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Making money on cleaner air

The Clean Air Act would cost American industry billions to meet more stringent emissions standards governing smog, acid rain and toxic pollution. Estimates of the cost range from the Bush administration's $21.5-billion to industry's $46-billion.

But the Clean Air Act, which was awaiting U.S. Senate approval Friday, also would prove a financial boon in many areas.

Among those that would profit from the new legislation are companies that manufacture products used to reduce vehicular and industrial emissions, companies that make emissions monitoring equipment, producers of alternative fuels, and manufacturers of engines that run on alternative fuels. Also benefiting will be environmental engineering firms, consulting firms, lawyers and even farmers.

The Renewable Fuels Association estimates that short-term impact of the carbon-monoxide reduction program will increase demand for the alternative fuel ethanol (which is used in gasohol) by 500- to 600-million gallons. That translates into an additional 200- to 240-million bushels of corn, from which ethanol is made.

Companies in the fields that will see economic benefits from the new air act range from behemoths like Archer-Daniel-Midland in Decatur, Ill., which dominates the market for ethanol, to lesser-known companies like Pace Laboratories in Tampa, which expects to see increasing business in monitoring air quality for industry.

Archer-Daniel controls about two-thirds of the ethanol market, estimated Clarence Ditlow of the Center for Auto Safety, a consumer group in Washington. About 8 percent of the gas sold today contains 10 percent ethanol. About 800-million gallons of ethanol are produced and sold annually. Even a 1 percent increase of the ethanol used, at $1.50 per gallon, would mean a considerable amount of money, Ditlow said.

Many small ethanol producers that closed in the past five years because they were unprofitable may return to the market as demand grows, Ditlow said.

Corning Glass Works, based in Corning, N.Y., manufactures a ceramic support for catalytic converters, which reduce pollutants in vehicular exhaust systems through a chemical process.