When Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page and chairman Eric Schmidt fire up their private jets for long weekends in Tahiti, they've been doing so with improperly discounted jet fuel via a NASA facility at Moffett Federal Airfield near Mountain View. The company that operates the jets for the Google execs, which is called H211 Inc., arranged a contract with NASA allowing them to pay the same price the federal government pays for fuel in exchange for free flights provided for NASA research purposes, as the Wall Street Journal reports.
Google's fleet includes seven jets and two helicopters, and since 2009 they've been paying, on average, $3.19 a gallon for jet fuel, which is about 25% less than the commercial market price. Also, they weren't paying sales tax on it.
An internal report by NASA called the deal more of a "misunderstanding" by NASA officials than anything else, because it was thought that H211 was not using the fuel for private flights, which it was. According to the report, NASA didn't lose any money in the deal, but Google was getting a financial benefit that it was not entitled to.
Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) has been on top of the situation, and he's pushing NASA to get Google to repay the difference back for the benefit of taxpayers.
Curiously, NASA is not renewing the lease on hangar space for Google's fleet in 2014, which will need to leave Moffett Field and go to San Jose next year.