Earnings season is over; the weather is warming up (in some places); and Big Oil is giving its predictions about its future for the analysts. However, Chevron (NYSE:CVX) shows us the discrepancy that can occur between what a company thinks it's telling analysts and reporters and the real message that's being conveyed.

On Tuesday, company officials met with analysts and provided a press release on their predictions. The release was titled "Chevron Is Competitively Advantaged for Challenging Times." Fine, and if you read the company's missive, you'd absorb all manner of corporate-speak about how it's "continuing to execute [Chevron's] key strategies." From CEO Dave O'Reilly, you'd be told about how Chevron is "well positioned for these challenging market conditions ..."

But then there was The Wall Street Journal's takeaway from the session. The Journal's lead sentence was that "Chevron Corp. said Tuesday it is paring investment in some oil and gas-producing projects, damping the company's aggressive predictions for increasing its oil and natural gas production."

The difficulty at Chevron is that management had predicted relatively robust production growth for the five-year period ending in 2010. But as expected, base production will decline in 2009 and there will be "selective discretionary project deferrals" at the company. That's corporate-speak for spending cuts, and they'll ensure that those earlier production forecasts are unrealistic.

Chevron is not alone here. Warren Buffett favorite ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) recently said its capital budget will be about $12.5 billion this year, which it admitted is lower than last year. BP (NYSE:BP) plans to spend $15 billion to $16 billion, or comparable to recent years' levels. Total (NYSE:TOT) also calls its planned $18 billion in capex comparable to 2008 levels, but says it's "determined to reduce the cost of its projects."

While Chevron clearly has numerous strengths, I find that its flat or reduced capex budgets only affirm my contention that ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) offers more than most of its Big Oil peers. Indeed, ExxonMobil told us last week that, unlike the others, it'll add about 11% to this year's capital kitty.

ExxonMobil's news is telling, compared with that of Chevron. With oilfield service costs declining, it'll get more bang for its buck by spending more now. This is just another reason why I'm convinced that the most sensible energy investment for my Foolish friends remains the biggest of them all.

Chevron and ExxonMobil each wear four Motley Fool CAPS stars. Do those ratings include your assessments?  

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Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned. He does solicit your questions, comments, or kibitzing. Total is a Motley Fool Income Investor pick. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.