It was revealed today that since 2007, Google has been getting a special discount on jet fuel from the pentagon.
The cheap fuel came from a deal with NASA that gave Google access to Moffett Federal Airfield, a former Navy base about three miles away from Google’s California headquarters.
Moffett is typically closed to all non-government traffic, but Google struck a deal with NASA in 2007 allowing them to use and buy jet fuel from the station. Records indicate that Google was buying jet fuel for around $3.19 a gallon. During the same time period, other corporations have been buying jet fuel for an average of $4.35 a gallon.
The discounted fuel was supposed to be used for scientific flights and NASA-related transport, but that hasn’t been the case.
Records from the Federal Aviation Administration show that Google executives have using the jet fuel to fly all over the world on non-work related trips. Records show the planes flew 20 times to the Caribbean island of Tortola; 17 to Hawaii; 16 to Nantucket, Mass.; and 15 to Tahiti. Most of the flights were made on gas-guzzling Boeing 767 and Gulfstream V’s instead of smaller planes in Google’s jet fleet.
NASA reports that Google has conducted 151 research related flights in the past six years. Unlike their leisure flights, all but 11 of these trips have been made on fuel-friendly Alpha jets.
NASA has now ended Google’s fuel deal, deciding that the company was using the discount for too many personal flights.
The original contract between Google and the government stated that the fuel was to be used "for performance of a U.S. government contract, charter or other approved use.” The contract warns that violations of the agreement could incite criminal or civil penalties. There is no indication of an investigation at this time.
A NASA spokesperson said that the agency is developing a plan that would allow Google to keep buying fuel out of Moffett Airfield. The new plan would require Google to pay retail value for the fuel, however.
Meanwhile, at least one legislator, Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley (R), wants an audit of Google’s agreement with the pentagon.
"Are some executives getting a special deal on fuel that isn't available to other businesses?" Grassley asked, saying the deal raises questions about the government’s role as a "fair broker with businesses and responsible steward of tax dollars."