In Defense of Rollin’ Coal

A response to Carl Strock

December 2014 Exhaust, News Jeffrey V. Shirts Web Exclusive

I use Google Alerts to keep me on the forefront of trending and hot topics within our industry, and lately I have been following the trumped up controversy against rollin’ coal. Early July of 2014 several news and media agencies took up the crusade against rollin’ coal, which culminated in a highly distributed Huffington Post article, a Slate article confusing rollin’ coal as a defiant stance against the President and liberals, and even was featured on the Colbert Report:

As to be expected, these outlets missed the mark and marred the image and purpose of rollin’ coal to the public.

Since that time, however, the media coverage has died down with little controversy or coverage since … until someone smoked out a New Jersey State Senator who then introduced into law a bill to ban rollin’ coal in Jersey, which passed the state’s legislature.

Now, the next state over, New York, might be turning the heat up on rollin’ coal. Today (12/17/14), the timesunion.com contributor, Carl Strock wrote a scathing review of rollin’ coal, stereotyping diesel drivers, while simultaneously trying to make a legal case against the practice. After having read his lengthy arguments against rollin’ coal I felt it was necessary to address some of his concerns.

The opening paragraph sets the tone for what to expect from this op-ed: that anyone that rolls coal is nothing more than “a redneck polluter” with “contempt for those environmental wimps”, and an accusation that most people that roll coal are illiterate.

I am reminded that the sign of a losing argument is not to confront the argument being discussed, rather it is to discredit the debater, a classic ad hominem illogical fallacy, which is how Carl Strock chose to open his op-ed.

What is perhaps most infuriating about Strock’s stance is that he is advocating that the majority of people rollin’ coal are doing so as a statement of contempt, rather than realizing that only a small portion of the diesel owning community would roll coal on an unsuspecting bystander. By lumping all diesel truck owners together, he has created a false dichotomy of “diesel drivers want to hurt the environment and are irresponsible jerks” and “everyone else”, which is simply not the case at all.

Look again at the diesel community, Strock, you might be surprised to learn that most diesel truck owners do not condone rollin’ coal on bystanders.

The following paragraph, Strock continues to paint the description of the average diesel owner—or perhaps only those diesel owners interested in modifying their trucks—as a collective group that represents the majority of our community. Sadly, that is not the case at all.

Looking at the comment’s section of this op-ed, one reader address his accusations and points out a response Allen Schaeffer offered concerning the practice of the few:

WE ARE extremely disappointed that a small segment of diesel pickup truck owners have chosen to tamper with the emissions and engine control systems to over-fuel the engine so as to deliberately produce black smoke emissions (“Rules have them fuming,” Page A1, July 28). For the last decade, the industry has invested billions of dollars to produce diesel technology that is near zero in emissions and can be found today in new 18-wheelers, cars, and pickup trucks. That’s why they’re called clean diesel.

Allen Schaeffer
Executive director
Diesel Technology Forum
Frederick, Md.

Allen Schaeffer is an excellent example of a spokesperson of the industry identifying that the majority of diesel truck owners are not rollin’ coal on bystanders. He points out rather that advancement in the diesel industry has produced better performing engines while reducing emissions. While it is an undeniable fact that most diesel truck drivers dislike the inefficiency and wastefulness of exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), the diesel community and industry are aware that removing them are illegal and most people comply with the law.

Nearly 400 words into his op-ed Strock has done nothing other than stereotype and pigeonhole diesel drivers, and define what rollin’ coal is. Obviously, Strock is not an expert nor up-to-date in the diesel industry, and given his polarizing words it is not a large stretch of the imagination to deduce that he is not a member of the diesel community, and therefore I wonder if he will actually address the issue of rollin’ coal, or simply wanted to write an op-ed to take swipes at an unaware audience.

After finally defining rollin’ coal, Strock continues his theme of attacking the sources of his (mis?)information. Strock attributes defending rollin’ coal as a political statement and part of a political agenda. Perhaps for a small percentage of the diesel community that might be the case; however, for the larger diesel community it is not. Most importantly, Strock appears time-and-again to miss the point of rollin’ coal. And while I don’t want to postulate on the origins of rollin’ coal, I would point out, as Strock later attempts to grapple, that black plumes of exhaust and soot are a side-effect of dyno testing a truck.

Continuing with Strock’s criticism of rollin’ coal, he discusses the legality of it, and I can’t help but wonder if Strock can’t answer his questions of the legality of rollin’ coal because he approaches the topic as if it is illegal. It would be difficult to track down laws that a person is legally able to perform, as laws are created for the sole purpose of prohibiting actions. I think that distinction was lost on Strock, though.

Strock then looks at various diesel regulations and determines that they are inadequate and nonsensical.

After begrudgingly admitting that the act of rollin’ coal is not illegal—and he interjects his opinions that it should be—Strock then criticizes the diesel performance aftermarket. Strock apparently believes that a vehicle should remain in its stock state and that there could be no sport in modifying and upgrading vehicles, especially diesel trucks.

“At least one of them, MBRP, also says, “MBRP test pipes permit the removal of your Catalytic Converter to eliminate back pressure and help your truck produce maximum power for competition use,” emphasizing that the pipes are “FOR COMPETITION USE ONLY,” presumably meaning not for use on public roads, which at first might sound reasonable. But I ask, what’s the difference?”

Mr. Strock, there is a big difference.

I wonder if Strock is willing to take his mounting crusade against NASCAR and other vehicular performance events? Ironically, advances in aftermarket parts serves a dual purposes of not only increasing performance, but also efficiency, which will result in reduced emissions, which seems to be Strock’s meandering point. After complaining about the cost of catalytic converter, which makes me wonder if that was the entire genesis and purpose of the op-ed, Strock adds:

I expected the DEC, the DMV, and the EPA, all entrusted with various aspects of keeping our air clean, to have something forceful to say on this subject. I expected they would be eager to declare, “Rolling coal is a flagrant violation of the letter and the spirit of the Clean Air Act, and if we catch anyone doing it we’ll bust them six ways to Sunday, just to show they’re on the job, if nothing else.”But no. They’re as demur as a maiden at her first church social. Which means, as far as I can make out, that if you desire to express your contempt for tree-hugging, gun-confiscating, Prius-driving liberals by blowing poisonous black smoke into the air, you can do it. Hell, this is America.

Perhaps Strock’s op-ed will never be more than that, and not a prologue of growing concerns against rollin’ coal. Strock misses the point, spending too much time and emphasis identifying diesel truck drivers as nonchalant polluters that hate the environment and environmentalists, which, by and large, they are not.

After finishing Strock’s op-ed I find that what annoys me most is that it is exposition without due diligence. The ope-ed is as smug and self-assured as he accuses diesel drivers of being. In short, his entire op-ed is nothing more than Strock rollin’ coal on the diesel community.

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