The article is full of nonsence, and obviously the author has lost a lot of money investing in coal. The oil companies, the E Ps are not judged by their reported earnings but by cash flow. As to borrowing money to drill for more, that is perfectly OK too, Two things matter for oil companies, changes in reserves, and cash flow. If would make no sense, none what so ever to expense the capital expendature, you are investing to creat an asset that will pay off in future, so you amortize your expendature against your revenue. You don't build yourself a commercial building for $10 million, and they say oh I lost $10 million this year, same with oil well.
Buy Coal stocks? Not with demographics almost assuring a Democratic president for the foreseeable future. Unless they find a way to get latino's to vote for republicans, I'm afraid you will only find value traps in the coal industry.