Biannual Lunacy Plus Two Weeks
As I wrote back at the beginning of April in "Biannual Lunacy," I have a deep and long-standing aversion to that government-mandated clock-intrusion that is 'daylight savings time.' When discussions began in Congress this year to fuss with the clocks again, I rolled my eyes and figured it wasn't even worth fighting, since it was almost certain to pass. And it did. Included within last month's behemoth energy bill, along with all the pork projects and tax breaks, was a provision to change the switch dates by two weeks at each end: beginning in 2007, we will 'spring forward' on the second Sunday in March, and won't 'fall back' until the first Sunday in November.
This move was billed by its congressional allies as an energy-saving measure. Baloney. It's just an energy-use-shifter, from the morning to the evening. People are still going to have to get up at the same time, they're just going to have to use more electricity in the mornings than they would today. Any benefit from shifting time toward the morning, as Michael Downing writes in an op/ed today in the New York Times, only works during long summer days when sunrise occurs between 4 and 5 a.m., "hours of daylight that do not exist during the short days of March and November."
As Downing also points out (and you ought to read the whole column, he does a good job of synopsizing the history of the silliness that is 'daylight savings'), the whole concept saves absolutely nothing in terms of fuel, electricity, or lives. In fact, this summer's little "switch in time" actually may have severe deleterious effects, including de-synching our time from Europe's and possibly sparking a "mini-Y2K," as all sorts of gadgets (from computers to cell phones to televisions and alarm systems) have to compensate for the changed daylight savings implementation dates.
For Congress, playing with the clocks is the easy stuff. They can say it will save energy, save lives and reduce crime, and the public will believe them, even though all those claims are just not true - or at least, there is no evidence that they are true.
Rather than take steps that might actually save energy, like rewarding energy conservation or increasing fuel efficiency for cars and homes, Congress took the easy (and useless) way out this summer and decided to change time. As Downing concludes, "I am a fan of long summer evenings and of social policy that promotes conservation. But I can't promise I won't turn on a light until 8:30 in the morning. Come November, wouldn't it make more sense for Congress to leave the clocks alone, ask us to turn down our thermostats at night and maybe spring for a pair of flannel pajamas?"
Not from this Congress, and not from this president. No real efforts to conserve are needed, we'll just switch the time. Go on about your business, just remember your flashlight when you're walking to work in full dark at the end of March.