RULES WRITTEN IN BLOOD. John at EclectEcon suggests greater reliance on nuclear steam electricity as a way of sparing miners' lives (as well as reducing greenhouse gas and acid rain combustion byproducts?) There are several links to others thinking about the same thing.
Two observations: First, many of the electricity generating plants now use natural gas rather than coal (for those environmental reasons.) That situation came to light first in early 2001, when a severe winter in the east coincided with the teething troubles in the California power-deregulation plans. Second, many of the coal-fired plants use strip-mined coal from the Powder River basin. It has a lower heat content but less sulfur than the eastern coals. (One of these days I have to figure out EDGX and AERX and some of the other odd reporting marks on the Powder River trains rolling through DeKalb. I know who WEPX and WPSX and NORX and CEEX are. Some of these other trains are headed east of the Appalachians.) That leaves open the possibility that the deep miners of West Virginia are bringing up metallurgical coals. (What other uses are there for coal these days?)