Aside from the market's current credit malaise, we've all been sucker0punched as of late by two seriously ugly trends: economic decline and inflation.

With oil still trading near $100 per barrel, many smart investors are betting that energy prices are the obvious play right now.

Of course, there are many ways to win with energy, from buying energy-oriented exchange-traded funds like the Energy Select SPDR, to high-yielding traditional oil and gas drillers like Chevron, to fast-growing renewable energy technologies. Famed venture capitalist Ray Lane suggests that the solar industry could become 10 times bigger than the Internet, and my Foolish colleague Austin Edwards boldly calls it the next millionaire-maker megatrend.

To help our way through the possibilities, I utilized our new CAPS screening tool to find out which traditional energy stocks and solar tech stocks the 115,000-member Motley Fool CAPS investing community is bullish on.

The stocks have:

  • Market capitalizations above $1.5 billion.
  • At least 300 active recommendations.
  • Four- or five-star ratings (the highest) from our CAPS community.

Since we began tracking the eerily prescient collective intelligence of our CAPS investment community in November 2006, four- and five-star companies have outperformed the market, with average annualized gains of 7% and 12%, respectively.

Company

Share Price

Market cap
(in billions)

ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP)

$70.70

$107.5

Halliburton (NYSE:HAL)

$30.32

$26.6

Schlumberger (NYSE:SLB)

$76.87

$92.2

Spectra Energy (NYSE:SE)

$23.25

$14.3

Suncor (NYSE:SU)

$38.53

$36.0

Suntech Power (NYSE:STP)

$36.43

$5.6

Valero (NYSE:VLO)

$29.28

$15.3

Data from Motley Fool CAPS and Yahoo! Finance as of Oct. 1.

Of course, screens are merely a first step in the stock selection process. So, to learn more about these companies and why they are rated so highly by the CAPS community, take a look at CAPS. Heck, make your own thumbs-up or down call on the companies above. We're all interested.

On Oct. 7, 2008, Fool co-founder David Gardner and his Motley Fool Pro team will invest $1 million in a portfolio designed to help you make money in any market. In the coming weeks, the team, relying heavily on proprietary CAPS "community intelligence" data, will establish long and short positions in a broad range of securities, including common stocks, publicly traded put and call options, and exchange-traded funds. To learn more about Motley Fool Pro and to receive a private invitation to join, simply enter your email address in the box below.

Ilan Moscovitz unfortunately owns no kittens nor any companies mentioned in this article. Spectra Energy is an Income Investor pick. Suntech Power is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. The Fool has a tortoise shell disclosure policy.