It may be a bit of a stretch as metaphors go, but it appears that French oil company Total (NYSE: TOT), which happens to be a Motley Fool Income Investor selection, is firing on all cylinders. And more importantly, the company is clearly taking steps to ensure that its success is not a flash in the oil pan.

Let's look first at Total's results for the December quarter, when earnings rose to 3.6 billion euro. That's $5.23 billion, and compares to 2.23 billion euro last year. If you do away with an array of special items, the recent quarter's net comes to 3.11 billion euro, a 14% increase from the same period in 2006. Expressed in dollars, the company's diluted EPS jumped by 29% to $1.99.

Upstream, Total managed to increase its daily output by 2.4%, putting it in the same smiley face category as BP (NYSE: BP), which also squeezed out a production increase. The two companies stand in marked contrast to ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM), Chevron (NYSE: CVX), ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP), and Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS-A) (NYSE: RDS-B), all of which watched their daily production numbers slip in the quarter. The higher production, coupled with rapidly increasing oil prices, made for a 53% hike in the segment's adjusted operating income.

And beyond that, while other integrated companies like BP, Marathon (NYSE: MRO), and Chevron reported lower downstream profits, Total's refining and marketing operating income increased by 12%.

Total also made strides to benefit its future, with a deepwater discovery off Angola, and another find in the Congo. It inked a partnership agreement to study a heavy oil project in Venezuela and entered into another pact involving a nuclear power plant project in the U.A.E.

Of even more interest for those of us in the U.S. of A., the company will spend $2.2 billion on a major expansion of its refinery in Port Arthur, Texas. That's the same city where Shell is nearly doubling the size of its own refinery facility.

At a time when this cowboy believes that energy will be the most important sector overall for many years to come, Total's told us some good stuff. I therefore urge Fools with a taste for oil to include this well-managed integrated international player near the top of their sector watch list.

For related Foolishness:

Total is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. Try the market-beating service free for 30 days.

Fool contributor David Lee Smith's investment isn't totally sound, since it doesn't include any of the companies mentioned above. He does welcome your questions or comments. The Fool has a totally solid disclosure policy.