If you cursed daylight savings time for throwing a wrench in your schedule this weekend, you have Congress to thank. It extended daylight savings time last year by four weeks, citing claims of reduced crime, fewer automobile accidents, more light for summer activities, and the kicker, energy savings. But does daylight savings time (DST) actually save energy?
Local newspapers from coast to coast are littered with op-eds on both sides of the issue. SmartPower Blog points out two conflicting pieces in the same issue of the Detroit Free Press.
Congressman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who sponsored the new DST legislation, writes:
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy estimates that the cumulative benefit of the four-week extension through 2020 will be a saving of approximately $4.4 billion and a reduction of carbon emissions by 10.8 million metric tons, cutting harmful greenhouse gases.
However, in the same paper a counterpoint op-ed cites a new report from the University of California at Santa Barbara which sees an associated energy use increase with DTS. Studying over 7 million electric bills from Indiana, which up until 2006 did not uniformly adopt DTS, the researchers found that electricity usage actually went up between 1 to 4 percent, costing Indiana utility users $8.6 million.
An article in the Toronto Star, matter-of-factly titled “Why daylight saving time is bad for the environment,” puts the study’s conclusions in power-plant terms: “Expanded nationally, those results would translate to at least two coal-fired electricity plants pumping power just to feed the daylight savings habit.”
The more sunlight we use the less we need electric lights on — or so the thinking goes. But the more we’re up and moving around with the sun the more we run our air conditioning systems and appliances, which consume far greater amounts of electricity than a few light bulbs.
Congress has agreed to review their decision to extend daylight savings times once the Department of Energy audits its effects. In the meantime, enjoy the extra sunlight.