At time of record profits, Big Oil off the hook for billions in royalties owed to the government (make that, owed to you and me)

A real eye-opener of a front page story in today's New York Times, under the headline, "Vague Law and Hard Lobbying Add Up to Billions for Big Oil" -

An excerpt - "For more than a decade, lawmakers and administration officials, both Republicans and Democrats, have promised there would be no cost to taxpayers for a program allowing companies to avoid paying the government royalties on oil and gas produced in publicly owned waters in the Gulf.

"But last month, the Bush administration confirmed that it expected the government to waive about $7 billion in royalties over the next five years, even though the industry incentive was expressly conceived of for times when energy prices were low. And that number could quadruple to more than $28 billion if a lawsuit filed last week challenging one of the program's remaining restrictions proves successful.

"The big lie about this whole program is that it doesn't cost anything," said Representative Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who tried to block its expansion last July. "Taxpayers are being asked to provide huge subsidies to oil companies to produce oil — it's like subsidizing a fish to swim."

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