A new study from Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) points out an increasingly obvious truth: The United States no longer dominates the energy sector. A greater percentage of today's 20 largest energy firms, ranked by market cap, originate in the BRIC countries -- Brazil, Russia, India, and China -- than in the U.S. And every one of the top 10 reserve holders is a state monopoly.

Multinational giants like BP (NYSE:BP) and Chevron (NYSE:CVX) once had fairly straightforward relationships with state oil firms. The former would exploit the resource; the latter would take a cut. That changed drastically over the past few decades, as governments strove to nurture state-owned firms into technically proficient operators in their own right. Now the Western majors find themselves competing directly with these "state champions" for exploration leases, drilling rigs, and skilled engineers. When one side has the determined backing of a petrodollar-flush government, costs are all but guaranteed to inflate.

The so-called national oil companies (NOCs) run the gamut from present monopolies like Venezuela's PDVSA to partially privatized entities like Petrobras (NYSE:PBR) and PetroChina (NYSE:PTR). Both varieties of NOC are proving to be a headache to folks like ConocoPhilips (NYSE:COP) and Total (NYSE:TOT). The former demand higher profit shares; the latter are at best only partially motivated by returns on capital, and seem increasingly willing to accept less enticing terms from host governments. National interest remains a major consideration for these former state-owned firms, whether it's made explicit or not.

This all goes to show why it's in our national interest to move beyond petroleum, pronto.

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Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't own shares in any company mentioned. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy makes our interests quite explicit.