Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. Sen. Barbara Boxer said she had a one word answer for why President Obama promised to act on climate change in his second inaugural address: “Sandy.” Boxer called Hurricane Sandy a turning point in public opinion on global warming, and said Washington will act to curb CO2 emissions not via legislation but through the Environmental Protection Agency. “My view is they have no choice but to act,” Boxer said, referring to a Supreme Court ruling that affirmed that greenhouse gasses are pollutants under the Clean Air Act. “The EPA has huge authority here.” Boxer, a California Democrat who as chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee tried and failed to get a cap and trade bill through the Senate during President Obama’s first term, said former President George W. Bush “wasted eight years” arguing in court that CO2 is not a pollutant. She said she would block “as long as I have a breath” any effort by House Republicans to reverse the high court ruling through legislation. She also opened the possibility of replacing the gasoline tax with a carbon tax at the source as part of a broader tax reform. The 18.4 cent gasoline tax is a kind of mini carbon tax, but the last time it was raised was in the Clinton administration. Boxer, along with both parties in Congress, has refused to raise the gasoline tax despite an urgent need for highway funds because the gas tax is extremely unpopular. “There may be a way to do away with the gas tax at the pump if we do a carbon tax,” Boxer said. She conceded the unpopularity of a carbon tax in Congress but said it is “in the mix.” She argued that the gas tax is raising less money each year as fuel efficiency standards rise, noting that her plug-in hybrid gets 150 miles per gallon. She said Obama “knows he’s going to be judged by history,” because someday “people are going to say they had a window to act” on CO2 emissions. The EPA is currently considering imposing CO2 emissions standards on existing electrical generation plants, which she said account for 35 percent of the nation’s CO2 emissions. As for China, which has surpassed the United States in CO2 emissions, Boxer said pollution is so bad now that “you cannot see in China.” She recalled a 2011 trip she made there, where an official remarked that it was a beautiful day. “No it was not,” Boxer said. She argued that China will be forced to reduce its air pollution, and doing so will also reduce CO2 emissions. She also said the United States should lead, rather than waiting for China. “We can’t say we won’t do anything until China does,” Boxer said. That would be like saying, “We won’t protect women until China does,” she argued, “Or we won’t have free speech until China does.” She said she has no idea whom Obama will nominate as EPA administrator, now that Lisa Jackson is leaving. She also put in a plug for Los Angeles Mayor Anthony Villaraigosa as Secretary of Transportation.