The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.

NEW YORK ( ETF Digest) -- Our goal in this profile is to help investors wade through the many competing exchange-traded-fund offerings available. Using our long experience as an ETF publication, we can help select those ETFs that matter and may not be repetitive. The result is a more manageable list of issues from which to choose from.

There are currently nearly 30 ETFs oriented to the energy sector. The following analysis features a fair representation of ETFs available. We believe from these, investors may choose an appropriate ETF to satisfy the best index-based offerings individuals and financial advisors may utilize.

We're not ranking these ETFs favoring one over another so don't let the listing order mislead you. Although we may use some of these in ETF Digest portfolios it's not our intention to recommend one over another.

ETFs are based on indices tied to well-known index providers including Russell, S&P, Barclays, MSCI, Dow Jones and so forth. Also included are some so-called "enhanced" indices that attempt to achieve better performance through more active management of the index.

The energy sector has remains volatile and politically controversial given the recent higher spikes in prices in 2008 and 2011. The U.S. hasn't had a coherent or effective energy policy since the Department of Energy was created by the Carter administration. The bottom line: more bureaucrats than energy. Strong economic growth and supply scarcity add to the necessity to have exposure to the sector beyond alternative issues which we'll feature separately.

We prefer not to use HOLDRS despite the popularity and attractiveness of an issue like Oil Services HOLDRS ( OIH), preferring instead to stick with ETFs.

Where competitive issues exist or repetitive issues become available at a superior saving, we mention those as other choices. New issues are coming to market consistently and more often these issues need to become seasoned before they're included in our listings.

For traders and investors wishing to hedge, leveraged and inverse issues are available more oriented to XLF ( XLF) and FCG ( FCG) than other issues from ProShares and Direxion.

All of the following show data as of June 2011. SPDR Energy Select ETF ( XLE) is linked to the Energy Select Sector Index which includes oil, gas, natural gas and energy equipment and services. The fund is the oldest of its kind launched in December 1998. Assets under management exceeds $10 billion and average daily trading volume is around 20 million shares. The expense ratio is .20%. The annual dividend as of June 2011 is $1.02 making the dividend yield 1.34%. As of July 1, 2011 the fund has returned 11.44%.

Both Direxion and ProShares have leveraged long and inverse ETF products available to trade against energy issues like XLE.

XLE Top Ten Holdings and Weightings
  1. ExxonMobil Corporation (XOM): 17.25%
  2. Chevron (CVX): 13.28%
  3. Schlumberger (SLB) : 7.52%
  4. ConocoPhillips (COP) : 4.78%
  5. Occidental Petroleum (OXY) : 4.72%
  6. Apache Corporation (APA) 3.39%
  7. Halliburton Company (HAL) : 3.39%
  8. Anadarko Petroleum (APC): 2.84%
  9. Marathon Oil (MRO) : 2.79%
  10. Baker Hughes (BHI) : 2.63%

Vanguard Energy ETF ( VDE) is linked to the MSCI US Investable Market Energy 25/50 Index. The index consists of small-to-large companies within the overall energy sector from drillers, distributors, drilling rigs and equipment, production and marketing of oil and gas products. You'll note the index is heavily weighted by XOM by 21%. The fund was launched in September 2004. The expense ratio is .25%. AUM is $2 billion while average daily trading volume is around 190,000 shares. As of July 1, 2011 the annual dividend was $1.25 making the current yield 1.12% with YTD performance of 12.10%.

VDE Top Ten Holdings and Weightings
  1. ExxonMobil (XOM) : 21.12%
  2. Chevron (CVX) : 11.52%
  3. Schlumberger (SLB) : 6.75%
  4. ConocoPhillips (COP) : 4.47%
  5. Occidental Petroleum (OXY) : 4.39%
  6. Apache (APA) : 2.71%
  7. Halliburton (HAL) : 2.45%
  8. Anadarko Petroleum (APC) : 2.18%
  9. Devon Energy (DVN) : 2.10%
  10. Marathon Oil (MRO) : 2.04%

iShares S&P Global Energy ETF ( IXC) follows the S&P Global Energy Sector Index. The fund was launched November 2001. The expense ratio is higher than others at .48%. AUM is nearly $1.5 billion and average daily trading volume is around 250,000 shares. As of June 2011 the annual dividend was 70 cents with a dividend yield of 1.65%. The YTD return over the same time period was 7.96%.

IXC Top Ten Holdings and Weightings
  1. ExxonMobil (XOM) : 13.97%
  2. Chevron (CVX) : 7.11%
  3. BP (BP) : 4.90%
  4. Total (FP) : 4.56%
  5. Royal Dutch Shell (RDSA) : 4.34%
  6. Schlumberger (SLB) : 3.94%
  7. ConocoPhillips (COP): 3.54%
  8. Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB) : 3.28%
  9. Occidental Petroleum (OXY): 2.96%
  10. BG Group (BG) : 2.65%

iShares Dow Jones U.S. Energy ETF ( IYE) follows the Dow Jones U.S. Oil & Gas Index . The fund was launched in June 2001. The expense ratio is .48% like other iShares products. You should note a heavy concentration in weightings of XOM at nearly 24%. AUM is over $1 billion while average daily trading volume is over 260,000 shares. As of July 1, 2011 the annual dividend was 52 cents making the yield 1.19%. The YTD return over the same period was 11.70%.

IYE Top Ten Holdings and Weightings
  1. ExxonMobil (XOM): 23.95%
  2. Chevron (CVX): 12.09%
  3. Schlumberger (SLB): 6.53%
  4. ConocoPhillips (COP): 5.67%
  5. Occidental Petroleum (OXY): 5.05%
  6. Apache (APA): 2.86%
  7. Halliburton (HAL) 2.75%
  8. Marathon (MRO) : 2.38%
  9. Anadarko Petroleum (APC): 2.35%
  10. Devon Energy (DVN): 2.17%

SPDR S&P Oil & Gas ETF ( XOP) follows the S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production Select Industry Index. The fund was launched in June 2006. Uniquely the index is equally weighted. The expense ratio is .35%. AUM equal around $6.8 billion and average daily trading volume is 5.3 million shares. As of July 1, 2011 the annual dividend is $1.30 making the yield 2.17%. Over the same period the YTD return was 13.08%.

XOP Top Ten Holdings and Weightings
  1. W&T Offshore (WTI): 1.87%
  2. Cabot Oil & Gas (COG): 1.84%
  3. Petrohawk Energy (HK): 1.78%
  4. EQT (EQT): 1.68%
  5. Stone Energy (SGY): 1.67%
  6. Bill Barrett (BBG): 1.66%
  7. Rosetta Resources (ROSE): 1.65%
  8. Southwestern Energy (SWN): 1.64%
  9. Comstock Resources (CRK): 1.63%
  10. Rex Energy (REXX): 1.61%

Market Vectors Coal ETF ( KOL) follows the Stowe Coal Index which provides exposure to companies that derive 50% or more of their revenues from the coal industry. The fund was launched in January 2008. The expense ratio is higher than average for the group at .62%. AUM equal $642 million while average daily trading volume is over 530,000 shares. As of July 1, 2011 the annual dividend is 19 cents making the yield roughly .40%. For the same period the YTD return was only 1.42%.

KOL Top Ten Holdings & Weightings
  1. Joy Global (JOYG): 8.50%
  2. Consol Energy (CNX) : 8.40%
  3. China Shenhua Energy (01088): 8.20%
  4. Peabody Energy (BTU): 7.94%
  5. Bucyrus International A (BUCY): 7.81%
  6. Walter Energy (WLT): 5.07%
  7. Bumi Resources: 5.06%
  8. Yanzhou Coal Mining (01171): 4.84%
  9. Massey Energy (MEE): 4.80%
  10. Alpha Natural Resources (ANR): 4.77%

First Trust ISE-Revere Natural Gas ETF ( FCG) follow the ISE-Revere Natural Gas Index which represents stocks of companies deriving a substantial portion of their earnings from natural gas exploration and production. The fund was launched in May 2007. The expense ratio is .60%. AUM is less than $460 million and average daily trading volume is a little over 500,000 shares. As of July 2011 the fund pays no dividend. The YTD return for the same period is 10.67%. Direxion Shares offers leveraged long and short ETFs to hedge or speculate linked to this and a similar index. FCG Top Ten Holdings and Weightings
  1. Stone Energy (SGY): 3.99%
  2. Petrohawk Energy (HK): 3.96%
  3. Cabot Oil & Gas (COG): 3.86%
  4. Southwestern Energy (SWN): 3.59%
  5. SandRidge Energy (SD): 3.55%
  6. Range Resources (RRC): 3.51%
  7. Ultra Petroleum (UPL): 3.50%
  8. McMoRan Exploration (MMR): 3.43%
  9. QEP Resources (QEP): 3.41%
  10. Royal Dutch Shell ADR A (RDS.A): 3.39%

iShares Dow Jones U.S. Oil Equipment & Services ETF ( IEZ) follows the Dow Jones U.S. Select Oil Equipment & Services Index. The fund was launched in May 2006. The expense ratio is .48%. AUM equals around $640 million and average daily trading volume is over 300,000 shares. As of July 2011 the annual dividend was 12 cents making the yield .19%. For the same period the YTD return is 14.40%. Investors can also evaluate SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Equipment & Serves ETF ( XES) with a lower expense ratio of .35% but different constituents and weightings.. IEZ Top Ten Holdings and Weightings
  1. Schlumberger (SLB): 19.70%
  2. Halliburton (HAL): 10.59%
  3. Baker Hughes (BHI): 7.87%
  4. National Oil Well Varco (NOV): 7.47%
  5. Weatherford International (WFT): 4.32%
  6. Cameron International (CAM): 3.47%
  7. FMC Technologies (FTI): 3.40%
  8. Noble (NE): 3.35%
  9. Nabors Industries (NBR): 2.74%
  10. Pride International (PDE): 2.30%

PowerShares Dynamic Energy ETF ( PXI) follows the Dynamic Energy Sector Intellidex Index which is a so-called "enhanced" index strategy that evaluates constituents and modifies holdings according to quantitative valuations. The fund was launched in October 2006. The expense ratio is .60%. AUM equal $162 million and average daily trading volume is around 53,000 shares. As of July 2011 the annual dividend was 51 cents making the dividend yield 1.18%. For the same period YTD return was 14.57%. Investors might also consider a sister offering PowerShares Dynamic Oil & Gas Services ETF ( PXJ).

PXI Top Ten Holdings & Weightings
  1. Marathon Oil (MRO): 2.61%
  2. Occidental Petroleum (OXY) : 2.60%
  3. Spectra Energy (SE) : 2.59%
  4. Halliburton (HAL) : 2.52%
  5. Chevron (CVX) : 2.52%
  6. Murphy Oil (MUR): 2.48%
  7. El Paso (EP): 2.47%
  8. Sempra Energy (SRE): 2.42%
  9. ExxonMobil (XOM): 2.42%
  10. Peabody Energy (BTU): 2.40%

First Trust Energy AlphaDEX ETF ( FXN) follows the StraQuant Energy Index which is another enhanced index attempting to outperform more static indexes through quantitative analysis and rebalancing of constituents. The fund was launched May 2007. The expense ratio is .70%. AUM are just under $150 million and average daily trading volume is 102,000 shares. As of July 2011 the annual dividend is 17 cents making the yield .70%. For the same time period the YTD return was 11.62%.

FXN Top Ten Holdings and Weightings
  1. SunPower (SPWRA): 3.80%
  2. Oil States International (OIS): 3.27%
  3. Seacor Holdings (CKH): 3.20%
  4. Baker Hughes (BHI): 3.16%
  5. Quicksilver Resources (KWK): 3.11%
  6. Chevron (CVX): 3.05%
  7. Marathon Oil (MRO): 3.04%
  8. ConocoPhillips (COP): 2.96%
  9. SandRidge Energy (SD): 2.89%
  10. Cimarex Energy (XEC): 2.87%

Energy overall remains a primary focus for investors. Alternative energy sources are also much in focus and will be featured separately in another profile. New ETFs from highly regarded and substantial new providers are also being issued including from Charles Schwab's ETFs and Scottrade's Focus Shares (FEG, a new issue in this category) which both are issuing new ETFs with low expense ratios and commission free trading at their respective firms. These may also become popular as they become seasoned.

For further information about portfolio structures using this or other ETFs see www.etfdigest.com. You may address any feedback to: feedback@etfdigest.com. (Source for holding data is from ETF Database and from various sponsors.)
This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.

Dave Fry is founder and publisher of ETF Digest, Dave's Daily blog and the best-selling book author of Create Your Own ETF Hedge Fund, A DIY Strategy for Private Wealth Management, published by Wiley Finance in 2008. A detailed bio is here: Dave Fry.