What’s “DST” you say? How quickly we forget. It’s Daylight Saving Time. It’s been gone only a couple of weeks and unless you haven’t changed the clock in your car, this semi-annual nuisance is not even a memory.
It was first proposed by a New Zealander in 1895 and its cause taken up by a Briton a few years later. The United States first adopted it in 1918. It was widely believed at the time that President Woodrow Wilson wanted it so he could play golf into the evening hours. It has been with us in various configurations ever since. They are not simple. An encyclopedia description of “How It Works” takes up two pages.
Since 2007 in the U.S. it has begun the second Sunday in March and ends the first Sunday in November — nearly two-thirds of a year. Before that it began the first Sunday in April and ended the last Sunday in October. The reason for this “mission creep” is the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which assumed that expanded DST would save large amounts of electricity. It has not.
Back in 1975, the U.S. Department of Transportation said that DST could reduce the nation’s electricity usage by one percent during March and April. The next year the National Bureau of Standards found there had been no significant savings.
An earlier start to DST in California in 2007 had virtually no effect on electricity consumption that year. In 2008 a study of Indiana data before and after that state adopted DST in 2006 found that DST had increased residential electricity usage by up to four percent (caused by extra afternoon cooling and morning heating). Overcall added cost to the state’s household was estimated at $9 million.
In 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy concluded that the 2007 U.S. expansion of DST (to the current schedule) had saved all of one-half of one percent of electricity usage. Bureaucrats, it seems, never learn.
For 35 years the federal government has been chasing this chimera of reduced electricity usage (presumably to reduce the use of nasty old coal to produce it), with the only results being the semi-annual irritation of millions of citizens, children going to school in the dark, hens taking weeks to adjust their egg laying, and some computers and electronic equipment that don’t adjust automatically. There is some evidence that auto accidents increase and productivity decreases during the spring and fall transitions.
Who likes Daylight Saving Time? Some merchants, especially those in shopping centers that are open until 9 p.m. Golfers and those who long for after-dinner touch football games or pick-up soccer matches like it.
The costs far outweigh whatever benefits there are, so what’s to be done about it? Recently, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev concluded that DST is just not worth, so he’s ordered it abandoned across all nine (until recently, 11) of Russia’s time zones. Let us follow Russia’s example and get rid of it. Alas, given the nature of politics, Congress may have to bend some to the lobbying of merchant and golfer groups so, as a fall-back position, cut DST down to size, say, from May 15-September 15.
Mr. Hannaford lives in California, but most of his business is done in the Eastern time zone, so he wears a wristwatch with two time settings on it.