Proponents of daylight saving time claim that energy use is decreased wherever it is observed. This has always been the rationale behind implementation. Does the research bear this out? To examine this let’s briefly look at the history of DST (daylight saving time) in the United States.
America first observed DST in 1918, toward the end of World War I, but the new law proved to be unpopular, and was later repealed after two years. During World War II Congress reinstated DST, this time with clocks advanced one hour on a year-round basis. From 1945 to 1966 there was no law regarding DST, so states and localities were free to observe it or not.
To correct the confusion that resulted Congress passed the Uniform Time Act of 1966, stating that DST would begin on the last Sunday of April, and end on the last Sunday of October. Any area that wanted to be exempt from observing DST could do so by passing a local ordinance. The law was amended in 1986 to begin DST on the first Sunday in April.
Congress changed DST one more time when it passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Start and end times of DST were changed to the second Sunday of March, and the first Sunday of November, respectively, where it remains today. This EDST (extended daylight saving time) period was intended to be an experiment to see if significant energy savings would result from using DST for about four more weeks per year. The new law called for a report to be made to Congress detailing the impact on energy consumption after using EDST for a two-year period. According to this report total electricity savings were 0.5 percent per each day of EDST, or 0.03 percent of electricity consumption over the year. In terms of national primary energy consumption, the electricity savings translate to a reduction of roughly 0.02 percent of total U.S. energy use during 2007.
Many of the available reports indicate energy savings comparable to the above findings, but there is also data available suggesting no effect, or even an increase in energy use, especially in the morning. When other effects of DST are factored in, such as increased gasoline use for recreational travel in the evenings, increased accident rates of children traveling to school on dark mornings, the time and expense involved in setting clocks twice a year, such as missed appointments, waiting for others, software glitches, system crashes, etc., one has to wonder if the time change is really worth it.
DST is typical of much of what Congress has done over the years: implement laws and policies that are accepted year after year as normal, beneficial, and “the way it’s always been,” without challenges made as to their effectiveness. Most Americans alive today have never lived under year-round standard time, and as such are prone to accept DST as just another part of life. It’s time to begin examining what Congress has done and repeal what clearly does not work, beginning with DST.
The argument is made that the U.S. should cut national energy consumption wherever she can, but exactly how this is done is best left to each individual American. Our energy policy should focus on creating supply nationally, as independent as possible of foreign sources, and conserving use individually. DST as a national energy conservation measure is bad energy policy, and we would all benefit if it were repealed tomorrow, allowing us to enjoy standard time year-round.