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A drive to clean up Salt Lake City's air may pay off about the same time the city expects to realize another dream - hosting the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Salt Lake City Mayor Deedee Corradini said Wednesday she's enlisted the help of more than 30 government agencies, civic organizations and businesses to combat air pollution in the Salt Lake area.A key strategy for achieving cleaner air will be dramatically increasing use of natural gas and alternative fuel-powered vehicles.

The state of Utah, for example, has set a goal of increasing its fleet of alternative-fuel vehicles from 16 to 2,000 by the year 2002. Hill Air Force Base, the state's largest employer, plans to double its current fleet of 70 natural gas vehicles by 1996.

They also plan major efforts to educate the public about air pollution and how alternative fuels can reduce emissions.

Corradini said the city plans to apply for the U.S. Department of Energy's Clean Cities program, which recognizes metropolitan areas striving for cleaner air. The city will learn in about a month whether it will be added to a list of 12 cities with the designation.

"We've been committed to doing what we could to clean up our air by buying alternative fuels and switching our fleet to natural gas, but we knew that wouldn't solve the problem," Corradini told the Deseret News. "We needed large corporations to help out."

There are incentives for entities with large fleets to move to alternative fuels. Natural gas, for example, costs about half as much as gasoline. Tax breaks also make converting a vehicle to run on alternative fuel appealing. The tax breaks run up to $2,000 in credits at the federal level and $400 from the state.

One alternative fuel - natural gas - reduces carbon monoxide emissions from vehicles by as much as 93 percent. Use of natural gas also reduces emissions of hydrocarbons, which contribute to ground-level ozone, by 51 percent.

Corradini said being designated as a "Clean City" would aid Utah's efforts to win the bid for the 2002 Winter Olympics, because of the importance that international Olympic Committee members give environmental issues.

The large-scale effort to push use of alternative fuels could be the catalyst for making the fuels available on a wider basis to the general public, the mayor said.