Take this alongside Interior Secretary Salazar's chummy talk about oil leasing in the Gulf of Mexico from yesterday: Climate Progress outlines how the majority of coal lease auctions really aren't auctions at all, in that only one bidder is involved, allowing them to bid the minimum that the Bureau of Land Management allows.
Keep in mind that the coal being auctioned off is on public land, that is, supposedly owned by the taxpayers in the United States.
The following quote refers to the planned BLM auction of 721 million tons of coal in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming—an amount that will produce roughly a gigaton of CO emissions when burned:
Over the last 20 years, only 3 of 21 lease by applications had more than one bidder. Since Peabody knows it will face no competitive pressure, it can simply offer the lowest possible price, secure in the knowledge that if it doesn’t meet BLM’s absurdly low minimum price, it can just try again later. In fact, that’s just what happened with the South Porcupine tract; Peabody’s initial offer of just $0.90 per ton was rejected as too low by the BLM – so they simply held another auction a few weeks later and accepted Peabody’s offer of $1.11 per ton. In both “auctions” Peabody was the only bidder.
Read more: Climate Progress