Here comes Daylight Savings Time once again. Sunday, November 6th,2011 at 2a.m. we in the United States with the exception of Hawaii and parts of Arizona will be turning our clocks back one hour. This institution of sorts has led most to hail Daylight Savings Time at this time of year due to the extra hour of sleep. In the Spring, of course, those cheers usually turn into jeers when you have to lose that elusive hour of sleep. Did anybody ever wonder where all of this came from? Perhaps, it is necessary to give a little history on the subject.
Clocks will go back for potentially the last time in Great Britain this weekend. Scotland has yet to agree to the change. A decision that will give them one more hour of darkness in the morning.
We have come a long way since entomologist and astronomer George Vernon Hudson originally suggested Daylight Savings Time in 1895. Mr. Hudson was a shift worker that enjoyed collecting insects in his leisure time and thus valued after hours daylight. Hmm, if you don’t like time as it is measured because it does not suit your individual life…just change it. Interesting, yet incredibly selfish. When William Willett (interestingly enough the great-great grandfather of Chris Martin – lead singer for Coldplay) independently proposed British Summer Time in 1907, he proposed that increasing afternoon sunlight hours would raise opportunities for outdoor leisure activities, would increase worker sunlit leisure time, prevent children from going to school in the dark, and waste less early morning daylight. The owner of Willett Building Services was under the opinion that people were wasting their early summer mornings.
- When World War I started, the rantings of Willett and Hudson were replaced as the main proponents for DST by the need to save coal. This also marked the entry of the United States into World War I. From this point on in history, the main argument for or against DST has resided within the energy sector, with public safety, and economic issues occasionally thrown in to remove your focus off of the main argument. Proponents of DST consistently say that it saves electricity. However, there have been consistent studies that said there have either been no significant savings or an actual increase in electricity usage. Check out this short list;
- The National Bureau of Standards review of the U.S. Department of Transportation study which claimed DST would save energy found no significant savings. (1976)
- Western Australia during the summer of 2006-2007 energy consumption increased by 0.6%
- In 2007, a study was conducted in Osaka, Japan that proposed a reduction of household energy consumption through cold and hot days. Once the simulation was run, the offset result was an increase in energy consumption of 0.13%
- A 2007 study in California, United States found little or no energy savings from DST.
- A 2007 study in Great Britain estimated a 2% increase in daily electrical consumption during the winter daylight savings period.
- A 2008 study examined billing data in Indiana before and after it adopted DST in 2006, and concluded that DST increased overall residential electricity consumption by 1% to 4%, due mostly to extra afternoon cooling and extra morning heating; the main increases came in the fall. The overall annual cost of DST to Indiana households was estimated to be $9 million, with an additional $1.7–5.5 million for social costs due to increased pollution.
- The United States Department of Energy concluded in a 2008 report that the 2007 U.S. extension of DST saved 0.5% of electricity usage during the extended period. This report analyzed only the extension, not the full eight months of daylight saving, and did not examine the use of heating fuels.
- Several studies have suggested that DST increases motor fuel consumption.The 2008 DOE report found no significant increase in motor gasoline consumption due to the 2007 U.S. extension of DST.
Socially then, we are arguing about who wants to get up when it is dark, who wants to not waste their summer mornings, and who just wants an extra hour of sleep one time a year. This is a argument of convenience. Economically speaking, we are arguing about implied energy savings that (through the above studies) obviously do not exist, extra retail selling hours, the adverse affect on farmers, and other more niche businesses such as movie theaters. Within the realm of public safety, it seems that there is a potential slight benefit to DST. There have also been considerable studies on the effects of DST on a persons health in which you will find an unhealthy edge.
Looking at all these points in the above paragraph…it makes me wonder. There are just too many variables that can contribute to any of these areas to convince me that it is only DST that has either a strict adverse or favorable overall affect. These studies are like saying (a fictitious example) that in Nevada in 2011 the average mean temperature was 2% lower than last year due to a sudden increase in the sale of red shoes in the state. It’s just silly. This leads us right back to the energy argument. Of course, there are variables here as well such as geographical location and climate, but the general overall end result is either no change or an increase in energy usage. What does this translate to? A higher load on our energy complex? Give me a break. A higher cost to the people who already are having a hard enough time in a down economy? Yes. A higher profit due to increased usage going to Utility companies? Consider how much a 0.5% to 4% increase in overall energy consumption would translate into monetary profit for the utility companies. Consider also how often you actually see a decrease in energy rates to the public.
So, is the DST argument a social issue or is it a matter of profit? You decide.
~ Erik Sudberg