Big Orange Feels the Heat in Congress

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Jan 19, 2007 12:12 PM

My column today:

An unseasonable freeze wiped out 75 percent of California’s orange crop this week, but Congress is planning to wipe out any “price gouging” Big Orange executives have in mind.

Some experts predict that produce prices could double or triple in the coming months, but senators are making sure Big Orange answers for the squeeze it’s putting on American orange buyers. Some have suggested a windfall profits tax, with revenues distributed to lower-income juice-drinkers to help them get through their winter breakfasts.

At a hearing called by Republican Bill Frist, Big Orange CEOs found little sympathy from senators, who said their constituents are suffering from high citrus prices while Big Orange makes big profits...

"To my constituents, today's hearing is about shared sacrifices in tough times versus orange company greed," Boxer said. "Working people struggle with high juice prices and your sacrifices appear to be nothing."

A wee bit of satire for you this afternoon. What happened to the orange crop this week is exactly what happened to the oil industry in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Refineries were knocked out, and production and supply went down, which meant prices necessarily went up. The same will happen with oranges in the next couple of months until the industry recoups losses, but we won't see any hearings grilling Big Orange about its obscene profits and pricing (well, unless senators succeed in becoming even more obtuse).

I understand that the oil industry is more complex than orange pricing to some extent, but supply and demand still apply. Why is that people understand that when oranges are the subject, but not oil?

Anyway, all this to say that the show trials for Big Oil execs were just that-- show trials. And, if Congress held them every time prices went up, they'd succeed in looking as silly as they really are.