Why Don't Car Companies Make All Their Cars Flex Fuel?

Something strange, something counterintuitive is happening in the auto industry. Consider these facts:

1. Historically and reliably, when fuel prices drop, car sales rise.

2. If we had vigorous fuel competition in America, fuel prices would drop.

3. Any car that runs on gasoline can be turned into a GEM car (which can burn any combination of gasoline, ethanol, or methanol) for 41 cents, creating robust fuel competition in America.

4. Automakers deliberately disable the flex fuel capability of their cars.

Why? Why would the manufacturer of anything deliberately disable a capability that their customer might find useful? Even more curious, why would a manufacturer disable a feature that would greatly improve their bottom line? Dr. Robert Zubrin, the renowned engineer, in a recent article in The New Atlantis, writes:

One answer, and perhaps the most salient one, is that the automobile companies are not capable of pursuing their own independent interests. Rather, significant parts of these car companies are owned by entities that are much more heavily invested in oil. In some cases, it is safe to surmise that these investors are one of the obstacles preventing automakers from encouraging free energy competition.

For example, the automobile company with the highest revenues in the world is Volkswagen. Today, 17 percent of Volkswagen is owned by the Qatar Investment Authority, the sovereign wealth fund of OPEC member Qatar, which gets its money from Qatar’s state-owned oil industry. It is the third-largest shareholder in VW (after having sold 10 percent to Porsche in 2013). The vice chairman of the Qatar Investment Authority even has a seat on Volkswagen’s supervisory board.

We see similar situations with other European automakers. For example, the Kuwait sovereign wealth fund owns 6.9 percent of Daimler (which produces Mercedes-Benz cars). Aston Martin — famous for its James Bond cars — was purchased in 2007 by a group with majority funding from two Kuwaiti investment firms (although much of their share of the carmaker has since been sold off). In recent years, the government of Abu Dhabi (part of the United Arab Emirates, an OPEC member) has owned stakes in Daimler and Ferrari.

What about the two biggest American auto manufacturers, General Motors and Ford? The dominant shareholders in these companies — not counting the U.S. and Canadian governments, whose bailout of GM temporarily made the U.S. Treasury the company’s largest stockholder — are major Wall Street funds whose holdings in the energy sector, including major oil companies, typically far exceed their shares in the auto industry. Again, one suspects that their interest in protecting these oil investments might conflict with flex-fuel capabilities.

For instance, the largest institutional stockholder in GM, Capital Research Global Investors, owns $2.9 billion of GM stock, but has $19.1 billion invested in energy, including $3.0 billion in Schlumberger, the world’s largest provider of oilfields services. (All these figures are current as of September 2013.) GM’s second-largest stockholder is Harris Associates, which has $2.3 billion invested in GM and $3.7 billion invested in energy, including $1.6 billion in National Oilwell Varco, an equipment maker for oil and gas drilling, and $0.8 billion in Devon Energy, one of the biggest U.S. oil and natural gas producers. Third is JP Morgan Chase, with $1.7 billion in GM and $29.2 billion in energy, $4.9 billion of which is in Exxon Mobil, $3.0 billion in Chevron, $2.0 billion in Schlumberger, and $1.7 billion in ConocoPhillips. The fourth-largest GM stockholder, the Vanguard Group, owns only $1.6 billion in GM, but $93.5 billion in energy, including $22.2 billion in Exxon Mobil and $12.1 billion in Chevron. And the fifth largest, Berkshire Hathaway, owns $1.6 billion of GM stock, and $7.5 billion in energy, of which $4 billion is in Exxon Mobil. Another major investor in GM is Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, who snapped up $500 million in shares when the revived company returned to the stock market in 2010.

Ford does have one major investor — its largest shareholder, Evercore Trust — whose Ford holdings ($3.7 billion) exceed its energy investments, which are minimal and not at all in oil. But otherwise Ford’s situation is similar to that of GM. After Evercore, the next four top owners of Ford include again the Vanguard Group ($3.0 billion in Ford, $93 billion in energy), State Street Corporation ($2.5 billion in Ford, $77.9 billion in energy, of which $18.2 billion is in Exxon Mobil and $12.5 billion in Chevron); Wellington Management ($1.7 billion in Ford, $36.2 billion in energy, of which $5.4 billion is in Exxon Mobil, $4.7 billion in Chevron, and $2.3 billion in BP); and Barclays Global Investors ($1.6 billion in Ford, $47.5 billion in energy, of which $6.1 billion is in Chevron, $3.1 billion in Schlumberger, and $2.3 billion in ConocoPhillips).

Now, it is true that some of these investors also have shares in alternative energy companies, and even in methanol companies. But these tiny holdings are dwarfed by their oil holdings. For example, Wellington Management invests in Methanex, the world’s leading methanol supplier. But Wellington’s $0.4 billion investment in Methanex is just one-fortieth the size of its investment in oil companies. JP Morgan Chase has $0.1 billion invested in Methanex, less than one-hundredth the size of investment in oil. Naturally, for these investors, protecting their financial interests means prioritizing oil over methanol.

In short, the owners of the biggest U.S. car companies have interests overwhelmingly aligned not with the automakers or their customers but with the oil cartel. At minimum, this represents a very serious conflict of interest. Barring a change in circumstances, it is unlikely the car companies will take actions that would imperil OPEC’s control of the market.

Alcohol Advocate Silenced

David Blume, author of Alcohol Can Be a Gas and an ardent promoter of alcohol fuel, was asked by San Fransisco’s PBS station to make a ten-part series entitled, “Alcohol as Fuel” in the early 1980’s.

Blume and PBS spent two years making the series. After the first three segments, thousands of people called to order the book Blume wrote to accompany the series. But immediately after the fourth segment aired, PBS abruptly canceled the book, which was already at the printer.

And 120 other PBS stations had already agreed to run the series, but the San Francisco branch inexplicably canceled the distribution of the series. It was not shown again anywhere.

What could have caused PBS’s sudden change of heart? Especially after seeing the series’ obvious popularity?

Blume discovered later that Chevron, a generous donor to PBS, threatened to pull their support unless PBS canceled the series.

In this and many other ways, the oil industry prevents a widespread awareness of its primary rival fuel (alcohol) and actively campaigns against it as it has done since 1933 when petroleum organizations mounted a media propaganda campaign against the growing alcohol fuel industry.

The oil industry is still at it today. They give grants to universities and fund studies that show food prices are influenced by the ethanol industry or how alcohol will lower fuel efficiency in cars, etc.; they pay teams of lobbyists and public relations people to keep up a stream of propaganda against ethanol or any alternative fuels. They donate money (to PBS, for example) which gives them the ability to influence programming. They buy advertising in print media and television, which also gives them the power to influence what the public learns. And so on.

Here are a few of the misleading ideas the oil industry has successfully inserted into the mainstream belief system:

1. If we use corn for fuel, people will starve, food prices will go up, and Amazon rain forests will be bulldozed.

2. It takes more energy to produce ethanol than you get out of it.

3. There isn’t enough farmland to make enough ethanol to replace petroleum.

4. It is bad for the environment to grow crops for fuel.

5. Alcohol fuel is bad for car engines.

6. Alcohol reduces fuel efficiency. 

All of these statements oversimplify and misrepresent the issue and have effectively turned a lot of people against an industry that could bring us true energy independence, greatly increase our national security, strongly boost the American economy, produce unexportable American jobs, and all while benefiting the environment. It takes a lot of money to accomplish such a thing. But they’ve got money to burn.

The misleading ideas on the list above help maintain oil’s monopoly over transportation fuel and prevent the possibility of our greatest hope for salvation — fuel competition.

But fuel competition is still possible and could be accomplished. In fact, you and I personally can establish fuel competition in our car. If you don't already have a flex fuel car, get a conversion kit and begin immediately to give your fuel money to oil's most available competition (E85). And get everyone you know to do it too.

This is urgent. Every day we are hemorrhaging our wealth to the enemies of freedom, making us weaker and them stronger. Every day women without rights in oil-producing countries are being abused. Small families are living in poverty, unable to afford schooling for their children in developing countries because they cannot make a living as rural farmers.

America is in the unique position of being able to end all this. Let us begin.

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.

The Joy of Gouging

Unlike other commodities (that compete in the marketplace) the world price OPEC sets for oil has no relation to what it costs to produce the oil. Oil companies could make a handsome profit at 20 or 30 dollars a barrel.

In 1999, Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi publicly admitted that the all-inclusive cost of producing a barrel of oil in Saudi Arabia — which has the easiest-to-produce oil in the world — is $1.50. That is not a typo. A buck fifty.

Right now the world price is over $77 a barrel, and the country that has the most influence on that price is Saudi Arabia.

Worldwide, it costs most oil producers about $5 to produce a barrel of oil.

The oil industry is shamelessly gouging. Regardless of worldwide recessions, and regardless of the fact that any one of them could easily undercut their “competitors” and still make huge profits, not one of them does it. They charge whatever they can get because they will quickly sell all they can produce.

OPEC has us over a barrel. They know it and we know it.

- Excerpted from the book, Fill Your Tank With Freedom.

The CO2 Advantage of Methanol

Question: If we had a sizable number of cars on our roads burning methanol rather than gasoline, would it put less CO2 into the atmosphere? If so, how much less? We haven't yet seen any studies that directly answer the question, but we've found enough clues to make the answer quite clear.

Let's start with the creation of the fuel. Refining gasoline produces considerable CO2 emissions. To produce one gallon of gasoline puts 2.45 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere. (Source)

Methanol is a little more difficult to determine because there are many ways to create methanol, and each method creates different amounts of CO2. But all the methods produce less CO2 than refining gasoline. Fuel Freedom writes:

"Studies indicate that methanol produced from natural gas is somewhat less greenhouse gas intensive than gasoline produced from conventional oil, and substantially better than high carbon, non-conventional gasoline.

"Oil refining impacts air and water quality, produces toxic solids and sludge, and is the most energy intensive industry in the U.S. On the other hand, methanol produced from natural gas requires only a simple gasification process that avoids the toxic byproducts of oil refining." (Source)

That's methanol from natural gas. In a technical paper entitled, Large Scale Methanol Production from Natural Gas, the authors say it makes the process more productive to add CO2 to the syngas. Most methanol is created by heating up natural gas until the molecules separate, producing "synthesis gas" or "syngas." The authors of the technical paper write: "The addition of CO2 permits optimization of the synthesis gas composition for methanol production. CO2 constitutes a less expensive feedstock, and CO2 emissions to the environment are reduced. The application of CO2 reforming results in a very energy efficient plant. The energy consumption is 5-10% less than that of a conventional plant." (Source)

That was technical jargon, but what they're saying is that you get more methanol from the same amount of natural gas if you add CO2 to it — and it's less expensive to make because CO2 is cheap. It's an industrial waste.

But some new technologies are even better. In an article in the Wall Street Journal, Nobel laureate George Olah explains how he and Surya Prakash created a breakthrough that won them a million dollars for their innovations:

"Thanks to recent developments in chemistry, a new way to convert carbon dioxide into methanol — a simple alcohol now used primarily by industry but increasingly attracting attention as transportation fuel — can now make it profitable for America and the world to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions.

"At laboratories such as the University of Southern California's Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute, researchers have discovered how to produce methanol at significantly lower cost than gasoline directly from carbon dioxide. So instead of capturing and 'sequestering' carbon dioxide...this environmental pariah can be recycled into fuel for autos, trucks and ships." (Source)

Olah and Prakash are not the only ones working on using CO2 to produce methanol. In Iceland, the company Carbon Recycling International captures CO2 produced by industrial processes and makes renewable methanol using geothermal energy. Their CEO, K.C. Tran, says, "We often describe our technology as liquid electricity because we store the electricity in the form of liquid, for consumption in today's internal combustion engine based cars. It is similar to storing electricity in a battery. We capture CO2 and turn it into renewable methanol for gasoline blending in the US and EU." (Source)

Describing the Icelandic company's commercial scale plant, Wikipedia says, "Initially the major source will be the CO2 rich flue gases of fossil-fuel-burning power plants or exhaust from cement and other factories. In the longer range however, considering diminishing fossil fuel resources and the effect of their utilization on earth's atmosphere, even the low concentration of atmospheric CO2 itself could be captured and recycled via methanol, thus supplementing nature’s own photosynthetic cycle. Efficient new absorbents to capture atmospheric CO2 are being developed, mimicking plants' ability." So methanol could be made directly from CO2 in the air.

"Methanol may be viewed as a compact way of storing hydrogen," says Wikipedia. "Methanol has a high octane rating, making it a suitable gasoline substitute. It has a higher flame speed than gasoline, leading to higher efficiency..." (Source)

A method for creating methanol using CO2 and sunlight, developed at the University of Texas at Arlington, uses very little electrical power and can be "scaled up to an industrial scale to allow some of the CO2 emitted from electrical power plants to be captured and converted into" methanol. This would make electric cars even greener because the CO2 generated for electricity is captured and used. (Source)

Researchers are innovating other ways to convert CO2 into methanol using very little energy. A team led by Professor Frédéric-Georges Fontaine at Université Laval has accomplished a very efficient method. As Science Daily puts it, "the results have been spectacular." They're now working on ways to make it profitable. (Source)

In an article in Forbes, a Nobel Prize winning physicist, Carlo Rubbia, says natural gas has the most promise as an abundant, clean fuel that can help reduce global warming. He said one of our most important goals should be to convert the transportation sector from gasoline to methanol. "Natural gas can be integrated into human society more quickly and easily than nuclear, solar or wind," Rubbia said, "and because of global warming, speed is of the essence."

"For transportation, he suggests producing methanol liquid by recombining hydrogen with CO2 that has been removed from the atmosphere. Cars burning methanol would still produce CO2 emissions, but as long as the fuel is made with captured CO2 they would not increase existing CO2 levels.

"Because methanol can be handled like ethanol or gasoline is now, society could avoid several of the obstacles it would face if it tried to convert transportation to hydrogen, including the need for new storage and transportation infrastructure and the need to switch from internal combustion engines to electricity-producing fuel cells." (Source)

Another important consideration about the CO2 impact of methanol made from natural gas is that flaring natural gas (burning it just to get rid of it) now produces a huge amount of CO2 without any benefit whatsoever only because methanol is not allowed to compete with gasoline at the pump. If that natural gas was converted to methanol and burned as a fuel instead of flaring it, the methanol could displace billions of gallons of a much more polluting fuel (gasoline) that is now being burned for transportation. The methanol which is being flared would be used instead to propel cars down the road and billions of gallons of gasoline now being burned for transportation fuel would not have to be burned, considerably reducing total CO2 emissions. 

A report by GE stated: "Gas flaring [in America] emits 400 million metric tons of CO2 annually, the same as 77 million automobiles, without producing useful heat or electricity. Worldwide, billions of cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas are wasted annually, typically as a by-product of oil extraction." (Source)

A report by Ceres says, "At current market rates, oil is approximately 30 times more valuable than natural gas. As a result, producers have chosen to flare much of the gas they produce, rather than invest in the infrastructure necessary to collect, process and market it...

"The practice of natural gas flaring has generated significant public attention after recent NASA satellite images revealed that North Dakota’s gas flares can be seen from space, burning nearly as brightly as the city lights of Minneapolis and Chicago." (Source)

In a New York Times article by Clifford Krauss, he writes, "With cheap (natural) gas bubbling to the top with expensive oil, the companies do not have an economic incentive to build the necessary gas pipelines, so they flare the excess gas instead.

"Flaring is environmentally less harmful than releasing raw natural gas into the atmosphere, but the flared gas still spews climate-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere." (Source)

Reuters reports: "The World Bank estimates that the flaring of gas adds some 360 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) in annual emissions, almost the same as France puts into the atmosphere each year or the equivalent to the yearly emissions from around 70 million cars." (Source)

With the passing of the Open Fuel Standard, we would soon have a large percentage of cars on the road capable of burning ethanol and methanol as well as gasoline, and there would be a profit-incentive for waste-into-fuel plants to spring up in every town and city, further cutting the greenhouse gas emissions. Rather than municipal waste being dumped into a landfill where it leaks tremendous amounts of methane into the atmosphere — a greenhouse gas far worse than CO2most of the waste could be turned into fuel, as one facility is now doing in Vero Beach, Florida. And turning the trash into fuel reduces the bulk going into landfills by 90%. (Source)

The production of methanol is one factor in its CO2 emissions, and it easily wins that competition with gasoline because methanol production creates substantially less CO2 than refining oil into gasoline. The other factor, of course, is burning the fuel in vehicles. This is a more straightforward thing to measure. Robert Zubrin, president of Pioneer Energy and an accomplished engineer, discovered during his methanol experiment that methanol produces less CO2 when burned than gasoline. "Carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by 35 percent," he writes. In a recent paper of his, he graphs the results of testing M100 (pure methanol), M60 (sixty percent methanol, forty percent gasoline), and E10 (normal gasoline, containing ten percent ethanol). Here are the results:

Read more about it here. So using methanol for fuel instead of gasoline would lower CO2 emissions from vehicles by 35%. Methanol is a high-octane, clean-burning fuel and gasoline should have to compete with it in a free market. This could happen quickly. It was not difficult for Zubrin to adjust his regular gasoline-only car to be able to burn methanol. The only part he had to replace was a fuel pump seal that cost him 41 cents. Methanol could very well be the silver bullet everyone has been searching for. At the very least, it could cut CO2 emissions from our existing cars immediately while new technologies like electric cars have a chance to gain a larger share of the market. A few relevant points about methanol from Wikipedia:

"Methanol is in fact toxic and eventually lethal when ingested in larger amounts. But so are most motor fuels, including gasoline and diesel fuel. Gasoline also contains many compounds known to be carcinogenic (e.g. benzene). Methanol is not a carcinogen, nor does it contain any carcinogens.

"Compared to gasoline, however, methanol is much safer. It is more difficult to ignite and releases less heat when it burns. Methanol fires can be extinguished with plain water, whereas gasoline floats on water and continues to burn. The EPA has estimated that switching fuels from gasoline to methanol would reduce the incidence of fuel related fires by 90%.

"An accidental release of methanol in the environment would cause much less damage than a comparable gasoline or crude oil spill. Unlike these fuels, methanol, being totally soluble in water, would be rapidly diluted to a concentration low enough for microorganisms to start biodegradation. Methanol is in fact used for denitrification in water treatment plant as a nutrient for bacteria." (Source)

Fuel Freedom has this to say about the possibility of methanol as a transportation fuel:

"Development of methanol as a fuel source has suffered from a lack of physical and legal infrastructure. Steps that could make methanol more viable as an alternative fuel include:

1. Passage of the Open Fuel Standard that would mandate that new cars sold in the U.S. support multiple fuels, not just gasoline;
2. Government protocols for the conversion of existing cars to flex-fuel vehicles capable of running on high concentrations of methanol and the installation of flex-fuel pumps at gas stations so consumers can choose between competing fuels and blends;
3. Construction and streamlined permitting for new plants, initially to convert natural gas and coal to methanol, and later to convert more sustainable feed stocks such as biomass. Because methanol is so easily produced, facilities could be small and decentralized, located near to gasoline stations." (Source)

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.

A Free Market For Fuel

Fuel is not sold in a free market. In the last hundred years, the oil industry has shut down, smeared, discredited, and blocked competing fuels. Right now, methanol could be sold for half the price of gasoline. But because of a pointless EPA regulation, it’s not sold as a fuel in the United States. Normal gasoline-only cars can efficiently burn methanol, which can be made inexpensively from three resources America has in abundance: coal, natural gas, and municipal waste (among many other resources).

Ethanol is another example. Oil companies have blocked ethanol from being sold at most gas stations. Petroleum interests have also been trying to discredit ethanol as a fuel for literally a hundred years.

Petroleum has a monopoly, and OPEC has been exploiting it. OPEC was created to raise world oil prices, which they’ve successfully done since 1973. The OPEC nations produce 40 percent of the world’s annual oil supply, which is enough of a percentage that they can (and they do) regularly decide to lower their production to raise the world price of oil.

OPEC is an illegal price-fixing cartel, and if they were operating within our borders, they would be prosecuted for it. What they are doing is also illegal internationally, but nobody is likely to prosecute them because OPEC could, and probably would, retaliate by stopping their production, which would cause a worldwide depression.

Free trade and the economy as we know it completely depend on transporting goods from place to place. When the price of transportation fuel rises, the price of everything rises. Every time oil prices have spiked since World War II, we’ve had a recession in America.

It is our complete reliance on oil that creates our economic vulnerability. What can we do about it?

The solution to a monopoly is competition.

But how can we create free trade in the fuel market when the problem is outside our borders? The Open Fuel Standard is the solution. The bill, which has been in Congress many times, says half the cars sold in America must allow fuel competition — if the car can burn gasoline, it must also be able to burn gasoline, ethanol and methanol in any proportion. This is technically simple and surprisingly inexpensive to do. Ethanol and methanol burn in similar ways, and they work very well in ordinary gasoline-only engines. The main thing automakers would need to do is install the flex fuel software in the onboard computer.

This small change brings into being real fuel competition. Drivers filling their tanks could choose on the spot which fuel they want to buy that day. So those fuels would have to compete with each other on price. And if there was an oil price spike, it would hardly make a dent in our economy. People would simply buy one of the other available fuels.

Methanol and ethanol can both be made right here in America, producing American jobs and pouring money into the American economy.

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.

How the Oil Industry Influences National Beliefs

"The New York Times recently published an op-ed attacking renewable fuels from the Manhattan Institute's Robert Bryce," wrote Denise Robbins in Media Matters, "without disclosing his ties to the oil industry, despite a directive from its former public editor for the paper to fully disclose its op-ed contributors' financial conflicts of interest."

While the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is an incomplete solution at best (robust fuel competition is what we need), we thought the excerpt below was an interesting look at one of the ways the oil industry has managed to keep its transportation fuel monopoly despite innovations such as turning municipal waste profitably into clean fuel (while reducing landfill bulk and greenhouse gases) or the ability to create ethanol for a dollar a gallon using undrinkable water and unfarmable land. Robbins writes:

In a March 10 New York Times op-ed, Robert Bryce falsely characterized the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) as an expensive "tax." The standard, which requires oil refiners, blenders, and gasoline and diesel importers to blend a set amount of renewable fuel into their gasoline supply, was dismissed by Bryce as a "boondoggle" and a "rip-off."

But the Times failed to disclose Bryce's financial incentive to attack the RFS, identifying him only as a "senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the author of a new report from the institute, 'The Hidden Corn-Ethanol Tax.'" The Manhattan Institute has, in fact, received millions from oil interests over the years, including $635,000 from ExxonMobil and $1.9 million from the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, where Charles Koch and his wife sit on the board of directors. Koch made his fortune from oil and currently has significant holdings in oil and gas operations.

Bryce is, in essence, acting as a spokesperson for the oil industry, which has much to gain from weakening or repealing the RFS. The renewable fuel requirement is set to increase over the next several years, potentially replacing up to 13.6 billion gallons of the conventional fuel supply by 2022.

These financial ties might explain why Bryce's op-ed was peppered with industry myths, including that renewable fuel can damage car engines (this has been proven wrong) and is bad for the environment (ethanol's lower greenhouse gas emissions are better for the climate).

The New York Times faced backlash after similarly failing to disclose Bryce's financial interests in a 2011 op-ed attacking renewable energy policies. A letter signed by more than 50 journalists and media professionals expressed concern that such a lack of disclosure is "a growing problem in American journalism" and asked the public editor to "lead the industry and set the nation's standard by disclosing financial conflicts of interest that their op-ed contributors may have at the time their piece is published."

Read the whole article here: NY Times Fails To Disclose Oil Funding Behind Pro-Oil Op-Ed.

Beginning Fuel Competition

"If you were to build a gas station today, from the ground up," writes Landon Hall, "you’d scribble out a list of the types of fuel you’d want to offer your customers. At the top, of course, would be regular 87-octane unleaded gasoline, which contains 10 percent ethanol. But next on the list likely would be E85 ethanol blend.

"That’s right: Cheaper, cleaner-burning E85 might just be a hot seller, if you did it right. Mike Lewis, co-founder of Pearson Fuels in San Diego, has been selling it for 12 years, and he knows there’s a customer base out there for it. Last month he sold more than 34,000 gallons of E85 at his flagship station, accounting for 20.7 percent of his overall fuel sales.

"Customers consistently buy more E85 at the station than mid-grade gas (89 octane), premium (91) or diesel combined."

Important Points About Ethanol As Fuel

The following is an open letter from Marc Rauch, the executive vice president and co-publisher of The Auto Channel to Loren Steffy, writer for Chron. Reprinted here with Marc Rauch's permission.

Hi Loren -

I just had the opportunity to read your "Ethanol Chronicle" series that was published on the Houston Chronicle website from February to March 2007. (http://blog.chron.com/lorensteffy/category/the-ethanol-chronicles)

Yes, I realize that that was eight years ago, but one of the great aspects of the Internet is that things are often where they were left for anyone to see and comment on.

Nothing much has changed in the efforts to find an alternative to petroleum oil engine fuels. Likewise, the typical arguments used against ethanol in 2007 are still being used today. So while I'm very tardy in commenting on your series, I think that my counter-arguments are as fresh as ever. Additionally, while the same arguments are still being used against ethanol, the research and science has progressed considerably. It may be too late to include my comments at the bottom of the Houston Chronicle webpages, but perhaps you will revisit the subject again in the near future and find my remarks useful to that new effort.

It seems to me that your experience with using E85 was generally very positive and intuitive. For example, the fueling process didn't require learning any new pumping or safety techniques, and you didn't have to travel extended distances to unsavory filling station locations. I mention this because if you were doing a comparison between using a gasoline-powered vehicle and a CNG-powered vehicle you would have had to learn some new pumping techniques, learn to wrestle with obstinate CNG hoses, and get acquainted with some dark CNG fueling facilities that you wouldn't want your wife or daughter to have to use on their own. (Incidentally, I own a dedicated CNG vehicle and I'm a big fan of this alt fuel, but it does present these challenges.)

What's more, your story didn't indicate any performance difficulties or changes when you used the E85. I would describe your experience with the flex fuel vehicle and the fuel as having been "seamless." I presume you would agree with that.

The negative experience would have been the lower MPG from E85 as compared to regular gasoline (I assume it was E10, but might have been some other formulation that was available to you in 2007). By my calculations you experienced about an 18% reduction in MPG. However, you correctly assessed that the lower price of E85 mitigated the loss in MPG, and could even make the lower MPG irrelevant by providing a net gain from using E85. As a matter of interest, at the E85 filling station that I typically use, E85 is nearly 25% less than E10. So even if I experienced 18% fewer MPG I would come out well ahead. As it turns out, my MPG loss is not nearly so great (under 10% difference), so I come out far ahead.

Along the way you were exposed (or perhaps re-exposed) to some of the negative criticisms of ethanol, such as the Pimentel-Patzek EROEI claims and the limitations of E85 availability. And your series concluded with what I feel is Henry Groppe's biased pro-petroleum oil praise.

Before I continue, I would like to tell you that what I thought was really great about your test was that you did it by renting a flex fuel vehicle. Your experience is the first I've ever come across in which an "objective" journalist writing about ethanol fuels actually stepped up to the plate and did a real on-the-road comparison. Time after time I've read critical reviews of ethanol in which there was no hands-on testing conducted by the author. In my personal experimentations over the years I have been fortunate enough to be given plenty of flex fuel and non-flex fuel press vehicles with which I could do similar tests. Added to that, I've been willing to use my own personal gasoline-powered vehicles as guinea pigs. Consequently, I'm always suspect of a report damning ethanol (or any other alt fuel) that doesn't include practical personal experience.

Writing The Ethanol Chronicles in the year you did, you of course didn't have the opportunity to evaluate the Pimentel-Patzek 2005 study against the numerous opposing studies and backlash that were to come in subsequent years. This includes challenging reports by domestic and foreign universities, USDA, Argonne National Laboratory, and the findings revealed in an hour-long televised debate that pitted Pimentel and Patzek against Michigan State University Professor Bruce Dale and the NREL's John Sheehan.

To say that Pimentel-Patzek has been soundly rebuked is an understatement. Unfortunately the weight of the oil industry's checkbook has been able to overcome any perfunctory media discussion of Pimentel-Patzek's (flawed) results.

Your concern that there were not enough E85 filling stations is still a valid concern. It would definitely be helpful to any motorists (with or without flex fuel vehicles) if E85 was as ubiquitous as E10. However, one of the best features of a flex fuel vehicle is that it doesn't require only one type of fuel. As compared to having a dedicated CNG vehicle that is dead-in-the-water if it can't get to the next CNG facility, a flex fuel or non-flex fuel vehicle (that uses high level ethanol-gasoline splash blends) can go right back to E10 or non-ethanol gasoline when needed. So there should never be any "range anxiety" issues.

Another point you mentioned in 2007, and couldn't have predicted the outcome was the elimination of the national at-the-pump subsidy for using E85. As you know, that subsidy was retired nearly two years ago. It was believed that the price of E85 would then go higher than E10. However, that hasn't happened, the price of E85 is still lower than E10, and often much, much lower than ethanol-free gasoline.

In response to the encouraging results that you shared with Henry Groppe, you quoted Mr. Groppe as saying "That’s not the point....Part of the reason oil has been our fuel of choice for so long is because it’s incredibly efficient and has a high energy content."

I'm afraid that Mr. Groppe's long association and probable financial entanglements with the petroleum industry has either clouded or obfuscated the real reason why petroleum oil fuels have been our primary engine fuels for so long: The petroleum industry bought that position through financial considerations and duplicitous, sometimes deadly, actions. For the sake of brevity I will not present what these duplicitous, sometimes deadly actions are, but I would be most happy to provide extensive details and references upon your request.

Moreover, the issue of gasoline's BTU rating being higher than ethanol is completely irrelevant to any comparison between gasoline and ethanol. If "higher energy content" had any relevancy when comparing fuels used in internal combustion engines then you would be able to use diesel fuel in a gasoline-powered vehicle and get better mileage. Engine-fuel optimization is the key, not BTU rating. In my opinion, a man in Mr. Groppe's distinguished position in the energy industry should have known this and not have made this comment.

Loren, ethanol can become a viable replacement for gasoline, or at the least a very significant part of the solution to ending our oil addiction, but only when the truth is allowed to be seen and heard.

Very truly yours,

Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher

Taking Ethanol Out of Gasoline CREATES Fuel Problems

The following is republished from the Urban Air Initiative. See the original here.

One of the great misconceptions following ethanol is that it causes compatibility issues in certain engines. But new data shows that the opposite is true, and ethanol-free gasoline blends actually increase much of the wear and tear on hoses, seals, and fuel tanks.

This is the finding of new research released today by ICM, Inc. and the Urban Air Initiative (UAI). The findings were presented at the semi-annual meeting of ASTM, an international standards organization that develops and publishes technical standards. Steve VanderGriend of ICM and technical director for UAI presented data showing how the high aromatic content of gasoline, particularly toxic aromatics like benzene and toluene negatively impacts engine parts. The toxic aromatics create a significant increase in the escape of harmful emissions that can have a devastating impact on public health given that these aromatic compounds are known and suspected carcinogens.

“What we are seeing is that benzene and toluene are increasing permeation, which means increasing the amount of fuel vapors that seep from a vehicle. For anyone who has a garage at home and smells gasoline, vapors are escaping through the vehicles fuel system or small engine gas tank”, said Mr. VanderGriend.

Ethanol is often blamed for increasing evaporative emissions. However, the ICM and Urban Air Initiative research clearly shows increased aromatics cause a greater degradation on hoses, plastics, and other components which creates an escape route for gasoline vapors to permeate into the air.

In his presentation at ASTM, VanderGriend explained the extensive testing done on fuel lines, gas containers, and plastic components. These materials were each soaked in straight gasoline (E0) and a 10% ethanol blend (E10) for extended periods of time. In every case the ethanol free gasoline increased the damage to fuel lines, gas containers, and plastic components, while the materials soaked in E10 were impacted less.

To better visualize the damaging effects of straight gasoline, click here to watch a time lapse video involving a simple Styrofoam cup. The E10 blend contained 20% aromatics and had a slower impact on the cup. The E0 blend, with 26% aromatics, instantly destroyed the cup. While not as scientific as soak testing, the results are similar.

“The notion that somehow ethanol free gasoline is superior product could not be further from the truth”, said Mr. VanderGriend. “In our home town of Wichita, the average E0 has 46% more benzene and toluene by volume than the same 87 octane blend with ethanol. The fuel costs more and presents a mechanical and health risk that is incorrectly being attributed to ethanol”.

He went on to explain that ethanol, with the highest octane value of any fuel additive on the market today, could not only continue to replace aromatics like benzene and toluene in today’s gasoline but it will be critical as future vehicle designs will require higher octane to meet mileage and emission standards.

Mr. VanderGriend called on the ASTM to establish a task force to define maximum levels of aromatics in gasoline and to establish standards for the use of toluene as a blend component. ASTM agreed to begin a task force to begin monitoring aromatic levels in gasoline.

For more information on the work of the Urban Air Initiative, visit www.urbanairinitiative.com and www.fixourfuel.com.

Processing Oil Uses a Tremendous Amount of Fresh Water

"What do almonds, golf, fracking, and Kim Kardashian's lawn have in common?" asks Julia Lurie. "They've all been publicly shamed for their outsized water use during California's ongoing drought.

"But you likely haven't heard as much about one of the state's major water sucks: oil refineries, which are estimated to be the second-biggest water user of non-ag businesses in the state (after golf).

"The plants process more than 80 million gallons of oil per day, turning it into products like gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, each gallon of oil takes between 1 and 2.5 gallons of water to refine, most of which is either dumped into the ocean after it's used and treated, or evaporated as steam. Once in the ocean, the water is unusable unless it's desalinated."

Read the rest of her article here: Yet Another Way That Oil Is Screwing The Environment.

The Benefits of Earthworms

Earthworms like the Nightcrawler tunnel around underground and produce "earthworm castings," which means, basically, worm poop. The castings create a rich medium for plants to grow in. But earthworms do more than that. They create long burrows, which allows air and water down into the soil, and by tunneling, they move the earth around. It's like tilling the soil without exposing the dirt to erosion.

Lining the walls of earthworm tunnels are fungi and bacteria that add to the health of the soil.

Why Help Earthworms Proliferate?

Healthy soil is the foundation of life on land. And a major contributor to healthy soil is, of course, the earthworm. If a particular plot of ground has a healthy earthworm population, it is healthy soil with healthy plants growing in it. The land is probably not being poisoned by pesticides. And it's not barren or exhausted or being chemically fertilized. And obviously if the plot of land has been paved over, earthworms cannot live there at all.

In other words, the earthworm population is a good indicator of the health of the soil. More places on earth with earthworms thriving in the soil means a healthier planet.

When the soil is healthy, plants are thriving, and animals that eat the plants thrive too. Including human beings. There is good evidence that the collapse of every civilization in history can be traced back to unhealthy soil. Read more about that here.

Environmentalists and concerned citizens have lots of significant issues to deal with. The problems are complex enough to be overwhelming. So focusing on earthworms makes our task simpler. Earthworms are an easy way to measure success: If the earthworm population is thriving in more and more places on earth, we are succeeding. Where the earthworm population is decreasing, we are failing and need to remedy the situation.

Focusing on the earthworm population also means each of us can do something about it. You can eat organically grown food and grass-fed meat. The land that produced those foods has more earthworms in the soil than foods grown with chemical fertilizers and sprayed with pesticides. Organically grown foods and grass-fed meat are usually more expensive than mass-produced food, but better for the planet (and better for your own health).

Many of us can have a compost pile that feeds earthworms. This is another very easy thing to do that helps the earthworm population increase.

You can raise earthworms. You can find many videos on YouTube showing how to set up your own little earthworm farm at home. When you grow them in a box or bucket, the birds and other predators can't get to them, so it can help increase the total earthworm population (as well as getting rid of your food waste in an ecologically beautiful way). It creates rich, healthy soil you can put into your garden. And, of course, you can add extra earthworms to your garden as they proliferate in your compost heap or earthworm box.

You can also take advantage of your six degrees of separation and share what you're doing with others and influence them to help increase the earthworm population too. You never know who you might influence and how far that influence might go.

If you want to help the earth, help the earthworm.

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.

Fasting is Natural

In the book, Catching Fire, which is a very interesting book but has nothing to do with fasting, the author wrote, "In deserts like the Kalahari, the result can be difficult indeed (to find enough to eat in some seasons), but periodic shortages of energy like this are routine in all living hunter-gatherers, just as they are in rainforest chimpanzees. Judging from studies of bones and teeth, which show in their fine structure the marks of nutritional stress, energy shortages (shortages of sufficient digestible food) were also universal in archeological populations. Until the development of agriculture, it was the human fate to suffer regular periods of hunger — typically, it seems, for several weeks a year — even though they ate their food cooked."

The book is about how cooking changed an ape-like animal into homo sapiens.

Read more about fasting: Fasting Articles.

Listen to my podcast about fasting: What's So Great About Fasting?

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. 

Principles For Personal Growth

Principles For Personal Growth is a no-nonsense, practical self-help handbook written in a friendly, entertaining, and concise style. It gives you solid tools you can use to better your life.

You'll learn how to become more effective with your actions and feel good more often. The chapters were originally written for a column in Rodale Press's newsletter At Your Best where Adam's column was voted the readers' favorite.

This book was designed to be used. It is made to be referred to again and again when you need some counsel. When you're feeling blue or tired or at the end of your rope, or when you need a boost or just want to feel better, reach for this book. It is easy, enjoyable reading and the chapters are brief. Each of the chapters (there are over a hundred) ends with a simply-stated principle you can apply.

Since the things we learn are not etched in stone but stored in a gooey organ, an organ we use every day, it's important to not only learn good ideas, but to be reminded of them when we need them. Otherwise, the incoming information we are bombarded with every day tends to push the things we "know" into the back of our minds, and, while it is not forgotten, it is hard to remember when we need it. Most of the chapters are short enough to read in five minutes or less, and at the end of that five minutes, you'll come away with a technique you can use to improve either your situation or your attitude toward it. Read what people say about the book.

Some of the things you'll learn:
  • Lots of simple and effective ways to feel good more often and improve your attitude
  • How to remove sources of stress from your life
  • How to become closer to the people you love
  • How and why to become more optimistic
  • How to deal with troublemakers and people who bring you down
  • Simple things you can do to get the appreciation you deserve
  • How to accomplish your goals more easily

More information about the book and the author:

answers to questions about the books, Self-Help Stuff That Works and Principles For Personal Growth

comments by readers

bite sized tastes of the book

the philosophy behind the book

basic principles within the book

Adam Khan's recommended reading list

Books Recommended by Adam Li Khan

Self-Help Stuff That Works
by Adam Khan

The best of the best of self-help. One hundred and seventeen short chapters on improving your attitude, preventing unnecessary negative emotions, being appreciated by the people you love, experiencing less stress, and more. The best use of this book is to consult it when you're down: When you feel upset or worried or angry or frustrated or stressed out. Browse through it, and you'll find a chapter that resolves your bad feelings right away. Keep it easily accessible and watch the quality of your life improve over time as you change your habits one chunk at a time.

Character Is Destiny: The Value of Personal Ethics in Everyday Life
by Russell W. Gough

A small, practical, penetrating look at ethics: What it is, why it is, and how you can improve your own ethics or character. It's an intelligent book, but easy to read and apply. Gough knows a lot about the history of ethics, so it is interesting in that way also, with plenty of quotes from Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, and, of course, Heraclitus (whose quote is the title of the book). Trying to be a better person is an enjoyable and deeply satisfying pursuit, and this book is definitely helpful on that journey.

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Csikszentmihalyi's research is thorough, and the conclusions he draws are practical and solid. You can change the way you work and enter a concentrated, enjoyable state that increases your skill more often. This book is profound from the very first chapter. He attempts to answer the question: What is happiness? And looks at how it can be achieved. His is not a pie-in-the-sky view, but pragmatic through and through.

Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life
by Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D.

Learn about how depression and pessimism develop and what you can do to eliminate much of it from your life. This is one of our favorite self-help books of all time. It is destined to be a classic. Seligman gives you a little history of psychological thinking through this century, and how we came to the understanding we now have through cognitive science. He shows you how your thoughts affect your feelings, and how those feelings affect your actions, your ability to persist and succeed, your health, your relationships, and so on. He talks a lot about the research, but in an interesting way. Not at all boring or overly scientific.

Good Mood: The New Psychology of Overcoming Depression
by Julian Simon

This is an excellent overview of the practical insights of cognitive science. And Simon adds a genuinely original contribution to the field: The idea that all our depressing thoughts spring from our universal tendency to compare ourselves or our circumstances to someone or something else. If the comparison is good, we feel good; if it is bad, we feel bad.

Of course, if you look at your own life in an overly negative or pessimistic way, your comparison may turn out worse than it really is, making you feel bad unnecessarily. And if you decide you're helpless to improve your state, that will make you depressed. From the simple idea of comparison, all the different modes of cognitive science are clarified and fit into the larger picture. Simon normally writes on economics. He wrote this book because of his own personal struggle with depression.

Man's Search for Meaning
by Viktor E. Frankl

Frankl was a prisoner of Hitler's concentration camps, and tells about his experiences. He also points out that he saw first hand that when a person feels his life has some meaning or purpose, that person was not only an inspiration to others, but could withstand more suffering without collapsing than a person who had no reason to try. Purpose gives strength and aliveness and meaning. It makes all the difference.

How We Know What Isn't So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life
by Thomas Gilovich

This is an academic book, but very interesting. It is full of studies showing that the very strengths of our human brains are also the cause of many of our most common mistaken beliefs. For example, our ability to generalize and see patterns from incomplete information is a highly intelligent skill that has been difficult to develop in computers. Yet that same intelligence-producing skill is also responsible for faulty conclusions we've jumped to. Our brain is so predisposed to see patterns, it sometimes sees a pattern that actually doesn't exist. The value of this book is that once you recognize the inherent weaknesses in your brain, you can compensate for them. In fact, the scientific method was developed to do exactly that: Compensate for our own tendency to misperceive reality and keep us from fooling ourselves.

How to Win Friends and Influence People
by Dale Carnegie

This is the classic book on dealing with people, whether you want to simply make new friends or change someone's behavior or persuade someone to change her mind, you'll find useful, practical principles here. When the techniques are used with honesty and sincerity, you can reach a new level of kindness and courtesy in your dealings with people. Being assertive or being your honest self does not have to negate courtesy and politeness. Carnegie's book has often been criticized as a shallow way of manipulating people. But Carnegie makes very clear that the practice of the principles is a new way of life, and if you use them only as a bag of manipulative tricks, you will reap the superficial relationships you deserve.

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy Revised and Updated
by David D. Burns, M.D.

If depression or pessimism is a problem for you, this book needs to be in your arsenal. It is clear, practical instruction on what you can do about depression. His list of ten cognitive distortions is worth memorizing even if you don't have a problem with depression, because they are the same distortions we make when we're upset or worried or angry. Once you know what distortions to look out for, you can spot them and therefore defend yourself against their destructive influence.

Mindfulness in Plain English, Updated and Expanded Edition
by Henepola Gunatarana

The practice of mindfulness is really a key factor in all self-help. In order to remember to drink enough water, or to avoid defeatist thinking, or to keep good posture, or anything you want to change, you've got to have a certain amount of mindfulness. You need to be able to be here and be aware. But beyond that, the foundation of mindfulness adds a quality to your everyday experience. One thing you probably would never regret is to say, "I was present for my life." Why live in automaticities and habits without much awareness of your experience? You can learn to become more mindful, and Gunatarana's book is the best training manual I've ever come across for learning that skill.

Self-Help Without the Hype
by Robert Epstein

This book is short and simple and presents three powerful ways of making changes in your life without having to rely on your own memory or willpower, and without needing to be someone you're not. The content is excellent. It's got some typos, but it's worth reading. It is written One-Minute-Manager style. It is a story of a novice learning from a master. Good, simple, clear, powerful. I highly recommend it.

by Cynthia Kersey

This is an excellent collection of true, inspiring stories of people who not only succeeded, but succeeded at a worthy goal. If you liked Just Keep Planting, you'll love this book. Besides the stories, there are short essays by successful people, encouraging you to cast your fears aside and go for it.

Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: And How You Can Make Yours Last
by John Gottman, Ph.D.

Gottman explains exactly how to avoid what ruins marriages. About 25 years ago, he started interviewing newlyweds in his laboratory. He hooked them up to devices that measure physical responses (blood pressure, heart rate, sweat on the palms, etc.) and videotaped them while they discussed a subject that was volatile for them. He was then able to go back and study the videotapes and watch the records of blood pressure and heart rate and see how the person responded both outwardly and inwardly. And then he tracked these couples over the years. Some broke up. Some stayed together. He found something very specific that enabled him to predict, with an astoundingly high degree of accuracy, who will break up and who will stay together: How they fight.

Gottman's most important discovery, I think, is that it isn't the content of the fight that makes a difference, it's the process you use during an argument. If you use a lousy method of fighting, it doesn't matter if you're only arguing about a toothpaste tube, it can destroy your marriage.

The Evolving Self: A Psychology for the Third Millennium
by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

This book expands the work Csikszentmihalyi started in Flow, but while Flow was mainly concerned with turning individual tasks into a more flow-inducing experience, The Evolving Self teaches how to turn your whole life into an ongoing flow experience and gives some interesting historical examples of how that has been done.

Using Your Brain--For a Change: Neuro-Linguistic Programming
by Richard Bandler

Bandler is an innovator and an original thinker in the field of psychology. This book is a transcript of Bandler live in front of an audience, cutting up and cracking jokes as he is prone to do, talking about some of his unique and often practical views on how you can change your feelings, thoughts and behavior. Change is often easier than you think if you use the right method.

Voluntary Simplicity, Revised Edition: Toward a Way of Life That Is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich
by Duane Elgin

We have too much stuff, and after the continual bombardment of advertising since childhood, we are under the delusion that buying, having, owning material possessions will make us happy. Many are snapping out of the trance, and this book is a record of what people do when they realize things aren't the source of happiness.

How to Stubbornly Refuse to Make Yourself Miserable About Anything: Yes, Anything
by Albert Ellis, Ph.D.

Ellis is a pioneer in the field of cognitive therapy, and has been at it so long, he has boiled it down to some fundamental simplicities, making his work very accessible and practical. This is one of his newer books, and gets to the heart of the matter, clearly, succinctly, and in a way that you can use immediately.

Tao: The Watercourse Way
by Alan Watts

Watts is an enjoyable writer to read, and here you'll find penetrating insight into the Taoist perspective on life and why it can bring a greater peace of mind. This was the last book Watts wrote. In fact, he didn't actually finish it before he died, but what he left is worth reading. Watts often doesn't merely convey information but creates an experience, so that while you read, you understand, not just intellectually, but emotionally as well.

Heart of the Mind: Engaging Your Inner Power to Change With Neuro-Linguistic Programming
by Connirae Andreas, Ph.D. and Steve Andreas, M.A.

This book is a basic primer of neurolinguistic programming (NLP). It's easy to read and if you've never read anything about NLP, it's an eye-opener. The approach to emotional difficulties is novel, having come ultimately from Milton Erickson and his innovations in hypnotic trances. One of the creators of NLP, Richard Bandler, said that he tried to find ways of accomplishing hypnotic benefits without using hypnosis, and the result was NLP.

by Ellen J. Langer

Langer's research is known all over the world for its originality. She looks deeply at the mindlessness we all share, and she explains what you personally can do about your own mindlessness.

Growth Through Reason: Verbatim Cases in Rational-Emotive Therapy
by Albert Ellis

This is a book of transcripts of actual Rational-Emotive Therapy sessions. It's a good look at how the theory gets put into practice and what it can do. Reading these exchanges, you get the basic ideas in a lively and interesting way.

The Structure of Magic: A Book About Language and Therapy (Structure of Magic)
by Richard Bandler and John Grinder

This is a technical breakdown of how we make a map of the world, and how our language reveals the map we've made, and also how you can change the way you use language to improve your map. It is pure, unadulterated genius.

Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions
by James W. Pennebaker, Ph.D.

Pennebaker's research has become world famous. When you share a traumatic or painful experience with someone you trust (or even merely write it out in a journal), you will enjoy better health. Opening up is healthy. Keeping yourself closed off from others is unhealthy. Pennebaker shows you why and how you can open up.

Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion
by Carol Tavris

Full of good research, this book shows that much of our commonplace understanding of anger is dangerously off-base. If you have a lot of anger in your life, this is definitely a book you could profitably read five or six times. The book debunks many myths; for instance, the myth of suppressed anger. You'll also learn how to deal with your anger in a healthy way, and how to change the way you think so you can prevent feeling angry in the first place.

What You Can Change and What You Can't: The Complete Guide to Successful Self-Improvement Learning to Accept Who You Are (Fawcett Book)
by Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D.

This is a top-shelf self-help book. Seligman demonstrates his broad and deep knowledge of all kinds of emotional and psychological problems like anger and anxiety, and tells you what the research has so far revealed about what you can do to improve.

Think and Grow Rich
by Napoleon Hill

This is the classic success book. With his thirteen principles, Hill explains what a person can do to find a definite chief aim in life, to gain control over his own thoughts, and to stay optimistic and persistent in the pursuit of that aim until it is achieved. Playing Ball on Running Water: The Japanese Way to Building a Better Life
David K. Reynolds, Ph.D.

This book, as well as the one above, are a delineation of Reynolds' synthesis of Naikan and Morita therapies into a westernized version of self-help, called Constructive Living. This book is interesting, thought provoking, and relentlessly practical. The Constructive Living approach is especially useful for someone who has a lot of psychology training or someone who is often timid or neurotic.

Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude
by Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone

This was written later in Hill's life, and has been given new life (and the addition of four more principles) by his association with the eminently successful Stone. The book is packed with useful principles and interesting anecdotes. It's a fun book to read.

Dying of Embarrassment: Help for Social Anxiety and Phobia
by Barbara G. Markway, C. Alec Pollard, Teresa Flynn, and Cheryl N. Carmin

If you feel awkward or uncomfortable talking to people or giving speeches, and you'd like to feel a lot more comfortable, this is an insightful book to read. It gives you practical steps you can take to feel less fear or anxiety and more pleasure interacting with people.

White Bears and Other Unwanted Thoughts: Suppression, Obesession, and the Psychology of Mental Control
by Daniel Wegner

Wegner has spent his entire career studying thought suppression and obsessional thoughts. He has learned so much, every page of this book is packed with interesting insights. If you've ever had a problem getting something out of your mind, or wished you had more control over your thoughts, or wanted to "think more positively," you should get this book and devour it.

The Relaxation Response
by Herbert Benson

If you would like a reliable method for reducing not only the stress in your life, but reducing the stressful way you respond to things, without having to change your thinking habits or learn yoga, read this book. The method is simple, doesn't take long, and works like magic.

Making Things Better by Making Them Worse
by Allen Fay

Some problems get worse the more you try to fix them. It makes sense, and it actually works in practice, after you have tried and failed to make things better by trying to make them better, to try to make them worse and see what happens. This book uses lots of great examples to illustrate the ways this technique can be used.

The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships
by John Gottman

One of the most valuable things I've gotten from any book lately is Gottman's idea of the "bid." Each thing someone says is a bid for connection, and the way you make those bids to others, and the way you respond to others bids makes a relationship better or worse. Powerful and simple.

The Promise of Sleep: A Pioneer in Sleep Medicine Explores the Vital Connection Between Health, Happiness, and a Good Night's Sleep
William C. Dement

Sleep is very important and more than half of us get too little of it. The consequences are enormous. Learn about the research, and find out how you can vastly improve how you feel every day. Even if you already sleep enough, you can improve the quality of that sleep. Great book with surprising insights on a fundamental subject.

Stop! You're Driving Me Crazy
by George Robert Bach

If you've got someone driving you crazy, this book will shed some penetrating illumination on your situation. Things will never look the same to you. You'll come away from this book with so much clarity about what is actually happening, you'll be amazed. The person driving you crazy is giving you two messages simultaneously that contradict each other. That's what makes you feel crazy. There is a specific thing that causes them to do that, and there are some practical ways you can bring sanity back into your life. It's all in the book. Well worth the read.

Bonus Book Recommendations

Adam's favorite inspiring true stories:

Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors (Avon Nonfiction)

Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage

Alone: The Classic Polar Adventure

Bonus Recommendation

Adam's favorite, most uplifting, most inspiring movies (and they're all true stories):


Henry V

Lorenzo's Oil

A League of Their Own

Rudy (Special Edition)

October Sky (Special Edition)

The Philosophy Behind Adam Khan's Work

I remember reading a book by David K. Reynolds about Asian Psychotherapies where he said in the U.S. we come up with theories about why therapies work, but in Morita and Naikon therapy, they just concern themselves with what works, and they don't bother trying to explain it. One of their treatments is solitude, for example. They don't allow the patient to do anything but sit in a room. After awhile, the person wants something to do, so they allow the patient to do some sweeping and cleaning. The therapists have no theory to explain why this cures people. They just know it does, so they use it.

Reynolds called it a sort of phenomenological operationalism. I guess that's a good name for my philosophy. I think of these ideas as tools and my book as a toolbox. With any given task, some tools will be better than others. The question is, what's the best tool for the job? Some tools are effective for many different tasks. For example, exercise. It's a good tool for a lot of tasks: trying to lose weight or be happier or sleep better or get along with people better or pull out of depression or reduce anxiety. And some have a more specific application. Those tools are only good for one thing, even though they may do that one thing very well.

In the book, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, he describes 13 principles. One of them is autosuggestion. The principles are excellent, but his explanation of them, his answer to why it works, seems silly. He talks about sending "thought vibrations" into the "ether." That was a popular theory of his day. But you don't need the theory, and in some ways, for regular people (rather than researchers) you'd even be better off without the theory, since probably it will change, even though the principle may remain as true as ever.

So this is one view of my personal philosophy: I like theories and I even entertain some, but the important thing, and the thing I try to keep to, is what works.

Read about the basic principles behind Self-Help Stuff That Works and Principles For Personal Growth.