Tag Archives: Corporateering

Group Welcomes Sen. Grassley’s Probe Of Google’s Use Of NASA Airfield


Consumer Watchdog Report Revealed How Google Bases Jet Fleet At Moffett Field

Consumer Watchdog today welcomed an investigation by Sen. Charles Grassley, (R-Iowa) into Google’s use of NASA’s Moffett Federal Airfield in Santa Clara County, California, near Google headquarters.

Grassley, ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote Charles F. Bolden Jr., NASA Administrator, expressing concern about “troubling allegations regarding the Google fleet of aircraft housed at Moffett Airfield.”

In January 2011 Consumer Watchdog released a report, Lost in the Cloud: Google and the US Government, detailing how Google has inappropriately benefited from its ties to the Obama Administration, including how NASA’s Moffett Airfield, near Google’s world headquarters, was turned into a taxpayer-subsidized private airport for Google and their corporate junkets.

“Whistleblowers have questioned the benefit to the U.S. government from the Google fleet being housed at Moffett Airfield,” wrote Grassley. “Additionally, my office received allegations that Google has purchased jet fuel from the government at a discounted price, a price allegedly well below the market price due to its tax treatment.”

“Sen. Grassley is finally asking the right tough questions about Google’s sweetheart deal with NASA,” said John M. Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project.

Read Sen. Grassley’s letter here:

Consumer Watchdog’s study found that a growing fleet of jets and helicopters based at Moffett stand ready to ferry the company’s top executives near or far, for business or pleasure, for vacations or schmoozing. The trips included at least three wintertime jaunts to the Caribbean and a trip by Google’s then chief executive Eric Schmidt to the Cannes Film Festival.  Humanitarian groups, by contrast, have been denied access to the airport.

Read Consumer Watchdog’s report, Lost in the Cloud here:

Grassley asked Bolden to respond to these questions by May 25:

  1. How did NASA arrive at the lease amount of $3.7 million per year? Does that represent a fair market rate for the lease? Which individuals at NASA and Google negotiated the lease amount?
  2. As of the date of this letter, how many aircraft owned or operated by Google are present at Moffett Airfield? Provide detailed descriptions of all aircraft.
  3. Why does Moffett Airfield house Google aircraft and when did this arrangement begin? Provide all contracts between Google, NASA, and/or the military related to aircraft and aircraft fuel at Moffett Airfield.
  4. Please describe the agreements by which Google obtains fuel for its aircraft at Moffett Airfield and provide fueling records for each aircraft over the past five years.
  5. Are any of the aircraft used to support NASA research? Provide a specific explanation regarding the Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet.4
  6. Have any NASA officials flown on the Google aircraft? Please provide a list of each official and describe the nature and purpose of each trip in detail.
  7. For each aircraft owned or operated by Google, provide all flight plans and passenger manifests for each flight originating and landing at Moffett Airfield in the last five years.
  8. In the last five years, have any other aircraft owned by private companies or individuals housed aircraft at Moffett Airfield? If yes, provide a detailed description of the aircraft, the ownership of the aircraft.

Consumer Watchdog had brought its report to the attention of Congress by sending it to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and had asked him to investigate.

California’s Lofty Perch on Gasoline Prices

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The rest of the country is happily watching gasoline prices sink as the latest bubble in oil crude prices springs a leak. Except California. Nationally, gasoline prices are down more than 15 cents a gallon over the last month, according to the daily AAA fuel gauge. California drivers are still cringing, with prices up more than15 cents a gallon in just the last two weeks.

What gives? As usual, it’€™s the refineries. There are only 12 refineries supplying gasoline in the state, according to the California Energy Commission. Several of them are fully or partly shut down, for repairs or “€œscheduled maintenance”€ or just because the owner thinks refining gasoline is temporarily not profitable enough. This restriction in the state’s gasoline supply can go on for as long as refineries wish-the state has no authority to demand that scheduled maintenance be more rationally planned or efficiently conducted, or to investigate whether a plant owner is playing games with our pocketbooks.

The bottom line is that California, because it’€™s not on any major gasoline pipeline network, can’€™t bring in supplies to counter refinery shutdowns, is stuck with whatever shortage-induced gasoline price the refineries want to impose. If they can make up on profit what they lose on production, it’s just dandy for their bottom line. The extra profit that refineries generally make in California even has a name in the industry: “West Coast Premium.”

According to a 2009 investor report by the Texas-based refinery Tesoro, West Coast refineries have an average margin that is $8.50 per barrel higher than those operating on the Gulf Coast.

Given the power that refiners’€™ restrictions of gasoline supply have on gasoline prices, the state should have more regulatory power over refinery operations, modeled on regulation of power companies. The refiners would be guaranteed a modest but steady profit, and would in return have to guarantee a steady, reliable gasoline and diesel fuel supply. The new oversight would be more than paid for with a modest extraction tax on oil drilled in California-something every other oil-producing state enacted long ago.

Another conclusion from current gasoline prices in the state is that drilling more in California–off the coast, in deep shale, or by using dangerous superhot steam to wring more from old oilfields-won’t lower pump prices by a penny. Oil prices are going down now because speculators finally had to admit that there is no shortage of oil in the U.S. or in the world, but California drivers haven’€™t seen a penny of benefit.

California, even if it could produce every drop of oil that the state uses, would still be largely at the mercy of refiners.


Posted by Judy Dugan, research director for Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing an effective voice for taxpayers and consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Visit us on Facebook and Twitter.