free ride

Transocean is distributing a $1 billion profit to shareholders as one of its drill sites leaks millions of gallons of oil into the sea.

The last 30 years of energy leasing policy show that per-acre lease rates have plummeted almost nine-fold from shortly after the time Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency to the tail end of President George W. Bush’s second term.

An average of $2,224 per acre for all federal leases sold between 1954 and 1982 careened to $263 per acre for federal leases sold between 1983 and 2008.

And those eye-opening losses don’t even account for inflation.

Rig owner Transocean relocated to Switzerland two years ago to avoid paying taxes. The company filed a court request last week to cap its Gulf oil spill liability to under $27 million, stark contrast to $500 million spent to date.

Transocean has actually made money from the disaster, collecting over $400 million from insurers, leaving it with a profit of $270 million after the costs of the rig are subtracted.