The federal government must immediately and rigorously assess the looming impact of peak oil, a former White House consultant says.
Dr Roger Bezdek is in Australia for a series of lectures on the theory of peak oil - the idea that we have arrived at or are about to arrive at the high point of oil production ahead of a terminal decline.
He called for the government to create an independent body to study peak oil and create solutions ahead of a "liquid fuels crisis".
"On the demand side, they should stress transportation efficiency and enhanced fuel efficiency standards," Dr Bezdek said in a statement.
"On the supply side, the federal government should encourage and pursue all viable options including coal-to-liquids, oil shale, biomass, and hybrid vehicles."
But Dr Bezdek warned it may already be too late to address peak oil, which was first mooted in the 1950s.
"If oil peaks within 10 years, it may already be too late to avoid serious problems," he said.
"It took the world more than 20 years to recognise the significance of climate change.
"We do not have 20 years to bring this issue to the world's attention."
Dr Bezdek is the founder and president of Management Information Services, a Washington-based economic and energy research firm.
In the past he has given advice to the White House and acted as an energy delegate to NATO.
The federal government is addressing some of Dr Bezdek's concerns but not because it is worried about peak oil.
Initiatives like federal grants for motorists to change their cars to liquid gas power have been brought on because of concerns about global warming and the price of petrol, not peak oil theory.
The government also has an ethanol target for petrol companies - a modest 350 megalitres of ethanol fuel by 2010.
In February, the Senate's Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committee tabled a report titled Australia's Future Oil Supply and Alternative Transport Fuels.
The committee made 10 recommendations which included diverse responses to the threat of peak oil.
Congestion taxes on inner-city drivers, increased funding for biofuel research and a reassessment of official estimates of future oil supply were all recommended.
The government is yet to respond to the recommendations.
Â© 2007 AAP