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The Bulletin

Google's cheap jet fuel days are over

Posting in Government

For five years Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and chairman Eric Schmidt have been able to fly in a fleet of private jets using heavily discounted jet fuel from the Pentagon.

Now, this special deal with the U.S. federal government has ended after officials at NASA, which sponsored the arrangement, decided not to renew it, reported the Wall Street Journal.

The termination of the deal follows discussions earlier this year between the Pentagon and NASA over whether the Google founders exceeded contract terms by using fuel for non-government flights, reported the WSJ, which gleaned the information from an official Pentagon letter released by Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa.

Grassley has asked for an audit of the arrangement. However, the government's relationship with Google founders is already part of an ongoing audit by NASA's inspector general.

The arrangement with H211 LLC, a private company representing jets owned by the Google founders and Schmidt, gave the firm access to discounted fuel for "performance of a U.S. government contract, charter or other approved use." H211 did agree to pay about $1.3 million in annual rent, a fee that helps defray the cost of operating the government airfield.

However, the WSJ's review of Federal Aviation Administration flight records suggest that most were for non-NASA purposes, including 20 trips to the Caribbean island of Tortola, 17 to Hawaii and 16 to Nantucket, Mass.

This little-known deal illustrates the often opaque arrangements between and the U.S. government and Silicon Valley companies, many of which have forged relationships with the National Security Agency.

Photo: Google

— By on September 16, 2013, 4:24 AM PST

Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure