At a time when energy prices and industry profits are soaring, the federal government collected little more money last year than it did five years ago from the companies that extracted more than $60 billion in oil and gas from publicly owned lands and coastal waters.
If royalty payments in fiscal 2005 for natural gas had risen in step with market prices, the government would have received about $700 million more than it actually did, a three-month investigation by The New York Times has found.
Of course, in New Mexico, we have all this money this year because of royalties on those record high oil and gas prices. Federally, we’d have even more. According to the article, it’s us taxpayers who are feeling the pinch, to the tune of $700 million.
As a result, the nation’s taxpayers, collectively, the biggest owner of American oil and gas reserves, have missed much of the recent energy bonanza.
The disparities in gas prices parallel those uncovered just five years ago in a wave of scandals involving royalty payments for oil. From 1998 to 2001, a dozen major companies, while admitting no wrongdoing, paid a total of $438 million to settle charges that they had fraudulently understated their sale prices for oil.
Since then, the government has tightened its rules for oil payments. But with natural gas, the Bush administration recently loosened the rules and eased its audits intended to uncover cheating.
That’s right folks! President Bush, once again looking out for No. 1: his corporate buddies.
The possible losses to taxpayers in gas could be even higher than the losses tied to the scandals over oil royalties. For one thing, natural gas production on federal land is worth twice as much as oil.
Moreover, the Interior Department has scaled back on full audits, pushed out a couple of its more aggressive auditors and been criticized by its own inspector general for the audits that it did pursue.
Wow! More good news!
This is simply insane. I mean, Southwest New Mexico isn’t exactly rich in oil and gas deposits, but I’m more than willing to take the money generated by deposits in other parts of the state, and also those deposits on federal land.
And with all the money these companies are making in the time of $68-a-barrel oil, you would think the least they could do is give us our fair share.
But Bush: hell, the least he could do is make sure the American people are getting the payments they deserve. For someone who spends so much time yapping about tax-cuts and private social-security, you would think he’d be concerned that the average taxpayer wasn’t getting his fair share.
Anyhoo, read the whole piece.