I remain convinced that the global supply of oil is smaller than we think, and that we'll face shortages sooner than we expect. Those shortages could easily lead to tiffs -- and likely more serious skirmishes -- between the governments of nations where the oil is located and publicly owned companies trying to work in those often inhospitable places.

That's an easy prediction, given that such events have already occurred in places like Russia, Venezuela, and Kazakhstan. And now it appears that Brazil, which has become something of the focal point for the petroleum industry thanks to its offshore discoveries, may be joining the list of heavy-handed governments.

While no firm decisions have yet been made, there's a possibility that the nation's government would create a new state oil company that could effectively take charge of all oil and gas fields. Instead of companies like ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) or Shell (NYSE:RDS-A) participating in a bidding process for concessions, the controlling Worker's Party would decide who operates each field. Each operator would then have to agree to a production-sharing agreement with the new Brazilian oil company, which would be a departure from the current royalty agreements in place today.

One possibility has Petrobras (NYSE:PBR) as the lead operator, with other companies contributing as passive minority partners. But at this point, there remains lots of confusion about how the change might be implemented, if at all, since there appears to be a fair amount of disagreement in high levels of the Brazilian government regarding the legislation.

Furthermore, there are questions about whether the new state-controlled agency, Petrobras, or other oil companies would have hiring authority over drilling contractors such as Transocean (NYSE:RIG) or Diamond Offshore (NYSE:DO). The same holds true for other sorts of service firms, including Schlumberger (NYSE:SLB).

But this isn't the only place where government muscle is being flexed in Brazil. A weekly Brazilian magazine, Veja, reportedly claims that President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva wants to nationalize the country's huge mining company, Vale (NYSE:VALE), the world's top producer of iron ore. Apparently the impetus for nationalization arose over job cuts and investment reductions as Vale’s profit dropped 85% from this time last year.

So Brazil, which in the past few years has become a far more active member of the world's business community, now has two developing situations worth Foolish attention. Each has a host of unanswered questions. In fact, for now, the only aspect of either I'd place my pesos on is the difficulty of imagining how Petrobras could come out a loser.   

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