Last October, I surveyed Kinder Morgan Energy Partners (NYSE: KMP). Since then, the midstream monster has performed magnificently relative to Mr. Market. In turbulent times like these, it's hard to beat a cash stream this dependable.

The fourth-quarter and annual results are in, and they are excellent. Yes, earnings per share beat expectations, but they shouldn't be your primary focus. Because Kinder is structured as a limited partnership, distributable cash flow is what matters. For the quarter, this figure lifted 21% over last year, or 15% on a per-unit basis, because of a large capital raise in November.

Growth in distributable cash flow has allowed Kinder Morgan to raise its unit holder payout 31 times in a little over a decade. Of course, this hasn't been a purely altruistic move by the company. Kinder Morgan's general partner, privately held by management, gets a bigger and bigger slice of distributions as they grow.

This has certainly given management a strong incentive to grow the business, but their eventual 50% cut of the cash isn't exactly abstemious. I understand that was the main reason our Income Investor team bypassed Kinder Morgan in favor of selections Enterprise Products Partners (NYSE: EPD) and TEPPCO Partners (NYSE: TPP), both of which are willing to share a bit more of the pie with us peons.

There are plenty of eyebrow-raising incentive pay structures are out there -- just ask billionaire Jim Simons. At the end of the day, Kinder Morgan is making money with you or without you. It might not be the most shareholder-friendly, but you could do a lot worse than casting your lot with this band of proven pipeline pros.

Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't have a position in any company mentioned. The Motley Fool has a non-abstemious disclosure policy.