With a majority of oil companies in the U.S. posting huge profits this earnings season, mainly due to high crude prices, investors will be looking forward to how they will benefit.

Nothing pleases investors more than seeing companies returning money to them. After all, it's investors' money that companies use to churn out these profits. Let's take a look at some of the majors here and whether or not they're delivering returns to the investors in the form of dividends.

Two national stories
Not that I'm comparing the two directly, but Canadian oil companies have a great tradition of paying out dividends, which I had covered last week. Are Americans as generous?

American Big Oil firms look relatively impressive when it comes to paying out dividends. Since 2006, Chevron (NYSE: CVX) has been steadily raising dividends by an average of 7% every year. With a trailing annual dividend yield of 2.6%, shareholders can anticipate a decent forward return.

ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) is not far behind in terms of payout. While gradually increasing payouts, it has not been as generous as Chevron. With an average yearly increase of 2.7% and a payout ratio of 28%, the trailing annual dividend yield stands at 2%. These figures aren't that high. Fortunately, there are a few more big names that look impressive on an income basis.

Marathon Oil (NYSE: MRO), another Texas-based integrated energy company, is another big energy stock that pays out dividends. The company has increased its annual dividends since 2006 at an average 6.5% annually. With a trailing annual dividend yield of 1.9%, this is not too bad compared to most oil stocks in the country.

Occidental Petroleum (NYSE: OXY) is slowly but steadily increasing dividends. Since 2006, the company has, on average, increased its dividends by an impressive 15.7 % annually. With a payout ratio of 27% and dividend yield of 1.2%, investors might want to watch this stock for future dividend growth. The company is seemingly getting dividend-friendlier. Five years back, payout ratio stood at 15%. But then, with profitability too getting a boost, the company did the wise thing: increase payouts. I believe that Occidental will continue to increase its payouts in keeping with the trend. However, a higher share price may hinder shareholders from getting a better deal.

Our best, their best
Texas-based ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) seems by far the most impressive of the lot. Over the last five years, the company has been increasing dividends by an average of 8.2% annually. Trailing-twelve-month dividend yield stands an impressive 3% with a payout ratio of 28%. This is a healthy payout ratio, with a good part of the earnings left to invest back into the business, and at the same time compromising little on payouts.

I also believe that this stock is ideally priced. With a P/E ratio of 8.9, it makes a lot more sense to consider this stock than a lot of alternatives, especially if you're concentrated on the income yield.

Foolish takeaway
Looking through these historical data, there is a lot to be hopeful about. Given how Americans guzzle oil, and coupled with high energy prices, there does not seem any reason why U.S. petroleum companies won't continue their profitable run in the foreseeable future.

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