David Wiegel recently did a piece for Slate discussing the rising phenomenon of "rolling coal," a term, quite frankly, I had never heard of until yesterday morning. Basically what it is for those uninitiated with such things is that for roughly $500 you can trick your engine into using more fuel, causing a stream of black smoke that looks like you're picking a new pope to come out of your exhaust. The point of this new trend, apparently, is to protest environmental regulations from the Obama administration and in particular, the new tax credits given to hybrid and electric cars.
This may be the stupidest thing I've read online in months. Are you serious? Forget for a second the environmental impact that this has (but, oh, we're getting back to that). This is financially one of the dumbest things that you could possibly do. Your truck already has a ridiculously low MPG that's costing you a fortune, and then you decide to cut that in half? Who has the kind of money to waste on something as ridiculous as trying to tick off random strangers on the road with a dangerous billow of smoke?
This isn't to mention that this seems wildly dangerous from a public safety perspective (it cannot be easy driving behind a truck that has thick black smoke coming out of it-can you imagine trying to pass it, and how you'd have to keep your windows up during a summer day...meaning you're using more of your own car's power to use air conditioning). Diesel exhaust also leads to 21,000 premature deaths each year according to the Clean Air Task Force and carries a cancer risk SEVEN TIMES greater than the combined risk of all other air toxins tracked by the EPA.
And of course, this is utterly ridiculous in terms of the environmental impact that the practice has-you are intentionally emitting a toxic gas into the air in a form of protest not to government officials, but instead to average, everyday citizens. The videos on YouTube try to glamorize the practice by blowing black smoke on attractive women, but honestly-how is this remotely defensible? It's bad for the environment, your health, and your fellow drivers? It's not criminal, but in my opinion, it ought to be.
But this is a weird phenomenon that has started for some reason as a reaction to the Obama presidency-we've had to refight a number of political wars that seemed to be over. While the arguments over the exact impact man has on climate change have raged for years and years, that has translated not into a substantive debate, but instead a stronger, hardline stance by an increasing number on the right against the concept of environmentalism in general. There is no rational reason why we should add pollutants into the air, regardless of your stance on global warming science. It's the same reason why we should all try to conserve energy, recycle, and reduce waste-it just makes pragmatic sense. Environmentalism has been around for decades, really surging from Rachel Carson's movement in the early-1960's against the spraying of DDT, but it feels like the debate has taken a hit in the past few years. The Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, major legislation of the 1960's and 1970's have taken a pretty severe beating according to a report from the House Committee on Energy and Commerce stating Republicans had weakened the bills 57 times during the 113th Congress.
This isn't the only 1970's fight that has emerged in the past few years-birth control in particular has become a major topic in recent years, both from the activism surrounding Sandra Fluke and the recent Supreme Court decision from Hobby Lobby. The real question surrounding this is why? Birth control in the 1990's was hardly a controversial topic, and most women (according to John Hopkins, 98% of American women) will use it at some point in their lives. It's not like we've learned anything new about birth control in recent years to change our opinion, and yet instead of discussing other pertinent health debates (like the rise in obesity and ways to curb heart disease and cancer), no topic seems to have captured the media's and the national debate's attention quite like a fight over something that almost every couple in America uses.
There are other examples (gun laws have been relaxed across the country despite an increase in gun violence and the Texas GOP recently put reparative therapy for gay people in its party platform despite every reputable medical and psychological group in the country stating such a practice doesn't work and is damaging to the patients), but the main point of this article is that this seems like a gigantic waste of time. This country has a lot of issues ranging from multiple international skirmishes in places like the Ukraine, Syria, and Iraq to continued economic uncertainty to income inequality to a laundry list of other issues. We don't need to dredge up old problems because we've run out of things we need to fix.
And for those rolling coal, I'll try not to use any of my fancy Prius-driving, $10 words to address you right now. Instead, I'll just say the following:
You're idiots. Get a life.