People have been “rolling coal” for a long time, but the practice has gained greater popularity recently with YouTube videos with names like “Prius Repellent” and “Rolling Coal on Obama Supporter” proliferating. (Typical boast: “My 03 Dodge Ram 2500 5 speed manual 5.9L Cummins Turbo diesel rolling coal on a Prius.”) Lead-footed dissenters with big diesel engines are “rolling coal” as a form of protest against new environmental regulations that propose to limit carbon emissions in an effort to protect the environment.
The practice of “coal rolling” involves making modifications (sometimes running into the hundreds or even thousands of dollars) to vehicles that will cause them to release as much smoke pollution as possible into the air when being driven. Previously reserved largely for road races and good old backyard shenanigans, it is now the protest of choice for certain climate change agnostics. Recent polls suggest that a majority of Americans support emissions reductions (63 percent of Republicans and 78 percent of Democrats). Diesel especially is a significant source of air pollution, linked to a risk of cancer “considered seven times greater than the combined risk of all 181 other air toxics tracked by the EPA,” according to Boston-based nonprofit Clean Air Task Force.