Obama seeks to whip up support for energy legislation on back of spill

President Barack Obama sought to build momentum Monday for energy legislation on the back of the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The president sent a message to supporters who subscribe to e-mails from Organizing for America, his political arm, asking them to sign a petition in support of energy legislation.

"We are working to hold BP accountable for the damage to the lands and the livelihoods of the Gulf Coast, and we are taking strong precautions to make certain a spill like this never happens again," Obama wrote. "But our work will not end with this crisis."

The president is visiting the Gulf on Monday and Tuesday to survey the ecological impact of the oil spill in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Obama will deliver his first Oval Office address following his trip, in which he's expected to push BP to establish an account to pay out billions in damages resulting from the spill, but also to make the case for energy reform legislation.

Democrats have said the oil spill provides the impetus for their energy plan, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has put Senate Democratic committee chairmen on notice to be prepared to move on energy legislation this summer, amid a busy schedule that includes finalizing Wall Street reform, passing extenders legislation, and confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan.

"Many businesses support this agenda because shifting to clean energy creates opportunities for entrepreneurship," Obama wrote. "This is how we will reinvent our economy — and create new companies and new jobs all across the country."

The president also offered words of praise for the legislation unveiled by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) that would deal with both energy and climate change in a comprehensive fashion.

"The House of Representatives has already passed a comprehensive energy and climate bill, and there is currently a plan in the Senate — a plan that was developed with ideas from Democrats and Republicans — that would achieve the same goal," Obama said. "So I'm asking for your help today to show that the American people are ready for a clean-energy future."