Does “daylight savings time” save energy? Does it save money? Does it save lives? Does getting up when the sun is lower in the morning sky mean you have more time before you go to bed at night?
“One hundred years ago when they first proposed this, they said it was about saving energy,” said Michael Downing, author of “Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time. This has never been realized no matter how many times they say it.”
A University of California study has shown that DST doesn’t save anyone any money at all. In fact, it’s costing consumers extra, to the tune of $3.19 in extra utility bills per year. The study was made possible because of the peculiarities of the state of Indiana, which was only partially on DST until 2006. When the whole state finally went DST (to sync with the national business day), some comparisons vs. the prior method were made apparent. The study calculated that the shift costs Indiana residents an extra $8.6 million in electricity bills in total.
If the justification for DST has always been energy savings, why isn’t ‘saving daylight’ burning fewer light bulbs and saving energy?
It is, according to the study. But while lighting bills were reduced, air-conditioning units had to run more often, because people were home on hot afternoons when they’d otherwise be still at the office. Heaters had to be run on cool mornings, and lights on too, when people got up and it was still dark outside.
Professor Matthew Kotchen, who pioneered the study, noted, “I’ve never had a paper with such a clear and unambiguous finding as this.”
Even in 1976, three years after DST went into effect, the National Bureau of Standards found that there was no significant energy savings after the switch.
Not to be convinced by mere facts, Congress is determined to take us out of the ‘dark ages’ and into ‘enlightenment’ by extending the time zone hour change even more this year.
The source of this bright idea is, not surprisingly, the ever-meddlesome Congressman Ed Markey, who calls the bill “a huge victory for sunshine lovers.”
There are some places that need just the opposite: shorter sunny evening hours. Once the sun goes down and the temperature falls to the high 80s, you can actually enjoy being outside.
The ostensible goal of the bill is energy saving, but the evidence is not just missing, the costs are just ignored: more demand for energy-guzzling air conditioning in the populous, hot southern states. If the global warming proponents are genuine, why are they not proposing a repeal of daylight savings time change?
Parents and schools worry about the safety of children who will now be traveling to school in the dark before the later sunrise.
The airline industry is worried about the effect on Thanksgiving travel. The Sunday after Thanksgiving is one of the biggest travel days of the year and forgetting to change a clock in a hotel or wherever causes confusion. The Air Transport Association of America Inc., which represents major U.S. airlines, argues that it would throw U.S. international schedules further out of sync with Europe. It says a two-month extension would cost the U.S. airline industry $147 million and disrupt overseas travel.
For computer equipment, software is used to automatically update many systems but far more devices require manual updates to get them on the new time. Count up the time devices you have just in your own home and how much time you’ll take going to each one to change and reprogram.
Disruption to people’s sleep habits, confusion while traveling, and lost productivity from sleep deprived workers are just a few of the ill effects of a system that gains us nothing.
In fact, DST causes more energy consumption. People coming home from work get in their cars and drive to the beach, lake, or go shopping, while it is still daylight. DST is supported by the retail industry because it is an opportunity to increase sales and get more money from consumers. Businesses benefit from these end of day shopping hours.
Another spurious claimed benefit is reduced road toll. This is based on the statistic that more collisions occur in the dark. With DST, darkness is not repealed. People will still drive at night, meet people after dark, and choose to drink and drive.
Part of the pros and cons of DST relate to the latitude people live in. Besides the different daytime temperatures and energy use mentioned above, higher latitude dwellers see the effect of sunrise and sunset hours quite differently. Any benefits of changing the time of day are unconvincing. Alaska has a statewide movement to abolish it. Arizona and Hawaii do not change their clocks.
Conflict also appears to be along urban and rural lines. A farming lifestyle is more in tune with the natural and gradual daily changes, while the urban society works on mechanized organization at precise times. The earliest uses of time-keeping itself was the church clock and bell to summon residents to worship.
One of the least convincing arguments is that somehow DST is progressive, modern, and forward thinking. Opponents are called backward, old-fashioned and unsophisticated.
Whatever side you may be on, energy saving is not a justification. A consensus of time keeping is for convenience, but when you think about it the choice of time zone clock numbers, Swatch Internet time, or any time convention, is purely arbitrary.
If you live in the US but not Arizona or Hawaii, and want to synchronize with Federal and State time, put your clocks forward one hour at 1 a.m. on Sunday March 9; put them back again on November 2.