The Pros and Cons (or costs) around Daylight Saving Time changes

Yesterday, the Detroit Free Press presented two views on the changes to the schedule on daylight saving time in 2007: one that it saves energy and another that it doesn’t.  These read like a Point-Counterpoint discussion on ABC News, and my unscientific review of articles yesterday points to a majority of opinion that DST doesn’t save much if any energy or money.  In fact, it looks like it increases costs for businesses and headaches for IT Pros and systems administrators.

[Note: I wrote this article on Sunday after verifying that in fact the world continued to spin on its axis after the clocks all moved forward in the US and Canada.  Just posting it now prior to heading off to a working lunch meeting in a different building on campus.] 

The first is an article is by U.S. Representative Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph), who represents Michigan’s 6th Congressional District (  Along with Ed Markey (D-Mass.), representative Upton was one of the two authors of the extension to daylight saving time (which varies with calendars rather than a standard four week extension as Upton describes) in the US Department of Energy’s Energy Policy Act of 2005

“We based the extension on sound science — closely examining the Department of the Navy’s sun tables to determine that a four-week extension would maximize our nation’s energy savings.

“Fast forward to today. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy estimates that the cumulative benefit of the four-week extension through 2020 will be a saving of approximately $4.4 billion and a reduction of carbon emissions by 10.8 million metric tons, cutting harmful greenhouse gases.

“Not only is extending daylight saving time an issue of conservation, it is also one of safety. Studies by a leading auto safety group have shown that extending daylight saving will save dozens of lives on our nation’s roads each year. Most accidents occur at dusk, but with the extended DST, our kids will have returned home from school and many folks will have completed their evening commute by sundown.”

The Free Press editorial, “Extended daylight saving time should be reset — it doesn’t save energy”rebuts that the first year with the new DST rules doesn’t save energy… but brings additional headaches…

“What it will do, for the next month or so, is keep sending kids out in the dark to wait for the school bus, make them less alert for the first hour of class and, as evening daylight keeps getting longer, less inclined to come inside to do homework or study.

“Farmers don’t like it much, nor do early morning exercisers and all those people who never seem to really wake up until daylight is coming in through the windows. The later switch in the fall also means little trick-or-treaters miss the fun of setting out on Halloween in the dark.”

Speaking of rug rats in search of sugary treats (we have two at home)… as I mentioned in “What do candy, Microsoft products and Congress have in common?” the change was of potential interest to one industry in particular: candy manufacturers, who reportedly lobbied for an extension to DST: this sunny extension will allow trick-or-treaters to scream “trick-or-treat” and collect candy for an additional hour.

Last fall, I saw a reference to a preliminary study for the California Energy Commission that showed savings during peak hours of 3.4 percent in March and 2.8 percent in November in 2007.  But again that seems to be a minority view: as I noted in a post last week, more recent analysis of the changes in Indiana concluded that DST doesn’t necessarily save energy (as noted here on NPR radio’s site).  The study in the report found that overall, Indiana households spent on average about $3.73 per household per year more on energy due to daylight saving time:…

“Against intuition and contrary to the entire point of government policy, the study found that daylight saving time resulted in an $8.6 million increase in spending on residential electricity.”

Also, I have not seen any follow up from the Dept. of Energy (DOE): as you may recall, in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Congress retained the right to revert daylight saving time to its previous schedule as soon as the DOE had completed its assessment of the change in 2007.  I have only read passing commentary from the DOE, such as that noted in this link...

“Megan Barnett, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Energy, said the jury still is out on the exact savings nationwide of extending DST.  “We did a preliminary analysis, based on decades-old information, that indicates a very small, or fractional amount, of energy savings,” she said.

My personal suggestion? 

Leave the 2007 DST change as it is.  Live with the new DST rules in the US and Canada. Don’t flip-flop with calendar changes. 

Or if you’re going to make a move to the entry and exit dates on DST, just make one final move and leave it at that.

Countries should closely consider the other incremental costs associated with such changes — in addition to the potential for energy savings — lest they discover after the fact that a “simple time zone change” or “small modified entry/exit date to their observance of DST” impacts more broad than within their own boarders.  Apparently Venezuela had that experience and found that making a sudden change so quickly or with little impact to industry is difficult, having delayed the move to a new time zone not once but six or seven times by my count. 

And if you are going to make a change, ensure that the DOE, Congress — or some government agency (including the venerable DOE, where the change originated before being signed into law) — advertises and promotes the change well in advance as we have seen with the transition to digital TV in the States.

None of this accounts for the changes consumers and professionals must make in their homes and in their businesses. In the technology industry, these changes are cause for many impacts in several areas, from updating computers and business systems to adjusting clocks and devices that are not able to keep up with these changes.

More on how we’re dealing with these changes later this week.  Now, on to lunch.

Tags: Microsoft, Indiana, Matthew Kotchen, Daylight Saving Time, Daylight Savings Time, RSS,DST. 3,530,000; 6,950,000; 649,000+

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