The Green New Deal is the hot topic of inside of the Beltway chatter. Almost immediately upon introduction, nearly every Democrat who had announced his or her 2020 candidacy for president, including sitting U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), endorsed this political non-starter. And on the other side of the aisle, Republicans are rightly willing to step aside and allow this political gold to become a political noose for Democrats in 2020.
However, Republicans shouldn’t sit on the sidelines for too long. Such a golden chance to offer a reasonable alternative proposal doesn’t come around often in this town.
Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES) Forum commissioned a new national poll of actual voters that found that seven in ten agree that Republicans in Congress should present their own set of solutions to reduce carbon emissions. This includes an equal percentage of Republican voters as Independents and an even higher proportion of Republican women.
Importantly, the results suggest that right now is a particularly critical time for Republican lawmakers to offer an alternative; the poll also found that overall awareness of the Green New Deal is soft. Nearly six out of ten have not heard much (26 percent) or have heard nothing at all (31 percent) about the Democrats’ proposed plan to address climate change. This means there is a clear opening to craft a Republican plan.
Republicans should also take notice of a changing electorate and its views on climate change and the need to address it. Almost half of those surveyed said their personal views regarding climate change have evolved a lot (25 percent) or some (23 percent), to the point that over three-quarters (78 percent) now believe human impact causes climate change, including 62 percent of Republicans and 79 percent of Independents.
To those of us on the Right, the Green New Deal has shifted from political folly to call to action for a 2020 election cycle in which we must win back voters we lost in 2018. So what’s next? Republicans need to champion their own solutions to further emission reductions, including grid modernization, regulatory reform, tax incentives and greater investment in clean energy and storage research. Such developments will enable industry and the power of the free market to innovate and move more quickly. We need to expand energy efficiency and align federal and state policies that too often prevent clean energy advancement.
And contrary to what we read in the Green New Deal or hear from left-wing climate activists, we need emissions reduction policies that work with American businesses instead of stifling them. We are a capitalist nation, and Americans deserve and require solutions that don’t compromise the private sector.
Accordingly, the survey found that nearly seven in ten support government legislation that incentivizes the market to accelerate clean energy (67%) versus a comprehensive program that is run by the federal government (17%), with equal numbers support between men and women. Clean energy expansion is not only good politics but it’s good policy as it balances our needs as the leading industrialized nation while protecting our environment. Renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar and hydropower, create well-paying jobs and encourage economic development. A large portion of those jobs are located in rural America. In fact, solar installers and wind turbine technicians are two of the fastest growing jobs in the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The Green New Deal is an abysmal policy blunder and major political miscue, but it’s given Republicans the opportunity to take back control of the narrative on environmental issues. This, in turn, means a stronger chance for victory in what is sure to be a bruising election cycle.
Heather Reams is Executive Director of Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES) Forum, a conservative energy policy non-profit organization. Ashlee Rich Stephenson is Chief Strategy Officer at WPA Intelligence (WPAi), a Republican polling and consulting firm.