Electric utilities in the Midwest and much of the rest of the nation will be charging higher prices to help pay for pollution-control equipment in the next decade. That worries some utility officials.

"The trouble is that people say they are prepared to pay for a cleaner environment, but when you transfer the costs, there is a hue and cry," said Gerald Browne, director of the New England Power Pool, which coordinates 93 electric power companies in the Northeast.A lot of public-opinion surveys show that people are willing to do their part to get cleaner air, water and land.

But the jury is still out on whether people will really back up that stated attitude with money.

Take gasoline. Environmental groups and backers of alternative energy contend the price of gasoline is much too low. It stifles creation of less-polluting but more-expensive alternatives. It encourages waste and leads to more air pollution.

Many other countries have taxes that boost the price of gasoline to $3 or $4 a gallon.

In the United States, taxes of anywhere from 10 cents to 50 cents a gallon have been seriously proposed in the last few years.

Yet look what happened when the price of gasoline rose by about 25 after Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2. People were angered that their right to $1-a-gallon gasoline had been violated.

Many companies and electric utilities will be able to pass along the cost of pollution-control equipment in price increases that will be noticed only by the most observant customers. A penny here, a penny there.

But there is a bill to be paid if the United States wants a cleaner environment. People need to realize that. Businesses do, too.