Sunday, March 8 marks the start of another scam perpetrated on us by The Man. You remember The Man, the one who's always trying to keep you down? He's at it again, demanding you "spring forward" and move your watch an hour ahead.
Not only will you lose an hour of sleep Sunday as Daylight Saving Time, or DST, starts by moving your clocks ahead an hour, but the myth fed to the public by Congress that the extra hour of daylight will save energy because the lights won't be on for an hour is wrong. If anything, it encourages people to use more energy by giving them more time to consume.
And to make the issue more of a headache, this is the third year that DST has been extended to such an early start date of the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November. It's supposed to start in spring, and in much of America right now, where rain and snow are falling, it certainly doesn't feel like spring.
Before the Energy Policy Act of 2005 extended DST in the U.S., beginning in 2007, Congress enacted legislation in 1986 requiring DST to start at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday of April and end at 2 a.m. on the last Sunday of October. Then in 2007 DST was moved up a month in the spring and another month was added in the fall, giving America eight months of this daylight madness.
But the urban legend that this extra hour of daylight will save so much energy that America won't have to depend on foreign oil anytime soon is false. If anything, having more light encourages people to do more and thus use more energy.
The U.S. Department of Transportation reported in 1975 that extending DST had cut electricity consumption by about 1%, according to an MSN story on the issue last year. Congress has billed it as an easy way to save the equivalent of 100,000 barrels of oil a day.
Cutting 1% of U.S. electricity consumption would accomplish a lot by today's standards, keeping more than 60 million tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere as 40 million tons of coal would be left in the ground every year.
While 1% savings shouldn't be taken lightly, it doesn't make up for the extra energy people use in areas other than turning on the lights.
Brighter evenings are warmer, or at least they will be when summer arrives, so people are more likely to turn on the air conditioner when they get home so they can cool down the house as fast as possible. This is why Arizona is one of two U.S. states that opts out of DST. The other is Hawaii, which is close to the equator and the sunset doesn't shift so much with the seasons.
Energy use also jumps because more people beat the heat by hitting the road. The MSN story points out that Canadian energy economist Peter Tertzakian looked at U.S. government statistics on gasoline consumption in spring 2007 and found a jump during extended DST that he estimates boosted oil imports by about 266,000 barrels a day.
A study of energy usage during the Sydney Olympics found that states that opted to spring forward into DST two months early in 2000 to accommodate the Olympics that summer used slightly more electricity during extended DST than in neighboring South Australia, which didn't spring forward early.
Even if the extra hour of daylight gets you out of the house longer starting Sunday, and you enjoy the early start to spring, don't believe The Man's hype that it's going to save you money. It won't.
Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job search at www.AaronCrowe.net