In small towns all over the United States, people are “rollin’ coal,” the hot new way to kill the environment.
Dropping hundreds or thousands of dollars on the projects, diesel drivers are modifying their cars or trucks to make them spew toxic, black soot, and then posting pictures of the vehicles at work to the Internet.
“Rollin’ coal” has become so popular that it’s now an Internet subculture. The environmentally destructive pastime’s page on Facebook has accrued more than 16,500 followers and the hashtag for “rollin’ coal” has gotten more than 175,200 posts on social media. As one meme reads, “Roll, roll, rollin’ coal, let the hybrid see. A big black cloud. Exhaust that’s loud. Watch the city boy flee.”
As Slate’s David Weigel puts it, people are rollin’ coal because it “doubles as a political or cultural statement — a protest against the EPA, a ritual shaming of hybrid ‘rice burners.'”
Besides its political aspect, rollin’ coal also has macho and renegade undertones. As Sean Miller, an Arizona man who used to upload rollin’ coal videos to YouTube, puts it, “It’s just a testosterone thing. 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.”
Trucks are an extension of person, a way to show off one’s manhood. Clouds of black smoke are the products of modifications that dump fuel into trucks’ engines, giving them more power and torque. Essentially, if your truck emits a noxious cloud of soot, it’s powerful, which means the driver is more powerful by extension.
What’s more, these truck enthusiasts aren’t just emitting the smoke willy nilly — they’re aiming it. People are rollin’ coal at unsuspecting passersyby, cops, and — the ultimate enemy — drivers of hybrid cars.
“If someone makes you mad, you can just roll coal, and it makes you feel better sometimes,” says Ryan, a South Carolinian diesel garage mechanic. “The other day I did it to this kid who was driving a Mustang with his windows down, and it was awesome.”
Perhaps worst of all these diesel drivers are well aware of all the different dangers their toxic hobby poses. Not only does it directly damage the environment, but it also poses a safety hazard to other drivers whose visibility may be impaired by the awful clouds.
“It’s bad for the environment. That’s definitely true,” Ryan said. “And some of the kids that have diesel trucks can look like tools. And you can cause a wreck, but everything else about it is pretty good.”
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