The New Way to “Screw Obama” — Poisoning Your Neighbors’ Air

Rolling coal is super fun, if poisoning the planet and endangering everyone else on the road is your idea of fun. Photo: ## Coal and Raisin Hell##
Rolling coal is super fun, if poisoning the planet and endangering everyone else on the road is your idea of fun. Photo: ## Coal and Raisin Hell##

Warning: The crazies are getting crazier.

Behold the new depth to which macho car culture, blatant anti-environmentalism, and Obama hating has sunk. “Coal rollers” retrofit their pickup trucks to “trick” the diesel engines into thinking they need more gas. The result: big, billowing plumes of black smoke — the better to spew at Priuses and pedestrians.

And that’s precisely the point. These coal rollers take fuel-efficient cars and people hoofing it to be agents of Barack Obama himself, and they delight at engulfing them in toxic smoke. And bicyclists? Don’t get them started.

Voactiv exposed this trend to the non-coal-rolling world last month, quoting people like 25-year-old Robbie from South Carolina, who says rollin’ coal is “just fun… Just driving and blowing smoke and having a good time.”

“I’m not a scientist,” Robbie says, “but it couldn’t be too horrible.”

No, not too horrible — just 21,000 premature deaths each year and a cancer risk that is seven times greater than the combined risk of all 181 other air pollutants tracked by the EPA. That’s what the Clean Air Task Force says about diesel. And they are scientists.

Adding a smokestack to make your man machine even manlier (manliness being measured in toxic smoke, remember) will set you back anywhere from $500 to $5,000, depending, I suppose, on how manly you need to make it. And then there’s all the extra gas you’ll be pumping into your rig. But it’s totally worth it, if you hate Obama and the planet enough.

“I run into a lot of people that really don’t like Obama at all,” one seller of stack kits from Wisconsin told Slate’s David Weigel. “If he’s into the environment, if he’s into this or that, we’re not. I hear a lot of that. 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.”

The EPA says coal rolling is illegal. The Clean Air Act prohibits tampering with an emission control device. And purposely suffocating people in a black cloud of poisonous smoke has to be a form of assault. But breaking those laws must just make coal rolling extra delicious to its practitioners.

According to Weigel, it’s a “use-it-before-liberals-ban-it instinct,” akin to the anti-Earth Hour campaign to keep all the lights on, or the anti-Michelle Obama campaign to eat lots of doughnuts.

91 thoughts on The New Way to “Screw Obama” — Poisoning Your Neighbors’ Air

  1. It’s not your neighbors’ air. It’s yours too. Just goes to show the intellectual bankruptcy of the modern conservative movement.

  2. I’ve noted before that a big problem with a lot of thinking about environmental issues is that people both on the green and on the anti-green side see their behavior toward the environment as a form of self-expression: On the green side, there’s a tendency to aver, say, that locally-grown organic food is necessarily better for the environment. On the anti-green side, there’s a conscious desire to do environmentally unfriendly things to show that one doesn’t agree with those liberal environmentalists.

    The ultimate problem, of course, is that there’s a real, complex system out there and it responds to the actual physics of what people do, not to their feelings about things. If food grown in a hot country and imported on a container ship is actually more environmentally friendly than food grown in a greenhouse on an organic farm and brought to market in a dirty pick-up truck, the farmers’ market is harming the environment. The effects of global warming will be as rotten for country boys in Texas rolling coal in F150s as they are for residents of liberal New York City.

  3. I live in a community where this happens a lot. I mean A LOT. I see it almost daily. I am a cyclist, and I would agree with this post that cyclists are indeed targets for “rolling coal.” And when operators of those massive trucks roll coal, you had better appreciate it or else you’re the worst person in the world and deserve to be beaten.

  4. Robert, after admiring every one of your IVM blog posts as well as dozens of your comments here and there, I’m dumbfounded by what seems to be a bent-way-over-backwards attempt here to assert a moral equivalence between criminally destructive smoke-spewing and organic-food-worship.

    Sure, some organics may be immune to whole-system calculating, but at least they’re trying to live in harmony with the Earth. Not even remotely a counterpart to rolling coalers’ pure malice.

  5. Though I do think drag-racing diesel pickups is pretty cool (they have to run as rich as they do to make the power that they do), rolling coal on the street is, if nothing else, an easy way to help you identify the man-children out there.

  6. I’ve seen an increasing number of articles from pro-environment groups in recent weeks, and I can’t help but wonder if the attention will just make things worse. How many people from Buttstump Holler, Kentucky will stumble on this post while searching the google for NASCAR stats and say to themselves, “See! It made the bike pansies all mad! I got to get me one a’ those!”

  7. I was a victim of ‘rolling coal’ along with a dozen others who were waiting to cross the street that runs through a large urban hospital complex. The sad thing is that the perps came out of a hospital parking ramp and most of the victims were either visitors, patients or staff of the hospital. So basically they were saying “Hey you helped our loved one, so F*** YOU!” Didn’t realize it was to be anti environment but it makes sense. The idiots that do it are stuck in the us vs them mentality without realizing that it is BS.

  8. Exactly. I’ve never thrown a quart of organic strawberries at a person I suspected of being conservative just because I think I love America more than they do.

  9. There is nothing manly about this, just like there is nothing manly about taking a dump in the town well.

    This is childish, and I’m willing to bet that the full grown children having their little truck tantrums enjoy all the anger this generates. It shouldn’t make us angry because, really, this is a trivial amount of pollution relative to what the average American dumps in a year just being alive. This should make us laugh. Laugh at these sad, lonely, clowns. We should hand them clown shoes and wigs to go along with their clown cars. They are weak – physically, mentally, and socially. They have nothing left but their own rage at their impotence.

    They can’t hack a mans life: walking or riding a bike to cut the cord between them and the nanny state. Sad little boys in their little smoking over grown Tonka trucks.

  10. I had a conservative coworker who did not like big government, but he didn’t like giving money to big corporations either. He understood the need for some government and that corporations made some of the products that make life easier. But if he could get something for less and it fills the same need, he would do it. It all started when he decided to grow a garden, then he installed a cheap greenhouse to try to stretch the growing season into multiple grows. He then realize a problem with night creatures(racoons, possums, skunks) getting in his garden, so he decided to install motion lights. When he was at Home Depot/Lowes he discovered it was cheaper to buy the solar ones, he didn’t think they would be reliable so he bought the cheapest one. It worked way better than he imagined. Now he has installed the lights to light his greenhouse at night when he is in it, all around his house and installed a couple to light his garage. He then graduated to solar panels on his roof and now he rarely pays an electric bill.

  11. And look, before anyone writes their legislator asking that this be banned – why not instead mandate that anyone who has this modification done on their vehicle be required to have an 11″x17″ metallic sticker verifying that they are approved smoke blowers. Here is a sample of that sticker:

  12. I named my motor home earth day, and when i drive through Boulder, I like to run the generator and the motor as I drive through town. Of course I am burning propane in the refrigerator

  13. Its all trivial to the amount of carbon dumped into the air by 1 volcano, or 1 forest fire. Man can not compare to the forces of nature. 1 Volcano can produce more CO2 than the who history of mankind. A large forest fire can do the same thing. Funny that this was reported on channels like discovery and National Geographic in the early 90’s, but not now.

  14. As a (fiscal) conservative myself, I’m puzzled that true conservatives aren’t embracing both environmentalism and alternative transportation modes like cycling. In the end all these things save you a ton of money, and more importantly that money saved isn’t money going to big corporations, many of which are arguably more evil than the big government conservatives frequency rally against. Getting around by bike especially is the epitome of independence as you’re using nothing but your own muscles, and not depending upon big corporations for oil or car parts. These “smokies” are just spiting their own wallets wasting money to spew black smoke in the air. And in the long run they’re undoubtedly increasing their medical bills, or perhaps those of someone they care about. To me all this is like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

  15. That’s right – there are natural processes that produce huge amounts of CO2, and there are other natural processes that consume huge amounts of CO2. However, over the past few millenia, those processes had basically been in balance. We’ve added to those processes on one side, but not on the other, so the overall levels are now changing.

    Consider this – a leaky pipe in your house can lead to a significant change in your water bill, even though the leak loses less water than the drain on your sink or tub does in every shower.

  16. He’s not asserting moral equivalence – he’s asserting an equivalence in the effects of certain choices. We often behave as though personal virtue is the relevant factor, whether that virtue is feeling like you’re polluting, or feeling like you’re not involved in polluting processes you dislike. But what actually matters in the long run is how much pollution occurs, and people on all sides are likely to miscalculate, and end up doing things that aren’t as good at reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions as we think.

  17. I do this on my bicycle everyday! Pedal to the metal, pooping out really bad farts! It’s all cause Obama doesn’t like it!

  18. An irony of using the term “rolling coal” is that a properly fired coal burning steam locomotive will just have a light haze coming out of the stack. In the old days, engine crews would be criticized if their locomotive emitted billowing clouds of black smoke.

  19. I think it simply proves that these peole are not really on about “fiscal conservatism” but rather… somethign else. That something being stupid and destructive and generally raccist and sexist and homophobic.

    That’s why when I see my friends who are actual fiscal conservatives voting the same way as these… idiots… who obviously dont understand the platform and want something entirely else… it pains me. Wish there was a better option for moral fiscal conservatives.

  20. Haha the bike pansies. I’d like to start a road bike ballet.

    (I don’t understand why liking bicycles makes men gay in their eyes though. I can’t figure that one out.)

  21. I don’t know if you meant this to be homophobic. But…. um. It kind of really is.

  22. I think that ubray is assuming anyone who would want to be a “coal roller” would also be a homophobe and would want to avoid the sticker. Difficult to parse, but stereo types conservatives more than gays. Agreed that, at first blush, seems offensive.

  23. Yeah I got that. But something sets me off that doing this is… Somehow still offensive.

  24. There is a proven, direct link between an organism’s level of heterosexuality and the number of cylinders one controls. For instance, when I was in high school, I scored a V8 on the Kinsey Scale. As I’ve aged, I’ve fallen to a four on the highway. In the city, I’m all-out gay.

  25. Nice: “Thus, not only does volcanic CO2 not dwarf that of human activity, it actually comprises less than 1 percent of that value.”

  26. The irony of all this is that Obama is not very exceptional on environmental issues. OK, he’s no GW Bush, but c’mon.

  27. When I’m riding my bike and see a guy driving a huge pickup with smokestacks, it makes want to pedal alongside him, tap on his windows, and ask, “Dude, how small is your penis???!” He’s got to have some kind of a serious lack of something in his life to necessitating that kind of overcompensation! LOL

  28. GW Bush was actually better on environmental issues than Obama. Worse on everything else, but Obama’s really not a good environmental president.

  29. And the funniest part is, they don’t know that the whole fad is a conspiracy perpetrated by al Qaeda and Iran so they can sell more oil… (let’s start this rumor…)

  30. Its funny how destroying the environment and poisoning our air became a social issue.

  31. These people are bullies, who get their fun out of pissing off someone else. you’d think, if you ignore them then they will stop, but instead what typically happens is bullies escalate.

  32. So instead, lets all shake our fists at them from afar while we make them famous by posting pictures of what they probably see as their brave act of defiance all over the internet. That’ll show ’em.

  33. Nothing more than trolls in trucks. As soon as they see the amount of money they wasted then this will end.

  34. Not what I had in mind at all. How about posting pictures of kids and cyclists being affected by the air pollution.

  35. I think one of the biggest failures among environmental advocates is that they simply don’t understand the way the minds of the other side work. You think these people can be shamed (which is all the rage on the internet these days), but what you consider shaming they see as success. Pictures posted of kids and cyclists being affected by air pollution to them is a job well-done.

  36. Well heck yes. You have to be an America-hating commie to have anything to do with trains.

  37. What you do with bullies is you beat them up. Then they stay the hell out of your way — they only understand power.

    I’m not quite sure what the metaphor implies here, but I think it implies throwing these clowns in jail.

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