Houston-based ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) Wednesday became the latest U.S.-based oil and gas producer to report flattish results for the quarter ended March 31. In fact, had the company not completed meaningful asset sales during the quarter, lower year-over-year crude prices and sales volumes likely would have resulted in an income reduction vs. a year ago. The asset sales added $0.29 to the quarter's per-share earnings.

For the quarter, ConocoPhillips reported net income of $3.55 billion, or $2.12 per share, compared to $3.29 billion, or $2.34, for the comparable 2006 quarter. Revenues dipped to $41.3 billion, compared to $46.9 billion a year ago.

The company's exploration and production activities yielded net income of $2.33 billion, an 11.6% increase over the year-ago first quarter. But those results included a combination of the "asset disposition efforts," reduced asset impairments, and higher natural gas prices. (Asset impairments refer to the process of the writing down of assets on the balance sheet when they no longer appear as potentially valuable as they once did.)

Those positives more than offset the volume and price reductions. At the same time, the company's refining and marketing activities resulted in income of $1.14 billion, versus only $390 million in the March 2006 quarter.

In announcing his company's results, Jim Mulva, ConocoPhillips' chairman and CEO, said, "Operating performance for the quarter was consistent with our plans and we continue to progress (in) the execution of our financial strategy. With respect to our upstream operations, we produced 2.47 million barrels of oil equivalent per day. ... In our downstream business, the crude oil capacity utilization rate was 94% during the quarter."

I'm perpetually amazed how, in part because of a surfeit of regulation in the U.S. today, companies with colorful pasts have become relatively bland corporate entities that churn out lifeless communiques with their shareholders and the world at large. So, as something of a homemade antidote for that malady, please permit me to digress from the rote recitation of results and executive commentary for a moment.

Conoco began its operations in Utah in 1875 as the Continental Oil and Transportation Co., one of the first petroleum marketers in the West. Thirty years later, brothers Frank and L.E. Phillips hit a gusher, the first of 81 wells without a dry hole. Their resulting Phillips Petroleum Company operated for nearly a century from headquarters in Bartlesville, Okla., in the heart of Indian territory. In 2002, the two companies were combined to form ConocoPhillips.

But what does all this mean for Foolish investors today? I'm convinced, as I have told my Foolish friends frequently, that the world is on the precipice of seeing crude production slip behind -- perhaps meaningfully -- crude demand. Whether this confluence will occur next year, in 2015, or later, I cannot predict. But when it does take place, energy prices and potentially our quality of life will be affected dramatically.

On that basis, I continue to urge Fools to include major energy producers in their portfolios. Given the international scope of its operations, ConocoPhillips clearly would fill the bill, as would such other giant U.S.-based integrated producers as ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) and Chevron (NYSE:CVX).

For related Foolishness:

Fool contributor David Lee Smith does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned. He welcomes your questions or comments. The Fool has a disclosure policy.