DOT Did Do That Daylight Saving Time Study

The 2005 Energy Policy Act included a provision requiring a study of the energy savings from extending Daylight Saving Time, the extra four weeks of DST pushed through by Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA). (See Section 110, PL 109-05858. We’ve put the provision’s language in the extended entry below.)

Missing its deadline by more than 10 months, the Department of Transportation finally, quietly issued the report last October. Any news about the findings disappeared in the middle of the election season. Here it is: Impact of Extended Daylight Saving Time on National Energy Consumption.” The key findings:

 The total electricity savings of Extended Daylight Saving Time were about 1.3 Tera Watt-hour (TWh). This corresponds to 0.5 percent per each day of Extended Daylight Saving Time, or 0.03 percent of electricity consumption over the year. In reference, the total 2007 electricity consumption in the United States was 3,900 TWh.
• In terms of national primary energy consumption, the electricity savings translate to a reduction of 17 Trillion Btu (TBtu) over the spring and fall Extended Daylight Saving Time periods, or roughly 0.02 percent of total U.S. energy consumption during 2007 of 101,000 TBtu.
• During Extended Daylight Saving Time, electricity savings generally occurred over a three- to five-hour period in the evening with small increases in usage during the early-morning hours. On a daily percentage basis, electricity savings were slightly greater during the March (spring) extension of Extended Daylight Saving Time than the November (fall) extension. On a regional basis, some southern portions of the United States exhibited slightly smaller impacts of Extended Daylight Saving Time on energy savings compared to the northern regions, a result possibly due to a small, offsetting increase in household air conditioning usage.
• Changes in national traffic volume and motor gasoline consumption for passenger vehicles in 2007 were determined to be statistically insignificant and therefore, could not be attributed to Extended Daylight Saving Time.

Our concern is that these results will empower/enable/encourage the economic meddlers to continue their Deus ex machining of the economy. Rep. Markey might even try to promote an outlandish, expensive cap-and-trade program to restructure America’s economy and society.

That said, the study looks sound enough to this layman. The analysts examined real-world patterns and made some reasonable assumptions. They also followed the statute’s very limited scope for the study, i.e., no cost-benefit analysis. The exceptions are important:

[This] study did not include an economic analysis of EDST, which compares the relative costs and outcomes, such as cost-benefit or cost-effectiveness. Section 110 of EPAct 2005 directed the Department of Energy to focus only on the impact of EDST on “energy consumption in the United States.” (42 U.S.C. 260a note)

Finally, this study did not analyze any non-energy impacts that might result from EDST, as the focus of Section 110 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 is only on energy consumption. Potential non-energy impacts include children traveling to school during darkness, traffic accident rates, crime rates, electronics changeover to new EDST dates, airline schedule changes, and agricultural work scheduling.

One of the most powerful arguments against extended Daylight Saving Time is “My children will have to go to school in the dark.” That issue remains unexamined, as does whether more people died in car accidents thanks to government changing the clocks.

Congressman Markey and his cosponsor, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) were delighted with the belated DOT report.

“This is one of the few times in life when we can actually prove the old adage that time is money,” said Markey. “Government analysis has proven that extra sunshine provides more than just smiles. Daylight Saving Time not only saves consumers money, but also curbs the nation’s energy consumption, while reducing carbon emissions that lead to global warming.”

According to the law, now that the report has been released Congress can vote to reverse the change. Doubtful. But think how much more energy eight weeks could save!

(a) AMENDMENT.—Section 3(a) of the Uniform Time Act of 1966
(15 U.S.C. 260a(a)) is amended—
(1) by striking ‘‘first Sunday of April’’ and inserting ‘‘second
Sunday of March’’; and
(2) by striking ‘‘last Sunday of October’’ and inserting ‘‘first
Sunday of November’’.
(b) EFFECTIVE DATE.—Subsection (a) shall take effect 1 year
after the date of enactment of this Act or March 1, 2007, whichever
is later.
(c) REPORT TO CONGRESS.—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.
(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.

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