If you can't pass a filling station without clenching your jaws at the sight of today's gasoline prices, maybe you just need to change your perspective. Make a good pick or two in the energy sector, and you can earn back in capital gains more than what you're paying out at the pump.

There are plenty of plays on energy, but if you believe in looking for the best, Schlumberger (NYSE:SLB) certainly needs to be on your list. Technically domiciled in the Dutch Antilles, Schlumberger is a world leader in technology and services for the energy market -- it offers geophysical services, wireline logging, and directional drilling, among others -- and stands close behind Halliburton (NYSE:HAL) in pressure-pumping services.

Fourth-quarter results certainly befit the hot market for energy. Revenue was up 31%, income from continuing operations rose 82%, and reported net income doubled. What's more, the greater amount of business is allowing the company to expand its margins (operating margin climbed 7.5 points from last year), and the cash flow continues to support dividends and share buybacks.

If you're more than a casual observer of the energy sector, you won't find too many surprises in what Schlumberger had to say. Growth is stronger in the Eastern Hemisphere, rig growth in 2006 will be predominantly onshore (since offshore rigs are capacity-constrained), high demand will lead to cost inflation, and the upswing in exploration and development budgets should lead to several years of robust exploration activity.

When you see major energy companies like BP (NYSE:BP), Royal Dutch Shell, and Petrobras (NYSE:PBR) committing to higher capital budgets for exploration and production, Schlumberger is going to capture a fair bit of that money.

I can't say that this stock looks cheap on a long-term cash-flow basis, but it is a leading player in a hot field. What's more, when you spend more on research and development than do many of your top rivals combined, you've got a good shot at staying on the leading edge of technology. Cyclical stocks can be tricky, but these are definitely the boom times for companies like Schlumberger.

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).