Coal companies have been beaten down ever since natural gas became more competitive. Utilities began switching over at alarming rates, and the coal companies that couldn't curtail production or buoy their income statements with exports simply didn't stand a chance. However, now that the price of natural gas has been steadily rising for a little over a month, some relief may be in sight for the low-cost producers in the Powder River and Illinois basins.

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Richard Engdahl, Taylor Muckerman, and The Motley Fool have no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.