ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A senior American energy official said Tuesday the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico dramatically illustrates the need for investment into renewable sources of energy.

David Sandalow, an assistant energy secretary, spoke during a visit to the capital of the United Arab Emirates, an OPEC member that is pumping some of its vast oil wealth into green technology.

He called the oil spewing from BP's busted well a "tragic situation" that shows why renewable energy must be a priority in the decades to come.

"It underscores the need for a transition to a clean energy economy," he said.

The comments echoed those of his boss, President Barack Obama, who has used the Gulf oil spill to urge Congress to pass legislation aimed at reducing the United States' dependence on oil and other fossil fuels.

Sandalow spoke to reporters during a meeting of international officials in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, one of the world's biggest exporters of oil. The sheikdom controls nearly all the Emirates' oil reserves.

This week's meeting is meant to lay the groundwork for a green energy summit being held in Washington next month.

More than 20 countries are expected to attend the Clean Energy Ministerial scheduled to start July 19. The gathering will include representatives from many of the world's biggest economies — and polluters.

The Emirates is the only of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries' 12 members scheduled to attend.

Its capital is investing heavily in renewable energy projects, and last year was picked as the home of the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Sandalow gave few details about specific goals for next month's meeting, which he said would include talks on energy efficiency, carbon capture and storage and renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind power.

He said investing in green power makes sense now despite the struggling economy because it would create jobs.

"It's exactly the right time to be talking about this," he said.