Ethanol and the Egyptian Riots

Ethanol subsidies helped cause the Egyptian riots, contributing to the “skyrocketing food prices” that triggered “the massive unrest now occurring in Egypt,” argues economist and syndicated columnist Larry Kudlow, in “Bernanke and Ethanol Sink Egypt.” “In 2001, only 7 percent of U.S. corn went to ethanol. By 2010, the ethanol share was 39 percent. So instead of growing wheat, our farmers are growing corn in order to cash in on ethanol subsidies.” That harmed Egypt, a major wheat importer. Another factor was the Federal Reserve’s inflationary monetary policy, whose effects have already been felt overseas: “In dollar terms, the price of wheat has soared 114 percent over the past year. Corn has surged 88 percent.” (The Fed is even printing money so that the government can buy its own bonds to facilitate record deficit spending.)

Commentators across the political spectrum worry about the effect of ethanol subsidies.  The environmentalist Jeremy Bloom has an article titled “Egypt’s Ethanol Revolution: Bad U.S.  Policy Driving Up Worldwide Food Price.” Rob Port asks, “Are Ethanol Subsidies the Root Cause of Egyptian Protests?

As I previously noted, the rise in food prices in Egypt seems to have strengthened the anti-American Muslim Brotherhood, rather than the small pro-western reform movements in Egypt, by radicalizing the slums of Cairo, whose residents sometimes rely on relief provided by the Muslim Brotherhood (the only Egyptian political movement that provides non-governmental charitable services), and who have little connection to the Westernized middle class.