From a White House briefing yesterday by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner:

Ms. Browner: The consumer won't notice any difference. What they get is a cleaner car when they go to buy a new sport utility, a new minivan. . . . In the case of the largest SUVs, compared to today, it's almost . . . 95 percent cleaner. [For] cars, it's about 77 percent cleaner . . .

Q: So no change in size.

Ms. Browner: No. . . . The [manufacturers] can make [the catalytic converters] better. In fact, we've built some of them in the EPA labs. We've put them on these vehicles. We've gone out and driven them.

Q: Are you saying that it will have no impact at all on consumers selecting the very heaviest kinds of --

Ms. Browner: Buy whatever you want. . . . [I]t's not an issue of the weight; it's an issue of the catalytic converter technology and the fuels. . . . [Until] about a year ago the biggest SUVs were about 8,500 pounds. Now they've gone up almost to 10,000. We've included those in these programs, so for the person buying a passenger vehicle, all of the choices remain.

. . . Q: Do you feel that there's going to be trouble with Congress in the coming year over this?

Ms. Browner: I don't think so. . . . The public wants clean air. . . . There's a real problem [of] the growing number of children who suffer from asthma, increasing evidence that it is related . . . to smog and other air pollution . . . . the American people . . . don't think their air is too clean. They want it to be cleaner.