The coal industry in the United States has been in a state of flux since the arrival of a cheaper alternative for energy production: natural gas. This leaves very few options for coal companies, but right now the most attractive one is exports. Peabody Energy (NYSE: BTU) is one company hoping to make a big splash in the export market. Learn more about this opportunity in The Motley Fool's premium research report on Peabody, available here.

There is one sliver of hope for the domestic coal industry, though, and it's called coal gasification. This new type of facility is much more efficient than traditional coal plants and could allow coal to compete on both price and emissions standards with natural gas. Both Southern (NYSE:SO) and Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) are giving this new technology a spin, with facilities for each company in Mississippi and Indiana, respectively.

While the gains in efficiency and emissions can be a big help to these companies that were once so reliant on coal, there is one added benefit that could put these facilities over the top. The process of coal gasification strips out several pollutants, which can then be sold back for use as a feedstock for enhanced oil recovery, chemical production, or fertilizer.  

Check out the following video conversation, in which contributor Tyler Crowe checks in with Joel South and Taylor Muckerman to discuss the potential of this new coal technology.