Turning Up the Heat
As part of the energy bill, Congress is barreling ahead with a plan to extend Daylight Saving Time for a month, despite protests from the airlines, which argue that the switch would cost millions and put their international schedules out of whack. The change would also generate lots of software updates, a further hidden cost.
The source of this bright idea is, not surprisingly, the ever-meddlesome Ed Markey, who calls the bill "a huge victory for sunshine lovers." As a certified sunshine lover, I'd say it looks more like Massachusetts's revenge on Texas (and the rest of the Sunbelt) for George Bush's victory over John Kerry. There are some places--and Dallas is definitely one of them--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 sitting outside.
Springing forward has its trade-offs. When you set your clocks forward, you exchange morning daylight for a later sunset. Later sunsets tend to get people out of the house more in the evenings, which could lead to an increase in driving (and gasoline use) and a reduction in the use of household appliances. And if daylight time extended too far into the winter, more people would wake up before sunrise and turn on the lights. Government research from the 1970s suggests that extended daylight-saving time produces a modest but significant energy savings of about 1 percent. A British experiment with extended daylight time in the late 1960s failed to produce much corroborating evidence.
Oddly missed even in fairly thorough accounts is any consideration of the extension's most obvious cost: More demand for energy-eating air conditioning in the fast-growing, very hot Sunbelt. A lot more people live down here than did back during the Nixon administration.