Barbara Boxer says energy efficiency is bipartisan issue

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U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) gives a victory speech on November 2, 2010 in Hollywood, California.

A United Nations conference on climate change begins tomorrow in Mexico. The U.S. comes to the table without a commitment to cutting carbon emissions. That’s because the Senate failed to pass a climate change bill this summer. But there are some carbon-cutting measures the Senate could approve next year.

Senate Democrats couldn’t muster enough votes this year to pass even a watered-down version of a climate change bill. With a smaller Senate majority in the 112th Congress, California Democrat Barbara Boxer says a sweeping measure isn’t going anywhere next year either.

But the head of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee says one issue Republicans and Democrats can agree on is energy efficiency. "Everybody knows it saves money," she says. "So making the federal government the model of energy efficiency I think is key."

Boxer says that means making government buildings energy-efficient and buying cars that get many more miles to the gallon. "We buy about 60,000 cars a year."

Boxer suggests grants or a loan program for landlords of large residential or office buildings to help them save energy — and reduce their carbon footprint. The challenge is coming up with new money to pay for those programs in an era when shrinking the budget is a top priority.

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