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A freshman House Republican known for his bill to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency and allegedly intimidating former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is seeking a new claim to fame: the party's leading voice on addressing climate change.
Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida on Wednesday unveiled the framework for his Green Real Deal, a rebuttal to the Green New Deal proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat representing part of New York City.
The plan outlined by Gaetz calls for tackling climate change by trimming regulation, supporting clean energy innovation and addressing alleged Chinese intellectual property theft. In pitching the plan, the lawmaker issued a challenge to the many climate-change deniers in his party and Democrats such as Ocasio-Cortez who risk alienating moderate voters with ambitious proposals.
"History will judge harshly my Republican colleagues who deny the science of climate change," Gaetz said during a press conference. "Similarly those Democrats who would use climate change as a basis to regulate out of existence the American experience will face the harsh reality that their ideas will fail."
Gaetz's Green Real Deal — distinct from a plan of the same name proposed by former Energy Department officials — includes four major platforms to spur innovation.
First, it would expand efforts to protect U.S. intellectual property to prevent foreign countries, particularly China, from replicating and reproducing future American clean energy advancements.
The plan also calls for modernizing the U.S. electric grid to allow more renewable power to flow through the system. The final two pillars call for opening federal lands for renewable energy research and development and aligning policies and regulations to more quickly bring to market advanced nuclear reactors, carbon capture technology and hydropower projects.
Gaetz's proposal is one of several alternatives to the Green New Deal. It most closely aligns with a 10-point plan proposed by Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. Positioned as a "new Manhattan Project for clean energy," Alexander's plan calls for ramping up research and development into new technologies.
The Green Real Deal does not set targets for emissions reductions or include a fee on carbon pollution. It has just one co-sponsor, but Gaetz says he's looking for support from other lawmakers, including Democrats.
"I'll take it anywhere I can get it," he said. "I was pitching these ideas to Miss Ocasio-Cortez just a few minutes ago. There are some that I think we agree on, some we don't, but right now we have a Congress that won't even have a serious debate about the way to address climate change."
Gaetz's plan does contain some similarities to Ocasio-Cortez's proposal — both emphasize investments in the grid and clean energy R&D and marginalize a fee on carbon emissions. However, the Green New Deal calls for overhauling the U.S. economy by switching to 100% renewable power and a mostly electric vehicle fleet in just 10 years, among other things.
On Wednesday, Ocasio-Cortez told Newsweek Gaetz's plan is "just so weak" and "so lame."
"Where's the courage? Where's the audacity? Where's the daring? None of it is there. Where's the beef?" she said.
Some energy market researchers and scholars say parts of Ocasio-Cortez's plan are essentially unworkable and would spark unintended consequences and public backlash. During a Senate vote on the Green New Deal last month, many Democrats simply voted "present," allowing them to withhold support for the plan without rejecting it outright.