GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz unveils 'Green Real Deal,' as conservative answer to AOC pet project

Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz unveiled the “Green Real Deal” on Wednesday as a free-market counterproposal to the Green New Deal being pushed by Democrats to combat climate change.

“The question for America is pretty simple: either we want a bunch of bureaucrats in Washington telling us what we can’t do, or we empower American innovators to unlock things that we can do,” the Florida congressman said at a press conference in front of the Capitol building.

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His plan, which he is putting forward in a House resolution, involves a number of planks including revisiting global trade and intellectual property policies to create “an international marketplace fair to American innovators.”

Gaetz's plan also aims to modernize the electric grid, which he says currently “functions as a wet blanket over American innovation.” Gaetz claims that upgrading the grid will create an “entire class of energy entrepreneurs across the country.” He also wants to "unlock federal lands" from current regulations, saying they can be “an open canvas” for renewable energy research, testing and evaluation.

The plan comes in response to the Green New Deal, a once-fringe policy that seeks to overhaul the nation’s economy and energy use to combat climate change and combat income inequality. But this year it has emerged in the Democratic mainstream, with a resolution introduced in the House and support from most major 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. However, a test vote on the proposal recently failed in the Senate with no senator voting to begin debate on the legislation.

The proposal includes a host of costly and controversial big-government programs -- including a push for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, universal health care and job guarantee programs.

In the press conference, Gaetz made references to FAQs released by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s, D-N.Y., office that said the deal aims to "upgrade or replace every building" for energy efficiency and render air travel unnecessary, while joking about getting rid of “farting cows.”

"Do we really believe that if we outlaw cars, cows, planes and buildings that the rest of the world will follow?” he said. “Of course not, they will laugh at us.”

While Gaetz’s proposal consists of free-market and small-government ideas of the kind Republicans have long embraced, the plan is a notable shift for the party toward tackling climate change in some fashion.

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Traditionally, Republicans have been more skeptical about man’s influence on the climate. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler was asked in January at his confirmation hearing if he believed warnings from scientists about the threats of climate change.

“I would not call it the greatest crisis, no” he said.

In an indication of likely conservative opposition to Gaetz's plan, advocacy group FreedomWorks issued a statement calling it a "sad example of Republicans thinking they’re conservatives by being slightly to the right of far left."

"What’s more, it is presented as a collection of bold, new ideas yet most of them are policies and programs that exist and aren’t working. This is perhaps the only thing ‘real’ about the ‘Green Real Deal,'” the statement said.

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Gaetz said at the press conference that he doesn't think the EPA has done a good job of combating climate change and said he wants to shift the debate among Republicans -- from focusing on the existence of climate change, to how to combat it.

"I didn't come to Congress to argue with a thermometer and I think that more of my colleagues need to realize that the science of global warming is irrefutable," he said.