These are boom times for energy giants, most recently demonstrated by ExxonMobil's (NYSE:XOM) announcement on Monday that its annual profit reached an astounding $36.1 billion. But the timing of the energy outfit's announcement could have been better: The next night, President Bush called attention to the United States' "addiction" to imported oil. Bush's statements reflect a shift in attitude in Washington that should command investors' attention.

The president's plans for the energy sector won't have much of an impact on the oil and gas giants, but other politicians are taking a harder line. In the Democratic rebuttal to the president's speech, for example, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine noted that he joined with other Democrats last summer in asking oil firms to "share in our sacrifice and return some of their record-breaking excess profits."

Meanwhile, on the Republican side, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania recently suggested that energy giants might have gotten too big through mergers and acquisitions. Specter is currently investigating competitiveness in the oil industry to determine "whether something needs to be done in the mergers and acquisitions field." A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report seems to back Specter up, claiming that mergers in the 1990s resulted in higher gasoline prices.

While the government doesn't seem likely to take any drastic action immediately, it's possible that there could be some future meddling in the energy sector if fuel prices remain high. Going after oil companies will likely remain a popular sport as long as prices at the pump continue to hit Americans' pocketbooks. Reducing oil dependence is becoming a patriotic duty, and woe to any company found taking advantage of this dependence.

Given the potential political fallout, investors might be well served by considering oil companies such as BP (NYSE:BP) and Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS-B), which make a point of talking up their investments in alternative energy. Even if these investments are just window-dressing, they could provide these firms with some political cover if things get hairy in Washington. As the political rhetoric heats up, it's probably better to be on the safe side.

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Fool contributor Brian Gorman is a freelance writer in Chicago. He does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.