Let's end the Daylight Saving Time experiment

Friday, March 9, 2007

Get ready for the semi-annual hassle, with a twist.

This year -- and from now own, barring new congressional edicts -- Daylight Saving Time arrives the second Sunday in March, instead of the old day of the first Sunday in April.

You know the argument -- setting our clocks forward will save energy.

"For every single day that we extend daylight-saving time, we would save the energy equivalent of 100,000 barrels of oil," contended U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, a Republican from Michigan who pushed the latest change.

Those figures go back to the Nixon administration, which extended Daylight Saving Time to eight months in 1973 in response to the OPEC oil embargo.

Saving energy has always been the main selling point for tampering with time -- in fact Benjamin Franklin's main point in proposing it in 1784 was to save candles.

But does it?

According to a U.S. Department of Energy study conducted last year, the latest move will probably save very little energy, far less than 1 percent of the nation's annual energy consumption.

The California Energy Commission agrees, pointing out that few of us depend on candles anymore, and instead turn on things like computers, big-screen TVs, modems and satellite dishes.

And, others point out, what do Americans do with the extra hour? We certainly don't go home and save energy.

Instead, we drive to the store, go golfing, take the motorcycle for a spin, fire up the lawn mower or leaf blower -- generally find new ways to burn energy and spend money.

The true savings of Daylight Saving Time would surely be pushed into negative territory if we took expensive Information Technology time into account, as technicians adjust by hand thousands of computers and other electronic devices not programmed for the new schedule.

And, lost productivity Monday, especially among those who are prone to seasonal affective disorder, or wintertime depression, would quickly add up, if it were taken into account.

For those involved in agriculture, Daylight Saving Time can create real hardships, as farmers who need parts late in the day may find shops closed -- although most implement dealers have learned to be more than accommodating to their customers.

It appears to us, Benjamin Franklin's most enduring experiment has failed. Supposed benefits are outweighed by real costs and inconveniences.

Let's do away with Daylight Saving Time, and allow individual businesses and institutions to adjust their seasonal hours as they see fit.

But it won't happen by Sunday. For this year, at least, don't forget to set your clocks ahead one hour before going to bed Saturday night.

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