Swiss scientists say politicians and the public should have a greater awareness of "peak oil" -- the moment when the world's maximum crude oil output is reached, the Swissinfo website reported on Monday.
Researchers at Basel University warn that although climate change is grabbing more headlines than the possible exhaustion of fossil fuels, a conflict is brewing over crude oil.
"The question is not for how long we will have crude oil reserves, but for how long output can grow," warned Daniele Ganser, a historian and peace researcher at Basel University, who says the significance and explosive nature of the issue is underestimated by politicians and the public.
No one can agree on when exactly the moment of "peak oil" will be -- some experts say 2010, others say 2020 or 2030 -- but it is a serious problem as crude oil output has grown for decades and positively boomed with the industrialization of the emerging nations.
An end to the spiral is not in sight and once the global peak is reached, a further increase is simply not possible.
"Conflict over crude oil will increase in proportion with its scarcity -- the global economy is facing a recession," said Ganser. "We are running to the oil limit without thinking."
Ganser says the issue of peak oil is barely a topic in public debate because it is not immediately visible.
A switch to gas or coal is not a solution, according to Ganser. "These energy sources are also finite and will one day reach their maximum output."