The news this morning that a Mariner Energy (NYSE: ME) oil platform has exploded in the Gulf of Mexico -- on the heels of the Transocean (NYSE: RIG)/BP (NYSE: BP) Deepwater Horizon disaster -- should have serious implications for both the energy industry and for energy industry investors despite the fact that the company is reporting no resulting oil spill. Is this the end of an era for offshore drilling, or -- should stocks in the sector continue to sell off -- an opportunity for savvy investors? We asked a few of our Fool analysts to respond in real time.

Seth Jayson, Motley Fool Hidden Gems: Tragic, again, and we don't know much, but I'm already wondering what the knee-jerk response will be. I suspect it will take some form of "let's have a longer drilling moratorium," which would raise some interesting questions for BP and the Obama administration. The president's men have tried to make the case that the costs of the government moratorium should be borne by BP, because it was the BP explosion that forced the government to make that decision. If you extend the moratorium based on this event, can you still expect BP to pay for it?

Should we be buying stocks in the oil patch today? That part of my portfolio is already filled out, but if it weren't, I'd probably hold off for a while, at least until I had a little better understanding of what public and policy response is likely to be, and how it might further dent firms working in the Gulf.

Tim Hanson, Motley Fool Global Gains: Geography is key. That's because while the market is likely to sour on the sector as a consequence of greater looming U.S. regulation (which I'll guess is all but assured now), drilling as usual will continue to go on around the world due to the nearly insatiable demand for energy in emerging markets such as China and India. Seadrill (NYSE: SDRL), for example, is a stock I've profiled in the past with almost no Gulf exposure. It should continue to profit so long as governments in Africa, Asia, and Latin America continue to allow drilling off their shores -- a high-probability bet. Liability, though, keeps me wary of companies that are directly involved in these events and I would also avoid for the time being companies such as Hornbeck Offshore that rely almost entirely on a robust energy industry in the Gulf of Mexico for sales and profits.

Joe Magyer, Motley Fool Inside Value: It'll be a while before we have any concrete details on what has happened, though that won't stop the mainstream media (or us!) from pontificating. Fortunately, early news reports are indicating that only one person was injured in the incident. Whether this incident creates environmental or personal tragedy, though, it will undoubtedly draw more attention to the moratorium, the lost jobs associated with that, and the increased safety regulations hoisted onto drillers. While forcing more regulations and technical safety checks onto drillers is well-intentioned, those higher costs will ultimately be at least partially borne by consumers of oil and gasoline. So ... by you.

If there's a bright financial side to this, it could be that higher safety standards create a wave of rig and equipment upgrades from which the likes of National Oilwell Varco (NYSE: NOV) would stand to benefit in the medium to long term. Shorter- term, this latest incident could create some intriguing buying opportunities around high-quality contract drillers like ENSCO (NYSE: ESV) and Noble Corp. (NYSE: NE). If you're a patient, long-term investor looking for some energy exposure -- and you should be -- each of these three stocks deserves a good look.

Seth Jayson owns shares of Transocean, Hornbeck Offshore, and BP. Tim Hanson does not own shares of any company mentioned. Joe Magyer does not own shares of any company mentioned. National Oilwell Varco is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. The Fool owns shares of ENSCO and Noble. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community. The Fool has a disclosure policy.