If Hurricane Earl had headed for the Gulf of Mexico this week, events in that body of water would have once again constituted a circus. As it was, however, there was enough activity affecting the area to keep the oil industry, the government, and environmentalists attentive.

As my Foolish colleagues told you yesterday, the BP (NYSE: BP) and Transocean (NYSE: RIG) explosion that has long absorbed much of our attention was joined by another explosion and fire aboard a Mariner Energy (NYSE: ME) shallow-water production platform that was undergoing planned maintenance. It was far less serious than the BP tragedy, with no deaths among the 13 crewmen and, while all were dunked in the Gulf, only one was injured.

The most severe damage from the latest event may be the increased difficulty it'll pose for the industry to convince the country that serious offshore accidents are a rarity. It'll also likely be more difficult to bring the Obama administration's current deepwater drilling moratorium to a halt. Coincidentally, U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman, who had struck down an earlier ban, had just rendered the same opinion on Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's second moratorium.

And as if that's not enough Gulf activity for one week, the administration also has laid out a series of strict rules preventing close relationships between federal regulators and the companies or their personnel. For instance, regulators will be required excuse themselves from decisions affecting companies that employ their close friends or relatives.

The new rules, which will be enforced by Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement, will face the challenge of separating the close relationships among company personnel and regulators in tight-knit Gulf communities. The rules are effective immediately.

But what about those of you with a penchant for energy investments? This really should include all Fools. I'm convinced that lots of other new regulations, especially affecting rig equipment, are on the horizon. As such, National Oilwell Varco (NYSE: NOV) -- which manufacturers everything from rigs on down -- makes sense. And Cameron International (NYSE: CAM) is the largest maker of blowout preventers, which surely will be subject to stringent new redundancy rules.

And if you'd like to head toward the producers' side, ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) has minimal activity in the Gulf and is the biggest of Big Oil for a reason. Finally, if you're looking for a purer gas play, Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK) is as good as there is.

Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies named above. National Oilwell Varco is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection, while the Inside Value group has picked Chesapeake among its recommendations. The Fool owns shares of ExxonMobil. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.     

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