It's a trend now big enough to put a name to. Many Americans are rigging their trucks to intentionally emit large plumes of toxic smoke. It's called "rolling coal," and it's meant as a political statement.
The truck owner rigs the diesel engine to emit large amounts of black soot. One truck owner labeled his vehicle "Prius repellant" and took a video as he aimed smoke at a car behind him. (Via YouTube / doug coons)
For some, it's a form of protest against environmentalism, striking back against efforts to lower carbon emissions and overall pollution. For others, it's just for kicks. (Via YouTube / Renato Sanchez)
The relatively new trend has skyrocketed in recent years. Google analytics shows the search volume for "rolling coal" increasing sevenfold since February 2011. (Via Google)
Vocativ kicked up quite a stir last month after its article brought the subculture to light.
The article agrees that the trend is a backlash against environmentalists, and adds that it is in response to the fear that anyone with an interest in preserving the earth is a threat to the diesel-loving lifestyle. One truck driver said "The feeling around here is that everyone who drives a small car is a liberal. I rolled coal on a Prius once just because they were tailing me." (Via Vocativ)
To make the modifications, mechanics essentially trick the vehicle's engine into thinking it needs more fuel, producing a burst of black soot. Some owners spend anywhere from $500 to $5,000 to rig their trucks to roll coal. (Via Diesel Hub)
And for all that cash and trouble, drivers get to produce one of the most toxic air pollutants in the U.S. (Via YouTube / J killen)
According to the Clean Air Task Force, diesel exhaust leads to 21,000 premature deaths each year and carries a cancer risk seven times greater than the combined risk of all other air toxins tracked by the EPA.
A writer for Slate blames a "use-it-before-liberals-ban-it" instinct, comparing it to when people stockpile guns and ammo after a mass shooting because of a fear that liberals will capitalize on the shooting to ban guns.
While this is definitely bad for the environment and public health, coal rollers are legally able to blow as much smoke as they please.