- The Washington Times - Friday, July 10, 2009

I might as well have a scarlet letter taped to my forehead. I’m even thinking about posting a Car Clunker Lives Here sign on my front lawn: “Kate’s Clunker: 1997 GMC Sierra.”

Maybe I should register as an offender with the local police. Until Edmunds.com published a list of clunkers, I never thought I’d need to wear a disguise when driving to Blue Seal to stock up on a ton of mulch, or crimped oats and shavings for the barn.

I take public transportation five days a week. I also drive a few hundred miles a week, but usually in new cars that I’m testing. I have a steady foot and watch my speed.

Admittedly, my 1997 GMC Sierra pickup with the 5.7-liter V-8 engine only gets about 12 miles per gallon when I’m not trailering or hauling. Frankly, I just close my eyes and drive when I’m pulling weight. What could I be getting - 8 mpg? So there on the Edmunds Web site was my beloved truck, blacklisted. The House Un-American Activities Committee can’t be far behind.

The list was published on the Web site when President Obama signed into law “Cash for Clunkers,” the 2009 Car Allowance Rebate System. The law takes effect July 24 and is designed to help consumers buy a new more fuel-efficient vehicle when they trade in their less fuel-efficient car or truck.

I own a truck because I need it. Don’t get me wrong, I love my V-8 engine, the worn leather interior, sitting up high and seeing a truck bed in the rearview mirror. I feel special in my truck. The then-head of GMC, Roy Roberts, wrote me a personal note, which I keep in the glove compartment, telling me to enjoy my truck.

Well, Roy, I would, but I find myself apologizing for it - justifying my existence. The old needle has swung pretty far in the direction of global warming. Honestly, I hope its proponents are right, because the government is making economic decisions that are impacting the future of the country in a huge way.

Will the leaner, meaner General Motors be able to sell small cars to the American public? For that matter, will Honda, Toyota, Kia, Fiat, Chrysler or Hyundai? That jury is still out.

Overfed, big-family, consumer-junkie, car-loving Americans may reject them, although we will be driving with different fuel in the not-too-distant future.

I couldn’t turn my clunker in for a higher fuel mileage vehicle now even if I wanted to, because I can’t afford to. Besides, it only has 25,000 miles on it. I figure it can run for another 20 years at the rate I’m driving it. By that time, the way the U.S. government is spending our tax dollars, they won’t have enough money to buy it from me. So just give me the Wyoming wave (a pointer off the steering wheel) when you see me drive by.

It may be Washington’s clunker, but it’s still my baby.

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