Political scientist David Bernell brings his experience working in the federal government to help shape a certification program focused on sustainable energy policy

By Emily Willis, CLA student writer - November 27, 2023

Our planet is in need of important changes for the climate and global warming, and there are actions being taken here at Oregon State to help educate students and improve our efforts at going green. David Bernell is a professor who specializes in teaching students about renewable energy policies, and how these policies  incorporate changes into the daily routines of people and businesses all over the country.

Before becoming a professor, Bernell served as an appointee for the Clinton Administration in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), as well as the Department of the Interior.  At OMB, Bernell’s job involved preparation of the President’s annual budget proposal to Congress, on behalf of all the federal agencies that dealt with energy and natural resources.

Bernell now leads OSU’s Energy Policy Ecampus program, an online graduate certificate for those looking to learn more about U.S. energy policy and how it affects the nation and their own local communities. This includes professionals in the energy sector, current graduate students, and people in a variety of jobs – reporters, property managers, engineers – who want to know more about how energy policy impacts their own work.

“A major question the program tries to address is how the U.S. government and its institutions are going to use the country’s resources more sustainably and not cause future problems or make existing problems worse, whether it’s energy policy’s impact on climate change or national security.” Bernell continued, “People from all over the country with different personal and professional backgrounds are interested in answering questions like these. They all bring their unique perspectives to the program, and it makes working with all these students incredibly rewarding. 

Mitchell Dehmer, a graduate student in the program and an environmental scientist in the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said, “Energy policy is a niche and often overlooked topic, however the Ecampus program intentionally focuses on how the U.S. government crafts  policy surrounding renewable and clean energy.”

“Policy is the first place where you can actually make a change,” said Dehmer. “As a policy maker, you are the first line bureaucrat in making change. The world is changing rapidly, and there’s a need for young professionals with the knowledge of how to craft effective energy policy in our government.”

Dehmer went on to elaborate on how Bernell’s teaching style enhances the material. “Dr. Bernell’s class is by far the best class I’ve taken so far,” Mitchell mentions. “I’ve learned the most information by being in his class; Dr. Bernell truly seems to care about his students and makes sure to let them know they’re heard and seen.”

Rachel Mooney, another student in the Energy Policy Program and a senior associate at Climate Action Reserve, a global offset registry for global carbon markets, also talked about the importance of learning about renewable energy policy and Bernell’s individualized mentorship. Dr. Bernell’s  U.S. energy policy class informed much of the framework for how I was writing my thesis. It really helped give context to what I was talking about, like why natural gas is so instrumental in our energy use as a country, and for the transition in the long-term.”