Spring Forward to Those Unintended Consequences

By March 10, 2007Energy

We won’t add much to the already voluminous coverage of the new start to Daily Savings Time, advanced three weeks thanks to the 2005 enactment of the Energy Policy Act. Slate had a good “Explainer” column two years ago explaining the theory that the time-shifting would save an estimated $180 million. Humans tend to be active in the evening, there will be more natural light in the evening, so fewer electric lights will shine. Logical enough in theory, we suppose.

On the other hand, the move has already cost businesses whose computers required software patches and other adjustments. (CNET stories here and here.) We wouldn’t be surprised if the employee hours and lost productivity exceded $180 million worth.

We therefore make the following suggestion in the spirit of serious inquiry (and since the NAM strongly supported passage of the Energy Policy Act in its entirety.) Sec. 110, subsection (c) of the Daylight Savings Act included a study requirement for the Department of Energy: “Not later than 9 months after the effective date stated in subsection (b), the Secretary shall report to Congress on the impact of this section on energy consumption in the United States.”

So let’s include the extra costs expended in anticipating the time-shift in the study’s calculations of energy consumption, eh? Things like burning the midnight oil to install the patches, etc. Consider, as well, whether they’re one-time costs.

Finally, we note that subsection (d) includes a “Sorry, Never Mind!” provision: “(d) Right to Revert- Congress retains the right to revert the Daylight Saving Time back to the 2005 time schedules once the Department study is complete.”

Perhaps it would be prudent to start working on those computer patches now.