The following video is part of our "Motley Fool Conversations" series, in which analyst John Reeves and advisor David Meier discuss topics across the investing world.

David provides us with a handy way to evaluate the return potential of big oil companies. Here's his approach:

Dividend yield + dividend growth + share buybacks = total returns.

The share buyback percentage is calculated using the amount spent on buybacks divided by total market cap. In the video, John and David consider how the big oil companies stack up using this equation.

As oil prices climb, investors can find opportunities to ride the wave of surging profits for energy companies. Take a look at the top oil stocks recommended by Motley Fool analysts in a recent special free report: "3 Stocks for $100 Oil." The report won't be available forever, so we invite you to enjoy a free copy today. You can access it by clicking here. Fool on!

David Meier has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. John Reeves has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Chevron. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.