When natural gas prices dipped to multi-year lows in 2012 the future of coal appeared to be in doubt. Although it has remained the nation's top fuel source, it was being squeezed out of the grid at an increasing rate -- falling from 49% in 2007 to 42% in 2011. That change and flooding in Australian mines pushed exports from 5% of production to 10% of production. Environmental groups have cheered the move (even though exported coal is simply burned elsewhere on the globe), but it didn't last long.   

The Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council have a new reason to despise coal. The two environmental groups became infuriated after an audit revealed that the Bureau of Land Management was shorted by coal companies during land lease auctions. The amount may surprise you. Besides, coal still has an important role to play in American energy. Fool.com contributor Maxx Chatsko explains the folly of this complaint and why coal investors have nothing to fear.

Fool contributor Maxx Chatsko has no position in any stocks mentioned. Check out his personal portfolio, his CAPS page, or follow him on Twitter @BlacknGoldFool to keep up with his writing on energy, bioprocessing, and biotechnology.

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