about using ethanol in a gasoline-optimized engine. He argued a bit with me and warned that if I didn't get the O2 sensor replaced that I was driving an illegal vehicle. For the heck of it, I went through a couple of fill-up cycles where I only used e10 gasoline. As expected, the light went off. I brought the vehicle back into the same shop and told them that I had been experiencing an intermittent check-engine light, although the light wasn't on at that moment. They put the test through what I assume was the same computer test and told me that the vehicle was okay (with no mention of an O2 sensor problem).

Incidentally, I have to tell you that I have never experienced the huge mpg reduction that is typically cited by both ethanol critics and advocates. In my experience I lose only 5-10%. Considering that the e85 costs less 15-30% less than regular gasoline I still get a respectable net savings. Earlier today, May 12, 2012, when I drove past one of the Shell stations that I use to get my e85, I noticed that e85 was selling for just under one dollar less than premium gasoline. That represents nearly 25% savings per gallon.

In closing, I will admit that there is one major drawback to using ethanol, but fortunately it's not my problem, it's the oil companies' problem: They make less money!

Thanks for your time. I hope that this case study helps your efforts.

Sincerely yours,

Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher
THE AUTO CHANNEL
www.theautochannel.com

Watch a video on this same subject: E85 Does Not Harm Non-Flex-Fuel Engines. This ten-minute video shows you a test done on a non-flex-fuel car that burned mostly E85 for over a hundred thousand miles. Not only did it not harm the car, it actually harmed it much less than burning gasoline would have.

I think the two articles below by Robert Zubrin are relevant here. Zubrin discovered that cars are already designed for flex fuel cars, including having the software installed in the onboard computer, but with the software disabled. Check it out:

A Fuel-Efficiency Wager
Methanol Wins

The following paper from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory is also interesting: It's about using "intermediate blends" of ethanol. Apparently normal fuel injector computers handle up to half ethanol before the car starts running poorly (if it is going to run poorly at all). What happens is that the injector automatically adds more fuel if the fuel is partly alcohol, and most cars can do up to 50% E85 with no problems. Every little bit makes a difference. Anyway, here's the link to the PDF file: Effects of Intermediate Ethanol Blends.

Adding to this discussion is the president of the Renewable Fuels Association, Bob Dinneen, responding to an op-ed:

Flint, Mich., is known throughout the world as the birthplace of General Motors. When an economist from Flint gets the facts about motor fuels all wrong, it’s time to assign him some remedial homework.

In an op-ed in The Flint Journal on January 16, Mark J. Perry, an economics professor at University of Michigan-Flint, earned a failing grade in Ethanol 101. Here’s why Professor Perry needs to hit the books about biofuels:

Warning against E15 blends (15 percent ethanol, 85 percent gasoline), Perry claims that ethanol “can damage automobile engines and fuel systems.” In fact, E15 is the most tested fuel in history. Coordinated by the U.S. Department of Energy and its affiliated National Laboratories, the tests have driven the equivalent of six round-trips to the moon and have included vehicle drivability, catalyst durability, fuel pumps and sealing units, outboard diagnostic systems, and automotive fuel system components.

The verdict: The U.S. Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) has approved 15 percent ethanol blends for cars, light-duty trucks and SUVs built in 2001 or later — approximately 62 percent of the light-duty vehicles on the road today.

While Perry writes that “40% of the U.S. corn crop is used to produce ethanol,” that statement is misleading. Ethanol production doesn’t use sweet corn (which is intended for human consumption), and U.S. ethanol production uses only three percent of the total global grain supply.

Moreover, ethanol uses only the starch in the grain, with the protein, fat and fiber made into animal feed for beef and dairy cattle, hogs, poultry, and fish around the world. In fact, the American ethanol industry generated 37 million metric tons of feed in 2012 — enough to produce seven quarter-pound hamburger patties for every person on the planet.

Perry is also wrong when he contends that ethanol “has increased retail food prices and strained family budgets.” In fact, only 14 percent of the average household’s food bill pays for raw agricultural ingredients such as corn. Eighty-six percent of their food bill pays for energy, transportation, processing, packaging, marketing and other supply chain costs.

Nor is it true that “ethanol costs about 70 cents a gallon more than gasoline on an energy-equivalent basis.” In fact, the use of ethanol reduced wholesale gasoline prices by an average of $1.09 per gallon in 2011, according to research by economics professors at the University of Wisconsin and Iowa State University. If ethanol doesn’t pack the punch to power our cars, then why do so many professional racecar drivers fuel their  vehicles with … ethanol?

Meanwhile, Professor Perry makes sophomoric mistakes. He writes about “a 51-cent-per gallon tax credit” for biofuels, even though the credit expired, with the industry’s approval, at the end of 2011. He asks policymakers “to halt the production of E15,” even though E15 is blended, not produced, from ethanol and gasoline. (Would he demand no more “production” of coffee with milk and sugar?) And he seems unaware that, in approving E15, the EPA was offering Americans a choice at the pump, not a mandate.

While he concludes that cellulosic (non-grain) ethanol is “still not viable,” at least eight commercial advanced ethanol plants are under construction or commissioning.

U.S. ethanol, including E15 blends, offers our nation’s motorists a cost-saving, American-made, environmentally-friendly alternative to foreign oil, as well as a pathway to the next generation of biofuels.

As for Professor Perry, he needs to take Ethanol 101 all over again.

The following is an op-ed entitled, Who Are You Going to Believe: Big Oil — Or 10,000 Miles of Truth? by Robert White:

The comedian Richard Pryor used to ask, “Who are you going to believe — me or your lying eyes?”

That question comes to mind whenever I think about the American Petroleum Institute (API)’s study, which claims to prove that 15 percent ethanol blends (E15) will damage your automobile’s engine.

So who are you going to trust — Big Oil or a Kansas motorist who’s driven 10,000 miles on three vehicles fueled by E15?

The oil companies want you to ignore a comprehensive three-year, 88-vehicle, six-million-miles-driven study of E15 conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy using protocols established by the Environmental Protection Agency, and look only at their own American Petroleum Institute-funded study of eight vehicles, some of which had fuel pumps that happened to be under recall.  The only thing one can glean about E15 from the API study is if you test E15 in a vehicle that has been recalled then you just might have some problems.

Surprise!

Now, guess what API and AAA don’t mention when they warn motorists about E15: If you test other aging autos with similar problems — and fuel them with gasoline without any ethanol at all (Call it E-Zero) — you get the same kind of problems. That’s what their study says.

But don’t hold your breath waiting for API to warn motorists against using unblended gasoline — E-Zero. Instead, they want consumers to worry about ever-more-unlikely “hazards,” not only in the long-term but in the short-term, too.

For instance, API and its allies like AAA have warned motorists about the supposed dangers of “residual volumes” of E15 in gas pump hoses. They claim to be concerned that, if you fuel your car with E10, you could really be getting gasoline blended with more than 10 percent ethanol. Why? Because the previous customer fueled up with E15 — and some of that 15 percent blend was left in the hose.

Have they ever tested this theory with a real vehicle and a real gasoline pump?

So what happens when you fuel a working vehicle — not one that’s straight from the showroom, just one that has some miles on it but hasn’t been recalled — with E15?

Since mid-July, I’ve been one of the fortunate customers with E15 available locally — in Eastern Kansas. Once this fuel debuted, I’ve used it exclusively on my three vehicles — a Jeep and two Chevrolets, none of them flex-fuel.

By now, I’ve logged more than 10,000 total miles. Not once has my “check engine” light lit up. Not once have I noticed any drivability or performance issues. Not once have my vehicles acted any differently than they do on E10.

And, despite AAA’s “warnings,” not once did any of my three vehicles break down on the side of the road, leaving me stranded.

Instead, I’ve enjoyed a higher-octane product at a lower cost with lower overall emissions. And I’m proud to be gassing up my vehicles with a fuel that now contains 50 percent more of a locally produced, job-creating, economy-boosting product — American ethanol.

In addition to “warning” motorists about damage to their vehicles, Big Oil has one more scare tactic: If you use E15, it will void your warranty.

In fact, before a claim could be denied, an automaker would have to prove that the fuel caused the damage. That’s provided by federal law — the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975.

Once again, my experience is instructive. I recently had a warranty claim — not fuel-related — on my personal 2011 Chevrolet. Even though my Chevy runs on E15, the claim was processed without incident — and at no cost to me.

So who are you going to believe? Big Oil? Or a motorist who’s logged 10,000 miles on E15?


The following is an op-ed entitled, Ethanol Industry Questions Validity of CRC E15 Study by Erin Voegele:

The Coordinating Research Council (CRC) has released a report outlining fuel test results that show E15 fuel can damage fuel system components. Representatives of the ethanol industry, however, are questioning the testing methods, noting that the CRC seems to be displaying a bias against ethanol. The report is titled “Durability of Fuel Pumps and Fuel Level Senders in Neat and Aggressive E15". The American Petroleum Institute is a “sustaining member” of CRC.

The analysis looked at two types of E15—a regular E15 blend and an “aggressive E15”—in addition to E10 and regular gasoline. According to the report, the aggressive E15 blend was formulated refereeing the SAE specification J1681 to represent the worst case blends of gasoline and 15 volume percent ethanol that might be found in the field.

However, Kristi Moore, vice president for technical services at the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), questions the validity of testing the aggressive E15 blend. She said that the test fuel formulation has zero real world relevance in today’s marketplace as it is representative of fuel dating back to the 1990s. “Fuel properties have significantly changed in the three decades since the original aggressive test formula,” Moore continued. She also specified that the CRC seems to have ignored its own 2009 finding that the primary fatal effects to fuel systems can be attributed to the sulfur content of fuels. 

Bob Reynolds, president of Downstream Alternatives, also stressed the results for CRC’s aggressive E15 formulation are not representative of fuels on the market today. In addition, he noted that the report does not specify whether or not the CRC completed the testing with fuel containing the corrosion inhibitors his industry typically adds to ethanol.

The Fuels America Coalition has also spoken out, questioning the validity of the report. “Today’s report from oil-lobby backed research group Coordinating Research Council displays clear bias and ignores millions of miles and years of testing that went into EPA’s approval of E15,” said the coalition in a statement. “CRC’s bias is clear—API is a “sustaining member” of the group—and so it’s no surprise that the CRC is negative about E15. They’re playing right in to API’s misguided ploy to overturn the renewable fuel standard (RFS).”

Ron Lamberty, senior vice president for the American Coalition for Ethanol, said that the test results should not scare consumers away from using E15. “This is just another ghost story, told by people who stand to lose market share when consumers finally have access to E15. We shouldn’t be surprised at Big Oil’s latest attempt to scare consumers—they’ve shown no shame in twisting test results to protect their market share. There is a reason that the oil companies don’t want E15 and it has everything to do with protecting the bottom line and nothing to do with protecting consumers,” he continued.

The RFA has also called the study flawed and misleading. “API has absolutely no credibility when it comes to talking about E15,” said Bob Dinneen, RFA president and CEO. “That point has never been more clear than in this new study in which they ‘cooked the books’ by using an aggressive fuel mix to try and force engine damage.  This isn’t real testing and this certainly isn’t real life.  Enough already with the scare tactics.  E15 is rolling forward and API needs to get out the way of progress that will result in a stronger country, a stronger economy, and stronger, cleaner environment.  E15 will not be stopped by feet dragging and forecasts of fictional faults.”

“Today’s study is no surprise,” said Tom Buis, Growth Energy CEO. “This is a classic example of ‘he, who pays the piper, calls the tune.’ Oil companies are desperate to prevent the use of higher blends of renewable fuels. They have erected every regulatory and legal roadblock imaginable to prevent our nation from reducing our dependence on oil. For Big Oil, this is about market share. To see what’s driving them, ‘follow the money,’ as every gallon of renewable fuel that enters the market reduces Big Oil’s market share. Obviously they have deep pockets in which to fund studies that can at best be described as incomplete and cherry picking.”

Can’t We Just Get Rid of Ethanol Ignorance?

By Bobby Likis, originally posted here.

Bobby Likis, president of Car Clinic — Jay Leno is a car guy … and someone I’ve respected for many years. But Jay’s AutoWeek article “Can’t We Just Get Rid Of Ethanol?” makes zero sense to me.

I’m a car guy too. Restored and own a classic 1980 Weisssach Porsche 911. Auto service shop owner for 44 years with over 200,000 vehicles (from classics to hybrids) rolling through the bays. Engine builder. Car-talk host answering more than 100,000 car questions live on radio, television, web and social media.

What I read in the “Rid” article does not sound like Jay Leno, the car guy. Oddly enough, not too long ago at SEMA, Mr. Leno was touting E85 and other ethanol-blends of gasoline with his Z06 ‘Vette. Now, for whatever unknown reason, he’s slamming ethanol. I cannot believe “what Jay said” is “what Jay really believes.” His words smack of otherwise invested horse-whisperers who use personal agendas to sway vulnerable-for-whatever-reason people towards their way.

So as a car guy, allow me to share a few ethanol facts with you.

1) Water absorption: No doubt that ethanol emulsifies and holds water. Yay!! That’s a good thing! In fact, “holding” / suspending /emulsifying water is an ethanol ASSET — not detriment — as gas tanks actually run dryer after the transition from E0 to E10. Mercury Marine — the boat engine manufacturer — states this fact. Specifically with regard to moisture, a gallon of ethanol suspends FOUR (4) TEASPOONS of water per gallon of fuel before phase separation. On the other hand, gasoline suspends only POINT ONE FIVE (.15) TEASPOON (that’s LESS than ONE teaspoon) of water per gallon before phase separation. So PHASE SEPARATION WILL OCCUR 26 TIMES MORE RAPIDLY WITH GASOLINE THAN WITH ETHANOL! This has been demonstrated hundreds of times (including one demonstration I recently saw by Dr. Andrew Randolph, technical director of Earnhardt-Childress Racing), clearly substantiating that gasoline does NOT effectively hold (suspend) water. So with straight gasoline, whatever water is in any tank or atmosphere “phase separates” and falls to the bottom of the tank. In contrast in ethanol-blended fuel, the ethanol will suspend that water during the driving of the vehicle; then, harmlessly carry it through the system to be vaporized by the engine without affecting the engine in the least. The suspended water, vaporized by the engine, produces NO harmful emissions. And one more point: at 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 70 percent relative humidity, it takes more than two months for even gasoline to absorb water. Since ethanol has 26 times the suspension capability of gasoline, it would take literally months and months before any phase separation could possibly take place. I can state categorically that I own a Classic 1980 Limited Edition Weissach Porsche 911 and have driven it three times in the past three years … to buy fresh gas. I start this vehicle (about every three months) and let it run for no less than ½ hour to circulate the E10 gas.

2) Increased car fires over past three decades: Totally spoken out of context. GM recalled nearly 1.5 million cars as a result of rocker covers leaking oil. Maybe the next article should be “Why Can’t We Remove Oil From All Engines?” Leaking fuel lines allow fuel to hit hot engines and ka-blooooie … really? I’ve operated my own bumper-to-bumper full service automotive repair and service shop for 44 years and had more than 200,000 cars and small trucks come through our doors and not one has ever had an engine damaged by ethanol much less a fire.

3) “The worse can happen”: Not according to studies/research. Hagerty Insurance — you know, THE classic car insurance company — funded a study by Kettering University (known for its reputation in the field of automotive research) on the use of E10 in older cars. Wouldn’t you think if E10 caused damage in the collector cars that Hagerty insures that Hagerty would be the first to say, “Can’t We Just Get Rid of Ethanol?” Instead, after 1,500 hours of testing with E0 (0 percent ethanol) and E10 (10 percent ethanol), general consensus was that “with minor updates and proper maintenance, E10 will not negatively affect your old car or truck.” Ah, the voice of reason … and research. For more reason and research, check out the Renewable Fuels Association’s detailed and facts-forward guide for classic car owners (“Gasoline Ethanol Blends in the Classic Auto”).

4) Renewable Fuel Standard: My head is still spinning with the totally out of context references to ethanol in classic cars, but Mr. Leno’s reflections on the Renewable Fuel Standard should be titled “Can’t We Simply Continue America’s 100+ Year Dependence On Foreign Oil?” Unthinkable. Tossing the Renewable Fuel Standard not only ensures we remain dependent on foreign oil, but also such actions literally cause would-be investors to pause and reconsider their potential investments in our nation’s renewable energy opportunities.

With all due respect for the beautiful, treasured classics in garages and at car shows, let’s clear the smoke about any conclusion — even dead-wrong ones — about E10 in classic cars. How about refocusing on the other 260,000,000 light (non-commercial) vehicles on U.S. roads today? The average age is about 11½ years. So most of us drive cars made in this millennium … not made in the ‘70s or before. “Why Can’t We Just Get Rid of Steak ‘Cause Babies Can’t Eat It?” would be a nice, scare-tactic, demotivator for auto manufacturers worldwide to design, engineer and manufacture future vehicles that optimize the high-performance, environmentally friendly engines that thrive on high-octane ethanol.

Thank goodness the early 1900s best seller “Why Can’t We Just Get Rid of Cars” — written by the horse breeders — didn’t catch on.



Why Is Jay Leno Misrepresenting Ethanol?

By Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher
THE AUTO CHANNEL
Originally published here.

There are two things that everyone knows about Jay Leno: He's a great comedian, and he's a seriously great automobile enthusiast. Generally, when you become great at something you learn a lot about that subject; even if you don't want to learn about the subject, and you just want to be good at engaging in the activity, it's virtually impossible to not become a great student of the history and mechanics of that subject.

I have no doubt that Jay is a master of comedy history, along with the mechanics of what is funny and why it's funny.

I've watched enough video of Jay and his vehicles to believe that he is equally a master when it comes to knowing about his vehicles and the history of how they were designed. I also know that Jay has been a proponent of alternative fuels and advanced technologies. In fact, we even have a few dozen stories and videos of Jay on The Auto Channel website that feature him discussing these things.

I'm also aware of at least two other media pieces done by, or with, Jay in which he enthusiastically discusses his E85-powered 2006 Corvette. (One piece was a Popular Mechanics text story published in 2008, the other was a video produced in Las Vegas at SEMA 2007, which is no longer available.)

In both of the stories, Jay expresses a favorable opinion of the advantages of high-level ethanol gasoline blends versus gasoline without ethanol or even just E10 gasoline (10% ethanol/90% gasoline). Among other benefits, Jay cites ethanol's higher octane rating, cooler operating engine temperatures, lower harmful emissions, and ethanol's engine cleaning characteristics that leave behind no nasty gasoline residue and gunk that clog key engine components, such as pistons and valves.

Well, a few days ago, it was brought to my attention that Jay has authored a new story that appeared in the March 2 edition of AutoWeek magazine. The article, titled "Can't We Just Get Rid Of Ethanol?" basically proposes that the United States end the "Renewable Fuel Standard" (RFS) because of issues related to the use of ethanol fuels in older vehicles. At the close of the story Jay exhorts readers and automobile enthusiasts to write to their legislators to demand action against ethanol.

Clearly there is a difference between old cars and new cars, that is to say "classics" and "antiques," and late model vehicles - like those that make up the overwhelming majority of vehicles on the road today. Therefore, it is understandable for Jay to express two different opinions about ethanol as it pertains to old cars versus new cars.

(For those of you keeping score at home, the average age of all cars and trucks on the road in America is only about 10 years. Keep in mind that since the early 1990's all gasoline-powered passenger cars and trucks manufactured for America have used engine and fuel-system components that are resistant to alcohol's solvent properties.)

However, the problem to me is that Jay didn't say "write to your legislators to demand more freedom of fuel choice to give us old car owners easier access to ethanol-free gasoline," he's instead calling for less freedom of fuel choice. More importantly, as much as I hate to say it, Jay is using information to sway the argument that is untrue and misleading. And so, since I think that Jay should know, and does know better, that he is lying in the AutoWeek story.

For example, in the new AutoWeek story, Jay states that "ethanol will absorb water from ambient air...causing corrosion and inhibiting combustion."

Ethanol doesn't absorb water from the ambient air. This lie is one of the oldest and most malicious of the lies created by the oil industry to denigrate ethanol. The only thing new in how Jay used this lie is that he used the word "ambient." I've not seen that before. I've seen quotes that use the word "thin" to denote ordinary air that we normally breathe, but not "ambient." Regardless, this is not what occurs.

It seems many years ago that some clever oil industry person must have learned that ethanol (alcohol) is a hygroscopic substance, and that the general dictionary definition for a hygroscopic substance is that it can attract moisture from its environment. What the oil industry wag then did was to substitute the word "attract" with "absorb," and "air" for environment. Thus, attracting moisture from its environment magically became absorbing water out of thin air.

To keep with a Jay Leno comedian metaphor, let me offer a classic Abbott & Costello routine that presents a startlingly clear analogy at how silly Jay's hygroscopic statement is:

Costello tells Abbott that a loaf of bread is the mother of the airplane. Abbott tells Costello that he's crazy. Costello asks Abbott if he agrees that necessity if the mother of invention. Abbott replies yes. Costello then asks if bread is a necessity; Abbott says yes. Costello asks is the airplane is an invention; Abbott says yes. Therefore, exclaims Costello, if bread is a necessity and the airplane is an invention, then a loaf of bread is the mother of the airplane.

What I'm getting at is just because you can play semantic word games with the definition of "hygroscopic" that doesn't mean that the result of the game is relevant and correct.

To prove that alcohol will not absorb water right out of the thin or ambient air, I always offer this simple at-home experiment: Fill any open container halfway with alcohol and place it on your kitchen counter. Allow it to sit for one or more days. If alcohol absorbs water right out of the air, then when you check the level of liquid in the ensuing days you would find that it has risen. If you find that the level of the liquid in the container has risen (without any manipulation, change to the environment of your indoor kitchen, or interference to the natural process) and you can document it, I will pay you $1,000.

Incidentally, cotton is also a hygroscopic substance. So just as additional proof that being a hygroscopic substance doesn't mean that it absorbs water right out of the air, place a ball of cotton on the other side of your kitchen counter and see if it gets saturated with water from just sitting out in the open.

Moving on to one of Jay's other points, if you were to pour a gallon of water in your gasoline tank your vehicle will probably have great difficulty starting. But that's not how water gets in your gasoline tank, unless you're very, very drunk when you go to the filling station. You can get water in your fuel system because of condensation. So what do you do if you have some water in your fuel system? Do you stick a straw in and suck it out? No, you add a product like Dry Gas. Dry Gas is ethanol, meaning that you use ethanol to solve the problem of water in your gasoline tank. That's right, to solve the problem!

Ethanol doesn't actually absorb the water, it breaks the water molecules down so that ignition and combustion of the gasoline can take place. The water molecules are then expelled in the exhaust. In other words, ethanol aids combustion, not inhibits combustion as Jay stated.

Jay goes on to say, "It gets worse. Ethanol is a solvent that can loosen the sludge, varnish and dirt that accumulate in a fuel tank. That mixture can clog fuel lines and block carburetor jets." The sludge, varnish and dirt that Jay is referring to is caused by gasoline. So ironically, the cleaning characteristic that Jay is now criticizing is the same beneficial cleaning characteristic that he previously championed when discussing the benefits of ethanol.

Then Jay writes, "Blame the Renewable Fuel Standard (for these problems). However, that's not where the blame lies. The blame lies with gasoline; the liars in the gasoline industry; and the politicians who forced us to use gasoline, which resulted in gasoline becoming the dominant and default vehicle fuel. Ethanol cleans the gunk, gasoline causes it.

Even if ethanol is never introduced into a fuel system the time will come when the engine must be cleaned. The engine repair industry didn't spontaneously arise with the advent of E10 or E85 gasoline. Engine repair, maintenance and replacement is a natural result of the internal combustion process. If we can have a fuel that (as Jay previously wrote) burns 100 percent, leaving behind no nasty residue and leftover gunk that clogs key engine components, why shouldn't we have that fuel readily available? Shouldn't that fuel be our primary default engine fuel?

Jay talks about damage that ethanol has caused to the fiber diaphragms in the fuel system of one of his Duesenbergs. I think he's probably correct about this. But is this the reason why America should abandon the RFS and return to gasoline that contains poison?

If you watch the video that Jay did in Las Vegas in 2007 he says something very interesting; in response to the question of how he selects which vehicle he is going to drive to work on a given day, with great humility he acknowledges that there are greater problems in the world to worry about. That was a correct, very modest response. So in keeping with that recognition, I suggest that the fiber diaphragms in his or anyone else's Duesenbergs have no significance in our national decision on what is the correct engine fuel to use.

As a person who has owned classic cars (although I've never owned more than one at a time, and they weren't especially valuable), while I can appreciate his concern over his vehicles, I suggest he suck it up as a noblesse oblige sacrifice that he must make.

For some inexplicable reason Jay also throws in negative comments about ethanol producers and the "food vs. fuel" argument. This inclusion made me think that perhaps Jay didn't actually write this article - that it was actually written by some API stooge and Jay just signed off on it. Jay refers to some ethanol producers as "giant agri-businesses," and its mention is couched within a paragraph that is meant to demean the producers and the overall effort to make us energy independent. Admittedly, some ethanol producers are large corporations, but when you compare them to the giant oil companies they are virtually mom and pop businesses.

For example, in the same year that ExxonMobil reported their fiscal fourth quarter profit as $40 billion, Archer Daniels Midland reported their fiscal fourth quarter profit of $372 million. Although $372 million is nothing to sneeze at, it’s less than 1% of ExxonMobil’s profit. So if there's a picture being painted about huge greedy companies looking to take advantage of the American consumer, the illustration is of ExxonMobil not ADM. And we must remember that the ethanol we use in America is produced here in America by Americans. No American military man or woman has ever died defending domestic ethanol production and distribution.

As for "food vs. fuel," Jay might as well claim that the Earth is flat. About 10 years ago, The World Bank issued a statement in which they claimed that increased corn-based ethanol production was causing food prices to rise. Since that time, The World Bank has twice rescinded that earlier claim based on new and better studied information. The fuel-related culprit they acknowledge as causing food prices to rise is gasoline, diesel, and other petroleum oil products that are used in packaging.

I think that Jay was irresponsible for writing, or signing off on, this article. However, the bulk of the responsibility for letting this misinformation come to the light of day belongs to AutoWeek magazine. Regardless of what Jay Leno had to say, they should not have allowed it to be published, or at the least they should have published it with some considerable disclaimers. I guess that AutoWeek's decision was predicated upon the hope of increased advertising support from the oil industry, and that the reason they chose to embellish the headline title of Jay's story on the online version of the story with "Jay Leno hates ethanol" was to make sure that they were kissing enough ass. I also presume that Jay made the same decision to create the story based on the potential of getting oil company sponsorship for his new automotive content ventures. If I'm correct then there is little reason for this magazine article to have been written and published.