KATE BRENNER/Herald photo

University of Wisconsin Chancellor John Wiley greeted energy industry representatives Thursday at a preliminary dinner for an energy conservation conference this weekend, saying technologies from UW will contribute to the field.

The Roosevelt Institution, a national student-run think tank, is holding the conference at the Capitol in hopes of fostering progressive discussion between energy-focused engineers, researchers, consultants and students.

"First and foremost, throughout the conference keep an open mind. There are lots of topics on the agenda, … but with almost every topic on the agenda, there are easily predictable controversies," Wiley said. "It does not hurt at all to listen to the opposition."

Experts in hydroelectric energy, solar and wind energy, and petroleum will be working to find both practical and innovative solutions to the ever-growing issue of inefficient energy use.

Peggy Welsh, a senior consultant for Energetic Inc. who previously worked for the Ford administration and currently works closely with the U.S. Department of Energy, will speak at the conference.

"I am going to be talking about electricity technologies that are out there and that will be game-changers in the system in the future years," Welsh said.

Ariel Cohen, a researcher for The Heritage Foundation, will discuss the threats radical Islamists and Iran pose to energy security. UW professor of law, political science and sociology Joel Rogers, who has been identified by Newsweek as one of the 100 Americans most likely to affect U.S. politics and culture in the 21st century, will also contribute to the discussion.

The panel will also include students from UW.

Roosevelt Institution National Executive Director Nate Loewentheil discussed the origins of the Roosevelt Institution, which were rooted in the dissatisfaction of college students.

"There was this really palatable sense of frustration, … it was about the fact that students weren’t being asked to contribute substantively at all to politics and policy, that we were asked for our bodies and time," Loewentheil said. "We went knocking on doors 12 hours a day, but politicians did not care about anything substantive we had to say. What you will see [today] is that students do have a lot to contribute in terms of ideas and policy work."

The institution seeks to empower students in the policymaking process by connecting academia to local, state and national government. Since its creation in 2004, the Roosevelt Institution has grown to nearly 8,000 members nationwide. Today’s conference marks the first of its kind hosted by the UW chapter of the Roosevelt Institution.

"The most important impact of Roosevelt is we’re developing people our age who are going to be better citizens later in life," Loewentheil said. "Our democracy will face very serious tradeoffs in the future, and we need students who are willing to confront those issues."