Remains of the Daylight

|

Thanks to a provision in last year's energy bill, we all sprung forward three weeks early this year. According to the Energy Department, we did so to conserve energy. How'd that work out?

Other than forcing millions of drowsy American workers and school children into the dark, wintry weather three weeks early, the move appears to have had little impact on power usage.

"We haven't seen any measurable impact," said Jason Cuevas, spokesman for Southern Co., one of the nation's largest power companies, echoing comments from several large utilities.

As Reason subscribers already know, Berkeley doctoral candidates Ryan Kellogg and Hendrik Wolff predicted as much. Bottom line: People do indeed use less energy during sun-filled evenings. Problem is, they more than make up for it during cold, dark mornings.   

NEXT: "Writing for Goldwater and being a member of SDS at the same time was very interesting"

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Anyone else been completely dazed and hungover for weeks since this happened? More so than usual. What a bad idea.

  2. And apparently nobody considered the millions it cost American businesses to change all there time sensitive servers to accomadate the change.

  3. Yup, going from getting up with the sun back to getting up in the dark sucks.

  4. Love the extra daylight after work. Wish they would just change the clock permanently.

  5. Anyone else been completely dazed and hungover for weeks since this happened? More so than usual.

    So THAT’S why! And, here I thought it was my unhealthy lifestyle.

  6. Love the extra daylight after work. Wish they would just change the clock permanently.

    Heck, I wish they’d move it forward two or three hours. I have absolutely no use for sunlight before 8 AM.

  7. I’m with Creech. DST all year, baby!

  8. Creech | April 5, 2007, 11:10am | #
    Love the extra daylight after work. Wish they would just change the clock permanently.

    That would mean sunrises in the dead of winter in Maine the sunrise would be at about 8:15am for a couple of weeks. No thanks.

  9. Someone profited by this. Who?

  10. “blogimi Dei | April 5, 2007, 11:22am | #
    Someone profited by this. Who?”

    Big Timex, of course.

  11. I got out of Indiana just in time. Moved to AZ where I still don’t have to worry about any of this BS.

    Nick

  12. Someone profited by this. Who?

    Golf courses, perhaps. It’s this yet another plot by big golf?

  13. Let’s compromise. This fall, we fall back a half hour and leave it at that.

  14. forcing millions of drowsy American workers and school children into the dark, wintry weather three weeks early

    Huh?

    You mean for those three weeks, they’d have been happily at home?

    For me at least, it meant that I actually got home from work with a little daylight left in which to do things three weeks early. I’m pretty much in favor of full-time daylight savings time.

  15. I’ve heard that the weather during those three weeks was unseasonably cold, compared to last year, making energy usage comparisons problematic.

  16. And apparently nobody considered the millions it cost American businesses to change all there time sensitive servers to accomadate the change.

    I can vouch for that: Our company had to waste around 250,000 USD to have various vendors set up the new changes. That money could have been better spent somewhere else instead of wasted due to the wet dream of some environmentally “friendly” politician.

  17. This policy has been in effect, what, a few weeks? Might be a little early to judge its effects, don’t you think?

    Or perhaps this is just an illustration of Reason’s pathological need to declare any and every government policy a failure?

  18. I agree with the sentiment of having permanent daylight savings time.

    Actually, I think we have this whole 8-5 work day thing all wrong, most work (at least office work) should be done at night, leaving the daytime to either sleep (for those who want to) or play…

  19. Come on America, join us in Arizona on the dark side! Give up daylight savings time.

    Added bonus: not having to learn to reset all those irritating little appliance clocks

  20. By the way, to SmartGuy, if the theory of daylight savings time is correct, you should see its effects immediately, the next day. This is not a case of long, slow behavior changes or changes dues to modified incentives. If the theory about DST is correct, and you change time on a Sunday, then Monday’s power usage should be lower than the last Monday’s.

  21. This policy has been in effect, what, a few weeks? Might be a little early to judge its effects, don’t you think?

    Well, Smarty, the change was to move the “spring forward” up a few weeks, so all we are talking about is the effect this change had during those few weeks. So I would say we have all the data we will ever have to judge its effects.

  22. Where’s the libertarian spirit? Having the time of day dictated by the guvernmint? although I ostensibily get to work an hour late, I choose to believe that I arrived an hour early, and to make up for that I depart 2 hours early šŸ˜‰ by using DST (dan saving time) I’m also able to only work 3 days a week

  23. SmartGuy, you may want to change your handle if you are going to ask questions like that.

  24. I thought it had something to do with beer consumption and “Big BBQ.”

  25. “although I ostensibily get to work an hour late”

    you sneak through the side entrance, that way lumburgh won’t see you.

    you then space out for the next few hours. You do that my sorta staring at the wall – so it looks like you’re working. You do that again for an hour or so after lunch…

  26. This policy has been in effect, what, a few weeks? Might be a little early to judge its effects, don’t you think?

    Uhm, interesting perspective. Daylight savings time was normally slated to take place three weeks later. Therefore, the effects have to show up in that three week window between the new DLST, and the old DSLT, period. We don’t watch the energy usage for fifteen months and look for a change. The effect must, MUST be immediate and obvious. If it’s not, then we just wasted tens of thousands of hours on frustrating IT work trying to make everyone’s Outlook calendar match up to the correct time.

  27. “And apparently nobody considered the millions it cost American businesses to change all there time sensitive servers to accomadate the change.”

    Not here.
    By god, we’ve got cash flow issues, and the boss will be damned if he’s going to foot the bill to upgrade the servers.

    So we were all just told to mentally add an hour to the clocks sitting in our task trays.

  28. Smart Guy Peter McHollis:

    Failing the Fancy Ketchup Test with style and aplomb.

  29. Not here.
    By god, we’ve got cash flow issues, and the boss will be damned if he’s going to foot the bill to upgrade the servers.

    So we were all just told to mentally add an hour to the clocks sitting in our task trays.

    Mediageek, I wanna work for your outfit. We spent the time and the money. And let me tell you, that was an entire miserable week of my life that I’ll never get back. Several times along the way I was tempted to say “Just mentally add an hour to your damned clocks and quit bothering me.”

  30. Well, Smarty, the change was to move the “spring forward” up a few weeks, so all we are talking about is the effect this change had during those few weeks. So I would say we have all the data we will ever have to judge its effects.

    Actually, those 3 weeks will occur every year from now on. Right?

    Uhm, interesting perspective. Daylight savings time was normally slated to take place three weeks later. Therefore, the effects have to show up in that three week window between the new DLST, and the old DSLT, period. We don’t watch the energy usage for fifteen months and look for a change. The effect must, MUST be immediate and obvious. If it’s not, then we just wasted tens of thousands of hours on frustrating IT work trying to make everyone’s Outlook calendar match up to the correct time.

    Not really, because, as Joe pointed out, there are more factors determining energy use than just the clocks. Say, for instance, that during those three weeks last year the weather was unseasonably warm but this year it was cold. Thus one could not determine from an increased energy use this year that the DST policy had backfired. To make a proper determination of the change’s effectiveness we will need years of data about that 3-week period from year to year.

  31. One of my favorite observations from the ’80s BBC comedy series “Yes, Minister” was The Politician’s Syllogism: Something must be done. This is something. Therefore, we must do it.

    But this stupid time change failed to even meet the first part of the construct!

  32. Come on guys. Joe and SmartGuy and Ethan are right. We need more time. It’s totally worth the millions of dollars that were spent on IT fixes if one day, some untold number of years in the future, we might realize some marginal, at best, favorable change in energy usage. Of course, if the favorable change never occurs, I’m sure it will be due to climate change, and not a failure of this policy.

  33. Anyone who opposes more sunlight after work is either insane or an idiot. Where I live, its not dark until 8PM! Oh glorious DST, I salute you!!

  34. Of course, the other side of Joe’s argument is that if there is a favorable change when looking at a 3-year average or something, how will we know it was due to this policy and not the reduced usage of incandescent light bulbs?

  35. “It’s totally worth the millions of dollars that were spent on IT fixes” one time “if one day, some untold number of years in the future, we might realize some marginal, at best, favorable change in energy usage” every year thereafter.

    I know this was supposed to be a sarcastic rebuttal based on an absurd description of the situation, but you seem to have written a true and reasonable statement, entirely by accident.

    “Of course, the other side of Joe’s argument is that if there is a favorable change when looking at a 3-year average or something, how will we know it was due to this policy and not the reduced usage of incandescent light bulbs?”

    Uh, some rather elementary statistical and economic analysis?

  36. I have absolutely no use for sunlight before 8 AM.

    Same here. I’m basically sleepwalking until 10 or 11 every morning – who cares if it’s light out then?

  37. I don’t give a crap, because my goal in life is to make DST universal. I’m with the Natural Light Party.

  38. “Uh, some rather elementary statistical and economic analysis?”

    DEMAND KURV! KORRELASHUN ISN’T KAUSASHUN! DEMAND KURV! DEMAND KURV!

  39. Uh, some rather elementary statistical and economic analysis?

    Why, no, joe, I’d rather just make up some numbers to support my position. That’s what everyone else does, anyway.

  40. I reset only my manual clocks. Devices programmed to change automatically I left alone, because I figured it was better to have them on unofficial time for 3 weeks than to have to change them twice manually.

    Changing the clocks twice a year is such a crock. Pick one time, I don’t care what it is, and stay with it year round. Astonomically, zoned solar time is a little more esthetically pleasing than DST, but it’s all arbitrary. It’s the changing that’s a nuisance and produces no benefit I can see.

    It’s like adding days to July & August so we can have a longer summer. How about adding a zero to all the currency so we can have 10 times the money? Or declaring same sex couples spouses? Or Pluto a planet?

    We did have one year with winter DST during the Arab oil crisis.

  41. The okapi is maybe the third or fourth coolest animal on the planet. Behind great apes and falcons, and maybe elephants. But still. Rock on okapi. Rock on.

  42. DST is rediculous. Just pick a time and stay with it. People will use the same amount of energy regardless. Trust me, messing with a bodies sleeping patterns does not make things more effcient. Stupid ivory tower eggheads!!

  43. Come on guys. Joe and SmartGuy and Ethan are right. We need more time. It’s totally worth the millions of dollars that were spent on IT fixes if one day, some untold number of years in the future, we might realize some marginal, at best, favorable change in energy usage. Of course, if the favorable change never occurs, I’m sure it will be due to climate change, and not a failure of this policy.

    Mike, I think you do violence to my words. I never said that the policy was a failure (I actually suspect that it will have little effect, positive or negative) or that it will take “untold years” to find the answer. I simply pointed out that no conclusions can be made about the policy’s efficacy based on the first year alone. And I am right.

  44. L.I.T.,

    Exactly. Freeze everything where it is right now, and give me perpetual daylight savings time or give me dearth! Yes, dearth!

  45. Joe,

    What is the scientific basis for saying people will use less energy if they wake up in the dark and go to sleep in less dark? I guarantee you, if I am up at 6 am, I will not be in bed until 10pm regardless of whether its light or not. I try and get between 6.5 and 7.5 hours of sleep every night and don’t change my schedule because its light or dark. I don’t know how some brilliant washington lobbyist figures I’m using less energy just because it stays light later in the day?

  46. Ethan,

    You can standardise efficacy of this policy by by temperature and if they haven’t done so, either its a failure and they don’t want to admit it or they’re poor scientists and are too lazy to figure out if screwing with peoples lives helped anyone.

  47. The extra evening daylight helps traffic flow in Los Angeles. At least that’s my observation. The evening’s commuter congestion is always worse than the morning’s. I’m not sure why that it is. It feels like more people drive home from work than drive to work, though that’s impossible. My guess is that people are better drivers in the morning than in the evening, even when its dark during the morning commute. The extra evening light mitigates some of the difference.

  48. jkii:

    The evening commute is worse than the morning commute because some percentage of people will oversleep or find it hard to drag their ass out of bed in the AM, where-as everyone leaves work as soon as they can.

  49. I don’t think so Okapi. Showing up late for work is more taboo than sneaking out early. Besides, the evening LA commuter jam peaks at about 18:30, not at 16:30. Office and factory workers people breed like fruit flies, there’s no other plausible explanation.

  50. Kinda reminds me of the minimum wage. If 1 incremental increase is good why not go for 3. Let’s have 3 extra hours of daylight in the evening. Play Little League no lights, be able to see coming from the bar at closing time.. Why stop with 3, maybe 4 is better or even 5 ? Who knows, maybe 23 is the right number.

  51. Why have DST at all? Everyone who wants the “extra hour of sunlight”* should just get up and go to work an hour earlier.

    *(You know these are the same people who love filing income tax because they “get money back”)

  52. Not really, because, as Joe pointed out, there are more factors determining energy use than just the clocks. Say, for instance, that during those three weeks last year the weather was unseasonably warm but this year it was cold.

    First off, I don’t deny that, second off, that doesn’t change my argument. In fact, it makes the larger point that it was probably a useless change. If we’re going to fight global warming and move toward this so-called “energy independence”, and we have to wait for years– maybe even decades worth of three-week-chunks of data- the savings, if any occurred at all, are probably going to be so miniscule as to be statistically insignificant.

    Point being that if all it took was a slight (and I mean slight) shift in weather to completely nullify the effect, could there be a better arugment to have just left it alone? And besides, try as you might, the whole ‘colder weather’ thing is counter to what the government sold us. To wit:

    One of the biggest reasons we change our clocks to Daylight Saving Time (DST) is that it saves energy. Energy use and the demand for electricity for lighting our homes is directly connected to when we go to bed and when we get up. Bedtime for most of us is late evening through the year. When we go to bed, we turn off the lights and TV.

    In the average home, 25 percent of all the electricity we use is for lighting and small appliances, such as TVs, VCRs and stereos. A good percentage of energy consumed by lighting and appliances occurs in the evening when families are home. By moving the clock ahead one hour, we can cut the amount of electricity we consume each day.

    So at some point, someone’s gotta call bullshit. Either it saves energy in a clear and demonstrable manner (as implied above) or it doesn’t. If we have some unseasonably cold weather causing higher heating usage(curse you global warming!!!) and the savings become undetectable, then maybe the way to save energy would be to…warm…the planet… a bit and we’d have done more for saving electricity than resetting our clocks ever could, no?

  53. “Either it saves energy in a clear and demonstrable manner (as implied above) or it doesn’t.”

    You are confusing retail electrical energy consumption with wholesale electrical energy production. If you’re washing dishes after dinner or taking a shower in the morning, turn the all darned the lights on if you want. The inductive loads caused by potable water and wastewater pumping plants need to be balanced by capacitive loads to maintain an optimal power factor. If you don’t turn on the lights, the nearest electrical substation will automatically engage capacitor banks and uselessly release the energy through heat.

  54. First off, I don’t deny that, second off, that doesn’t change my argument. In fact, it makes the larger point that it was probably a useless change. If we’re going to fight global warming and move toward this so-called “energy independence”, and we have to wait for years– maybe even decades worth of three-week-chunks of data- the savings, if any occurred at all, are probably going to be so miniscule as to be statistically insignificant.

    I don’t know about decades, but the fact remains that we need to wait to be able to draw a warranted conclusion about how worthwhile the policy change was. My example of temperature changes from one year to the next was but one example of the many factors involved; in other words, I am not saying that temperature fluxuations ALONE obscured any effect of the policy. For instance, the change this year kind of took people by surprise–it was not widely reported until it was about time to make the change. Perhaps in the years to come people will plan ahead and, let’s say, purchase less wood and oil (or whatever) in the months leading up to the change (or perhaps they will make big plans to go on long trips in the evenings and or perhaps they will start buying more of products that take a lot of energy to produce and actually use more energy–the point is we don’t know yet). Or perhaps these sorts of things will balance each other out and the mere fact that those among us who go to bed at 8 p.m. will never turn on the lights in their homes in the evenings and the result will be a savings. The point is that we don’t know how people will react to the change once the change becomes the norm (incidentally, the government doesn’t really know either, and history is replete with instances of government policy leading to unintended consequences, so the government is taking a chance).

    I suspect, along with you, that the policy change will not have much of an impact, but I do not equate a suspicion with knowledge. If the policy does end up saving a bit each year, then the money spent this year in updating computers (by people who would have spend that time just sitting around up in the Info Tech office anyway) will be worth it.

    Your quotation of “what the government sold us” does not say that the clocks are the only factor governing energy use, but rather that the two are connected. The reasoning is that since some daylight savings has worked to reduce energy use, a little more daylight savings will reduce energy use a little more. Whether this is true only time will tell.

  55. I have to admit, I’m impressed with the DST-change defense. “You can’t prove that it’s a bad idea with something as meaningless as the evidence after the first year – you need many years of statistical evidence to know it’s a bad idea!” is just such an excellent justification for a policy.

    Admittedly, I love DST. I work 9-to-6, so I don’t have the going-to-work-in-the-dark problem, and during DST, I don’t drive home in the dark. I’d love DST all year. However, I’m aware that my circumstance is a little different from the vast bulk of people.

    And yeah, I was one of those people patching servers…

  56. we need to wait to be able to draw a warranted conclusion

    Only if you think that this three-week period would give different results that we got the last time we moved DST forward. It used to begin on the last Sunday in April — what did we learn when it was moved to the first Sunday? Where’s all that data?

    During WW2 and for a time afterwards we were on ‘war time’, effectively year-round DST. Was no data gathered then or since?

    Oops, I forgot history! Am I doomed?

  57. I have to admit, I’m impressed with the DST-change defense. “You can’t prove that it’s a bad idea with something as meaningless as the evidence after the first year – you need many years of statistical evidence to know it’s a bad idea!” is just such an excellent justification for a policy.

    It’s true that those who wish to defend the policy would love such a line of reasoning; however, that doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with the reasoning. In fact, there isn’t–in this case. If your words were directed at me, I must point out that I was not defending the policy–I have no stake in what the DST policy is–but was merely pointing out that it is too soon to conclude with anything resembling confidence that the idea was a bad idea.

    It may be stunning to some (I am not singling you out), but sometimes withholding one’s assent or dissent is the best approach. You don’t have to have an immediate opinion about everything.

  58. Only if you think that this three-week period would give different results that we got the last time we moved DST forward. It used to begin on the last Sunday in April — what did we learn when it was moved to the first Sunday? Where’s all that data?
    …During WW2 and for a time afterwards we were on ‘war time’, effectively year-round DST. Was no data gathered then or since?

    I think you need to reread the last 2 sentences of my 1:56 post. The government based its prediction that this change would reduce energy use based on (their reading of) history. Whether they are correct that history is correctly applied to this particular case only time will tell. After all, the world of 2007 differs in certain respects from the world of the 1940s.

  59. Of course, this whole debate (including everything I have said) rests upon the supposition that it is the government’s job to tell us what time it is. I am not sure I believe that.

  60. Not only is changing bad, but changing the changing is even worse. Changing the date of changing the time meant that even the automatic devices programmed to reduce the work of changing the time were defeated — twice.

  61. It may be stunning to some (I am not singling you out), but sometimes withholding one’s assent or dissent is the best approach. You don’t have to have an immediate opinion about everything.

    Sorry, but you have the point backwards. It is entirely proper to point out that a change forced upon us hasn’t lived up to its billing. Considering the expense and disruption involved, the policy requires more to justify it that “well, you can’t be absolutely sure it’s a bad idea yet“. It’s a matter of the burden of proof, which properly lies on those suggesting and defending a new policy.

  62. But if they have it this way a few years and devices are so programmed, then changing it again (for instance, by changing the dates back) would be worse than leaving it this way.

  63. Nobody seems to have mentioned an obvious point. Wouldn’t it be easier to get businesses to change their business hours, instead of having everyone change their clocks? How many places already have extended hours of business? The only real holdouts are the public schools and the government offices…

  64. Sorry, but you have the point backwards. It is entirely proper to point out that a change forced upon us hasn’t lived up to its billing. Considering the expense and disruption involved, the policy requires more to justify it that “well, you can’t be absolutely sure it’s a bad idea yet”. It’s a matter of the burden of proof, which properly lies on those suggesting and defending a new policy.

    Eric, I agree that the policy would need more to justify it. But I wasn’t trying to justify the policy. I was merely pointing out that right now the evidence does not warrant a conclusion either way. I don’t see how it is “backwards” to require that evidence precede conclusion. The burden of proof point seems irrelevant: both sides have a burden. Just because it is the government suggesting a poicy doesn’t remove the burden of its critics to actually back up their criticisms will the proper evidence. By your logic, any criticism of government policy is warranted.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.