Chevron (NYSE: CVX) is the last of the Big Oil contingent to tell us about its quarterly results. But if some of the articles about the profits generated by the company and its peers -- along with the yelps coming from the campaign trail -- indicate anything, the cacophony about a windfall profits tax is about to reach a crescendo.

For the quarter, the company earned $5.17 billion, or $2.48 per share. That net income was up about 10% from the $4.72 billion, or $2.18 a share, that Chevron recorded in the first quarter of 2007.

While it'd be pretty tough for oil companies of any stripe not to have increased exploration and production earnings in the most recent quarter -- with crude prices rocketing up from their year-ago levels -- it's not all milk and honey for the integrated companies. As was demonstrated by ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) -- which led off Big Oil's reporting -- along with the likes of ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) and Hess (NYSE: HES) -- when crude prices flew up, downstream profits (refining and marketing) went down.

In Chevron's case, for instance, the upstream (exploration and production) segment expanded its earnings by about 76%, while downstream profits fell by 84%. But I'd argue that we should also be concerned about the continued production declines at Chevron and most of the others -- BP (NYSE: BP) and Occidental (NYSE: OXY) being notable exceptions.

As I write this piece for my Foolish friends, a television spot has just run for one of the political candidates carping about "price gouging" by the oil companies. I find it difficult to comprehend how the companies can indulge in price gouging when they have little or no control over the prices charged for either crude oil or gasoline. And while I certainly agree that we're in the midst of serious energy difficulties, I would contend that singling out the oil companies for punitive tax treatment would be the wrong way to deal with it.

Beyond that, with Chevron's release, the last of the Big Oil players has spoken. And while its profits were solid, my counsel is to avoid the group until the crude price has experienced somewhat of a correction. As oil prices retreat -- albeit briefly -- it's likely that the companies' share prices will pull back even more.

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Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own a single share in any of the companies mentioned. He does, however, welcome your questions or comments. The Fool has a disclosure policy.