It looks like the oil and gas industries are getting what we pay for when it comes to drilling rights.

The NYT reports today that it’s finally gotten its hands on an Interior Department report which paints a pretty bleak picture of the benefits that come from our leasing deals (another blow to subsidies, eh Dr. Scorse?).

The United States offers some of the most lucrative incentives in the world to companies that drill for oil in publicly owned coastal waters, but a newly released study suggests that the government is getting very little for its money.

The study, which the Interior Department refused to release for more than a year, estimates that current inducements could allow drilling companies in the Gulf of Mexico to escape tens of billions of dollars in royalties that they would otherwise pay the government for oil and gas produced in areas that belong to American taxpayers.

But the study predicts that the inducements would cause only a tiny increase in production even if they were offered without some of the limitations now in place.

It also suggests that the cost of that additional oil could be as much as $80 a barrel, far more than the government would have to pay if it simply bought the oil on its own.

“They are giving up a lot of money and not getting much in return,” said Robert A. Speir, a former analyst at the Energy Department who worked on the report. “If they took that money, they could buy a whole lot more oil with it on the open market.”

U.S. citizens footing the bill for oil and gas profits? Why am I not surprised?