New York (Platts) 6 Jan2011/503 pm EST/2203 GMT

In a bid to boost its influence on US energy policy, the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas-USA has appointed a Washington policy insider and former campaign hand as the group’s full-time director, it said Thursday.

Jan Mueller, now a senior policy associate of transportation and energy program associate at the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), will assume the position on March 1, ASPO-USA president and co-founder Jim Baldauf said.

“We need to make inroads with decision-makers,” Baldauf said.  “Everybody knows about this issue but few are willing to step out on the issue because of political considerations,” he said.

Muller “knows the cracks in the armour,” Baldauf said, calling the focus to shift the debate in Washington part of a “new emphasis” to influence decision-makers.

Mueller, in a phone interview, said his goal is “to mainstream the [peak oil] issue.”  “This issue is too important to remain only in the energy corner where it has been,” he said.

“The issue of the speed at which it’s unfolding is something people need to understand,” Mueller said, giving a “zero to five or zero to 10-year” horizon for when peak oil escalates.

“We want to be a clarion call,” Mueller said.  He spoke from South Carolina, where he helped organize an energy efficiency program.  “There’s a whole divide or gap that peak oil has not addressed very well,” such as undertaking a response plan, Mueller said.

Public transportation agencies and municipalities are not braced for oil price shocks, and are not adequately preparing, Mueller said.

“We want people to be ready and there’s an infinite number of ways that that can play out,” he said.

“It is contrary to the typically issue-focused organization to say we need ‘more studies,’ but  in the case of peak oil, if there were many more people out there studying how to respond, that would be an important indicator of our success,” Mueller said in a subsequent email.

He noted that the US Joint Forces Command and the US Department of Defense have pondered the implications for “peak oil” and said we would like to step up the pitch by reaching out to “current and retired military,” among others.

Last February, the JFC said in its Joint Operating Environment report that “assuming the most optimistic scenario for improved petroleum production through enhanced recovery means, the development of nonconventional oils (such as oil shales or tar sands) and new discoveries, petroleum production will be hard pressed to meet the expected future demand of 118 million barrels per day.”  The report said that a “severe energy crunch is inevitable without a massive expansion of production and refining capacity.”

In his current job at EESI, Mueller served as a liaison with 80 US Congressional offices and federal agencies and helped develop “major provisions” in six pieces of federal legislation, according to his resume.

Mueller was also an independent campaign management consultant and, earlier, a volunteer coordinator in the 2006 campaign for US Senator Jim Webb, Democrat-Virginia, according to his resume.

–Leslie Moore Mira,