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Oil Companies, Bureaucrats Caught With Pants Down


Report uncovers sex, drugs, corruption between energy firms and regulators.

Our nation's energy policy -- or lack thereof -- will be central to this year's presidential slugfest. While Obama cautions against tapping into our natural gas resources (citing potentially dire environmental consequences), McCain and Palin advocate aggressive drilling to break our dependence on foreign oil.

Meanwhile, we lowly citizens must painfully empty our wallets to fill our gas tanks and heat our homes, and hope that government representatives are looking out for our best interests.

And as long as those best interests include public officials doing blow and sleeping with energy company employees, we're in good hands.

The Interior Department, the agency responsible for keeping tabs on the Minerals Management Service, or MMS, released a report alleging that energy industry representatives and the government workers charged with regulating their behavior have cultivated a "culture of substance abuse and promiscuity."

The MMS, according to the Wall Street Journal, "oversees the nation's natural-gas, oil and other mineral resources on the outer continental shelf, and [draws] up leases for drilling in offshore waters," and in some years is Washington's biggest revenue generator, second only to the Internal Revenue Service. Its royalty-in-kind, or RIK, program allows oil companies to pay for drilling rights with oil instead of cash.

Crude's fantastic run over the past few years means the RIK program has generated tens of millions more in revenue than they would have had the royalties been paid in cash. Needless to say, "cozy" relationships between oil companies and government officials could unduly influence the allocation of these valuable contracts.

In addition to the sex and drugs, employees from Chevron (CVX), Hess (HES), Gary-Williams Energy and a US unit of Royal Dutch Shell admitted to giving gifts and picking up restaurant and bar tabs for government employees. They denied, however, that such actions were rewarded with preferential treatment.

Needless to say, such denials are suspect. If there's a planet where free booze, sex and drugs don't come with strings attached, I'd like a one-way ticket, please.

Both parties have seized on the report to point the finger at the other. As the election nears and the mudslinging heats up, we'll no doubt hear more than a few cheap shots hurled at these promiscuous petroleum players.
No positions in stocks mentioned.

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