Planet Gore

Ed Markey and the Settled Science of Daylight Savings Time

Here’s Senator Markey talking up yesterday’s manipulation of the clock and how it will save energy:

“After this long, dreary winter, people are ready to go from polar to solar. Instead of most of the United States still being covered in snow, our evenings will be bathed in sunlight a little longer, and a little sooner than before,” said Senator Markey. “In addition to the benefits of energy savings, fewer traffic fatalities, more recreation time and increased economic activity, Daylight Saving Time helps clear away the winter blues a little earlier. Government analysis has proven that extra sunshine provides more than just smiles. Daylight Saving Time saves consumers money and also curbs the nation’s energy consumption, which means lower energy bills, less pollution, and more reasons to enjoy the outdoors. We all just feel sunnier after we set the clocks ahead.”

Um, not so fast. The latest research shows that DST does not curb “energy consumption or  mean ” lower energy bills” and “less pollution.” It is good for the grilling and golfing industries, however. Via Tufts Now of Tufts University:

The reason we spring forward each year has more to do with what we spend on summer fun than with lowering our consumption of energy

With the switchover to daylight saving time just around the corner, you might wonder why we go to the trouble of springing forward and falling backward every year.

It turns out that more daylight gives us more time to shop, drive, grill and perfect our golf game. What it doesn’t do is cut our energy use, as is the intent, says Michael Downing, a lecturer in English and author of Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time.

In fact, when we lose an hour’s sleep at 2 a.m. on March 9—beginning the eight-month DST season—it will not reduce our electricity use even by one half of 1 percent, says Downing, contrary to the most recent study by the Department of Energy.

While the government continues to claim that the country reduces electricity use for each day during DST, Downing says we come nowhere near that.  Some studies do report small reductions in electricity use, but the most comprehensive study of household energy demand and many others report an increase in overall energy consumption ranging from 1 to 4 percent during DST.

“The barbeque grill and charcoal industries say they gain $200 million in sales with an extra month of daylight saving—and they were among the biggest lobbies in favor of extending DST from six to seven months in 1986,” he says. Lobbying alongside them that year was the golf industry, which says that additional month of daylight has meant more time on the links and an additional $400 million in revenue.

But what’s good for retail is bad for overall energy use, says Downing. “If it’s light when we leave work and we decide to go to the mall or a restaurant or head for a summer night at the beach, we don’t walk there; we get in our cars,” he says.

And as the article goes on to point out, we now have eight months of DST and four months of standard time. Why not just spring-forward all year? 

The rest here.

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