Sanders, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, called for an end to all tax breaks and subsidies for the oil and gas industry as the first step of the Green New Deal, which seeks to shift the U.S. away from fossil fuels such as oil and coal and replace them with renewable energy sources.
"How do we take on an industry with unlimited power, money and resources? We need a political revolution," Sanders said at the "Road to the Green New Deal Tour" rally at Howard University. The Green New Deal, introduced by Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, has been blocked in the Senate, and Democratic House leaders refuse to take it up, but activists and politicians who back the plan are pushing to make it a top issue in the 2020 campaign.
The rally comes as Sanders and others seeking the Democratic presidential nomination criticize another 2020 rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, over his yet-to-be-released climate plan. Published reports suggest Biden is seeking "middle ground" on climate, a phrase that drew loud boos from the mostly young crowd at Monday night's rally, along with the mention of Biden's name.
Ocasio-Cortez, the chief House author of the Green New Deal, drew applause when she criticized "conservatives from both sides of the aisle" who have cautioned her to go slow or who have urged more fracking for oil and natural gas.
"We cannot accept anything less than a path to save ourselves, which this is," she said. Biden has chafed at reports that he's considering a less-ambitious approach to climate change than many of his rivals have endorsed, but he's also expressed skepticism at the Green New Deal.
"We do need to finish this green revolution in a way that is rational, that we can do it, afford it and get it done now," he said Monday in Hampton, New Hampshire. "There's so much we can do." Biden said he would be making a "major speech" to detail his environmental policy by the end of the month.
The Green New Deal calls for virtual elimination by 2030 of greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming and meeting 100 percent of U.S. power demand through renewable and zero-emission energy sources, including nuclear power. The proposal has broad support among Democratic activists and 2020 presidential contenders, putting it at the forefront of the party's sprawling presidential primary.
Republicans say the plan would devastate the economy and lead to a huge tax increase. They call it more evidence of the creep of "socialism" in the Democratic Party, along with "Medicare for All" and a sweeping elections reform package that would allow public financing of congressional campaigns.
Markey, who also spoke at the rally, said Republicans who denounce the plan as socialism ignore more than a century of tax breaks for the oil industry. Referring to wind and solar power and other renewable energy sources, Markey said, "Give us some of that socialism that the oil and industry has been enjoying for so long."
Senators including Markey and Sanders unanimously shunned a chance to take up the Green New Deal in March. Democrats called the vote scheduled by GOP leaders a political stunt, since Republicans widely oppose the plan, and declined to support a procedural motion to consider the nonbinding resolution.
The vote carried its own political risk for Republicans by appearing to mock climate change, an issue that a growing number of Americans care deeply about. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., meanwhile, has rejected calls to schedule a vote on the plan and has given no timetable for when or if it will reach the House floor.
About 1,500 people attended Monday night's rally, which featured remarks by author Naomi Klein; Alexandra Rojas, executive director of Justice Democrats; and activist Rhiana Gunn-Wright. Organizers promise a nationwide campaign to make the 2020 election a referendum on the Green New Deal, with a "major demonstration" planned at a Democratic presidential debate in Detroit in July.
The Sunrise Movement called on all Democratic presidential candidates to sign a pledge not to accept campaign contributions from fossil fuel companies and make the Green New Deal a "Day One priority" if elected president.
Associated Press writer Bill Barrow in Hampton, New Hampshire, contributed to this report.