Editor’s note: Wausau Pilot & Review gladly publishes commentary from readers, residents and candidates for local offices. The views of readers and columnists are independent of this newspaper and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wausau Pilot & Review. To submit, email editor@wausaupilotandreview.com or mail to 500 N. Third St., Suite 208-8, Wausau, Wis. 54403.


I abruptly wake to a series of soft cries coming from down the hallway of our bedroom. A brief check of the alarm clock shows that it’s just shy of 5:00 am on a typical winter morning. I determine it’s our youngest daughter who needs our attention, so I stumble out of bed and head toward her bedroom while my wife stays in the warm blankets. 

I open her bedroom door and see our one-year-old standing at the edge of her crib holding her stuffed animal and blanket still mildly whining and extending her arms wanting to be picked up. I take her out of the crib and notice her hands are cold to the touch. She calms down and falls asleep on me in the sway of the rocking chair as I become more awake recognizing that her room feels very chilly.

Morning arrives and I start to investigate our heating issue. I check the thermostat and see the temperature in the house is a cool 60-degrees, well below the desired setting. I hear the furnace running and put my hand near a nearby heating register and feel cool air instead of warm, triggering the proverbial light bulb in my head. I walk downstairs, find the furnace, pull out the rectangular filter, and shake my head. The filter is caked with dust and debris, so I replace it and call a furnace repair service. They tell me they can be over in a few hours. 

I direct the service technician to the furnace once he arrives. Following his inspection, he comes upstairs and asks if the furnace filter was just replaced. I sheepishly admit that the filter was very dirty and I replaced it before he showed up. He responds by explaining the furnace essentially shut down to protect itself from the plugged filter. He proceeds back downstairs to reset the furnace to produce heat and I’m left to ponder. 

How did this happen? I’m usually on top of our home maintenance. I felt I had just checked the filter and decided it didn’t need replacement. Seeking answers, I recall periods of the ducts sounding louder, the furnace frequently running longer, and my wife asking me when the filter was last changed. These revelations make me realize I hadn’t changed the filter since summer, almost five months earlier! As I swirl in my own mental self-loathing, the technician is about to leave and hands me an invoice for $120, money I could have saved with a $4 filter. Perfect. 

Most of us have encountered situations like this. We’re given a life circumstance that needs attention, yet we ignore the signs that something needs to change. Whether it’s a check engine light on our car, a leaky pipe in our house, or a slight tooth pain, we tend to push these small but lingering events to the back of our minds in hopes that these problems somehow magically take care of themselves or, even better, someone else fixes them. Ideally, these issues stay small enough that they are perpetually pushed further down our infinite task lists and never reach emergency status. 

This is how I feel about sustainability and our transition as a community to prioritizing clean energy. We’ve neglected the signs that our environments are changing and becoming costly to continue the status quo. We feel the strain of increasing energy costs, we see nationwide the frequent natural disasters, and we read the consequences of continued fossil fuel use, yet the scope of fixing these challenges seem daunting and impossible. As expected, we continue to push the problems further down the road resulting in a never-ending cycle that paralyzes progress and leaves us hopeless. But now, there is a path forward.  

It starts with recognizing the circumstances that are driving action. First, The United States and the world are experiencing continued rising energy costs. Here in Wisconsin, we expend over $14 billion dollars every year to other states and countries for our energy needs. This is money we can keep in Wisconsin with smart investments. Second, we’re about to get our hands on generational funding opportunities through the Inflation Reduction Act – the largest piece of legislation to tackle clean energy transition. We do not want Wausau to miss out on this funding. Third, there is demand from everyday citizens that we prioritize sustainability. They want the benefits of economic progress, educational opportunities, and cleaner, healthier, and safer communities.  

To confront these concerns, the City of Wausau’s Sustainability, Energy, and Environment Committee has forwarded a Greenhouse Gas Resolution to the City’s committees for approval. The resolution goal is for Wausau to transition municipal energy consumption to one hundred percent clean energy by a future date. The process starts with Wausau collecting the City’s baseline energy usage and creating a comprehensive plan to reach Wausau’s energy goals. In turn, Wausau makes smart clean energy investments that reduce our dependence on outside fossil fuels and increase energy savings. Saved energy decreases the tax burden for citizens to power City operations which then is reinvested in more clean energy projects, reinforcing a positive feedback loop.  

I understand this is a significant shift in imagining how we can improve Wausau. For some of us, sustainability and clean energy are foreign languages we do not understand or luxuries we cannot afford. Predictably, we will likely encounter some transitional setbacks that will fan the flames of failure and promote calls for abandonment. However, like most challenges in life, these are the critical moments that need persistence, not surrender. When these moments do inevitably pop up, let’s trust the process and push through together. 

What can you do? The City’s Public Health and Safety recently unanimously passed the greenhouse gas resolution and it will be forwarded to City Council. You can voice your support by registering to speak in person at the next Common Council meeting that the resolution is on the agenda, or by sending a comment to the City Clerk. If neither is an option, you can always attend or leave a comment at a Sustainability Committee meeting or with your city alderperson as well.

Whatever your reason, now is the time to act. We cannot prolong the clean energy transition any further. We are going to pay the price regardless of what Wausau chooses. We either continue the status quo of using our tax dollars for increasing energy prices, environmental damage clean up, and economic challenges, or we can invest now in clean energy that translates to energy security and stability. Join me in letting our city leaders know that we want to pass Wausau’s Greenhouse Gas Resolution – and please check your furnace filter. 

John Kroll, Wausau

Another link for interested citizens: 

WICCI Report