Now that spring has come we Americans have mostly moved our clocks forward with the change to Daylight Savings Time (DST). Some lawmakers and others have advocated year-round DST in order to save energy.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported "Daylight Saving Wastes
Energy, Study Says" by Justin Lahart (WSJ Feb. 27, 2008) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120406767043794825.html. We learn that University of California Santa Barbara economic professor Matthew Kotchen and Ph.D. student Laura Grant took note of Indiana’s adoption of statewide daylight savings time in the spring of 2006. Relying on data from Duke Energy Corp. embracing seven million meter readings over a three year period in southern Indiana they could compare before and after DST.
Their conclusion is that rather than saving energy costs, Indiana consumers paid an additional $8.6 million in electricity costs. As there is a direct correlation between electricity production and emissions from power plants, Indianans were exposed to increased air pollution with the health risks that increase imposes.
I read this preliminary draft study myself and you can too at http://www2.bren.ucsb.edu/~kotchen/links/DSTpaper.pdf entitled "Does Daylight Saving Time Save Energy? Evidence From A Natural Experiment In Indiana." The increased electricity they attribute to people in the hotter months coming home from work and cranking up the air conditioning. In the cooler months the heat is raised in the morning.
Authors Kotchen and Grant calculate that the evidence implies that Daylight Savings Time increased statewide residential electricity consumption by 161,177 megawatt hours per year (MWh/year). They did not just rely on calculating costs in dollar terms which would be misleading. I may have missed it but I saw no discussion of possible changes in electric rates and surcharges.
Henry Hazlitt in Economics In One Lesson wrote that "The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups."
As policymakers and citizens consider year-round Daylight Savings Time let us investigate, analyze and debate whether it is justified based on the evidence rather than aspirations. Kotchen and Grant have provided the public with a valuable first step.
For a previous look at energy, see https://www.groundreport.com/Health_and_Science/Inventor-Paul-MacCready-Dies
(About the author: Richard Cooper is the export/import manager for a Long Island manufacturing firm. He studied economics with C. Lowell Harris at Columbia University. He served as Chair of the Libertarian Party of New York www.ny.lp.org and ran as a Ron Paul delegate in the Super Tuesday primary).