Rolling Coal: The grownup equivalent of soiling your pants
However committed an environmentalist you are, it's easy to understand the allure of many un-green behaviors. In fact, there are few of us who don't indulge in at least some of the things that we probably should avoid if we want to keep our planet livable:
Driving sports cars looks thrilling.
Eating beef burgers tastes good. (To many of us, at least!)
Flying overseas brings exciting new adventures.
And air conditioning keeps me sane in North Carolina.
You get my point. But Rolling Coal—the practice of tinkering with diesel trucks to produce noxious black fumes, and often using them to harass unsuspecting pedestrians, cyclists and/or Prius drivers—has always seemed like the dumbest form of dumbness I can think of. What else is it but a "look at me" form of childish rebellion, akin to a four year old soiling their underwear because they want to show they have power/control over their circumstances?
Between the visibility dangers it poses on the road, the potential health impacts (on both practitioners and victims!), and the risk of escalating societal divisions and physical confrontations, I honestly can't think of a single reason why this isn't punished with the full force of the law. Hiroko Tabuchi of the New York Times just wrote an interesting exploration of the Rolling Coal phenomenon and the subcultures that are driving it.
Interestingly, the truck pulling community from which Rolling Coal gets its inspiration (a probably un-environmentally practice that I personally think looks fun as all hell!) appears to have very little tolerance for the outlaw Rolling Coal contingent either. Shane Johnson, who partakes in competitive truck pulling, put it this way:
“I hate those guys. I used to do it, smoke out friends, but I grew out of it. Gives diesel a bad name.”
Even Michelle Minton, a fellow at the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, an organization that encourages excessive energy consumption as a celebration of human achievement (yeah, that's pretty dumb too) draws the line at the behavior of many coal rollers:
"Coal rollers who use their trucks for harassment, as opposed to celebration, aren’t being rebellious,” she said, "they are just being jerks."
For once, I couldn't agree more.