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Top oil sands salesman now running for AB premier

Alberta’s top oil sands salesman in Washington, Gary Mar, has quit his posting and now officially entered the race for the province’s Tory leadership.

For more than three years, Mar helped lead an intense lobbying campaign to keep the U.S. from adopting clean energy laws that would target Alberta’s oil sands.

Mar was apparently very good at his job. When I visited Washington, DC, late last February, everyone from industry lobbyists to major green groups to congressional staffers remarked on his smooth conversational style and hectic work schedule.

Indeed, a spokesperson for the American Petroleum Institute, Cindy Schild, told me Mar met with so many U.S. policymakers “it’s amazing he’s not cloned somehow.”

Mar’s Alberta office – working from inside the Canadian embassy – convened with major oil and gas industry players throughout 2008 to attack a clean energy law called section 526.

Read more about the campaign in Tyee articles from earlier this week. (Here and here).

But Mar was by no means grounded in Washington. Throughout his posting, Alberta’s envoy flew across the U.S., touching down wherever clean energy laws threatened his province’s oil industry.

Premier Ed Stelmach credited Mar with getting an anti-oil sands bill removed in Maryland. The envoy also met with dozens of governors, emphasizing the economic spinoffs from increased oil sands development.

Mar spoke at stakeholder meetings in the Northeast, where 11 states are considering a low carbon fuel standard. He also helped intervene in Wisconsin’s fuel standard debate, and may have been part of the reason the state later dropped the law.

Mar’s candidacy for the Alberta Tory leadership has been expected for weeks, ever since outgoing premier Ed Stelmach resigned.

Some observers and party stalwarts already perceive Mar as a frontrunner, according to a Calgary Herald report.

Mar himself is nonchalant about the label.

“The issue of being a frontrunner is irrelevant to my campaign. Our strategy is the same, and that is to work hard at earning the trust of all Albertans," Mar told the Herald. "This is one of the great lessons I learned from previous leaders, is that you never, never, never quit."

Look for more reporting about Gary Mar in future installments of the Tyee’s major series, Washington’s War over Oil Sands.

Geoff Dembicki reports for the Tyee.

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