Final Word on Daylight Saving–Not

Apr 4, 2007 5:14pm

This is a quick tale about journalistic caution.

Various editors here got up this morning, and jumped at a Reuters story that began, "The early onset of Daylight Savings Time in the United States this year may have been for naught."

It does get your attention, especially after all the last-minute catch-up work that I.T. departments had to do to computer networks, and all the questions about whether the shift would, as hoped, save energy.  The Reuters piece is HERE, and a past piece by me on the subject is HERE.

So we got on the phone, called the Energy Department and various electric utilities, and seemed to confirm the story: "Overall on the system, we did not see a significant change between before Daylight Saving and after," said George Malek of Illinois-based Commonwealth Edison.

But then there was a slight pause.

"I think it’s too early, though, to tell…."

In other words, there’s a lot of number-crunching still to be done; the weather, to cite just one example, can have a much larger effect on electric demand than a one-hour shift in alarm clocks.  A statement from the Department of Energy: "The jury is still out on the potential national energy-savings of extending daylight savings time.  A preliminary report, based on decades-old information, indicates a very small amount of energy savings.  However, after November, we’ll be in a better position to accurately figure out what, if any, additional benefit there is."

So, starting to feel squeamish, we kept our appointment to talk to Rep. Ed Markey, the Massachusetts Democrat who, along with Rep Fred Upton (R-Mich), sponsored the amendment in 2005 mandating the daylight-saving change.

Markey stuck to his guns.  Even a one-percent drop in power demand, he said, would mean three large power plants that don’t have to be built; 10 million metric tons of carbon that won’t be emitted into the atmosphere; less crime and fewer traffic accidents in the evening–and, he said, "people are happy in the evening when they have that extra light."

He did say much the same before DST begain March 11; witness this RELEASE

For lack of better numbers on energy consumption, we’re dropping the story for now.  These things happen.

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