‘Rolling Coal’: Anti-Environmentalist Right-Wingers Modifying Diesel Pickups to Spew Toxic Smoke
They’re modifying their diesel pickups with smokestack-style exhaust pipes and removing or disabling emission control devices so their vehicles intentionally spew noxious clouds of foul black diesel smoke. It’s called “rolling coal,” and it is a growing subculture among mostly rural, overwhelmingly right-wing Americans.
Vocativ reports “coal rollers” are targeting “socialists” who drive environmentally-friendlier hybrid cars, imported Japanese “rice burners” and random pedestrians.
“The feeling around here is that everyone who drives a small car is a liberal,” a South Carolina high school senior named Ryan told Vocativ. “I rolled coal on a Prius once just because they were tailing me.”
Robbie, a 25-year-old diesel mechanic who is Ryan’s boss, explained that “your truck is not just something to get you from point A to point B, it’s who you are.”
“If someone makes you mad, you can just roll coal and it makes you feel better sometimes,” he added.
Other “coalers” are upset that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is cracking down on devices that allow truck drivers to remove diesel particulate filters, regulation they claim reduces fuel economy and horsepower. Others just don’t like President Barack Obama.
“I run into a lot of people who really don’t like Obama at all,” one Wisconsin smokestack kit dealer told Slate. “If he’s into the environment… we’re not… To get a single stack on my truck, that’s my way of giving them the finger. You want clean air and a tiny carbon footprint? Well, screw you.”
Some people “roll coal” because they believe it makes them feel like more of a man.
“A lot of these guys thrive on how much coal they can roll when they’re in town next to hybrid cars,” Arizona pickup driver Sean Miller told Slate. Miller once embraced “coal rolling” but said the practice got embarrassing — and expensive— after a while.
“It’s just a testosterone thing,” added Miller. “It’s manhood. It’s who can blow the most smoke, whose is blacker. The blacker it is, the more fuel you have in your injectors.”
“Coal rollers” are spending $1,000 to $5,000 to modify their pickups to emit copious amounts of pollution into the atmosphere. Besides adding smokestacks and smoke switches, which “trick” engines into “thinking” they needs more fuel, pickup owners are shelling out big bucks for complete fuel system overhauls.
The subculture is small but growing. A Facebook page dedicated to “rolling coal” has more than 15,000 ‘likes,’ and there are tens of thousands of photos of smoke-spewing trucks on photo sharing sites like Tumblr and Instagram.
Obviously, “rolling coal” damages the environment. But it can also be deadly. The American Cancer Society notes that inhalation of diesel exhaust causes cancer, as well as lung and heart disease.
According to the environmental group Clean Air Task Force (CATF), diesel exhaust is one of America’s “most pervasive sources of toxic air pollution,” emitting toxins that cause 21,000 premature deaths each year. But “coal rollers” don’t understand or don’t care very much.
“I’m not a scientist, but it couldn’t be too horrible,” Robbie, the South Carolina diesel mechanic, told Vocativ. “There are a lot of factories that are doing way worse than my truck.”
“It’s bad for the environment, that’s definitely true,” said Ryan, Robbie’s employee. “And some of the kids who have diesel trucks can look like tools. And you can cause a wreck, but everything else about it is pretty good.”