Daylight Saving Lie? Scholarly Paper Disputes Usefulness of Artificial Time Change

Spring forward? Fall back? I’ve got too much time on my hands!

As of 2 a.m. this morning Daylight Saving Time (DST) is again upon us — but does it really result in the “energy saving” benefits with which it has been credited?

No, say UC Santa Barbara Assistant Professor Matthew Kotchen, PhD and PhD student Laura Grant, both of the Donald Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at UCSB. (Sorry, Ben Franklin!). The pair wrote a paper aptly titled “Does Daylight Saving Time Save Energy? Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Indiana.”

News first broke of the paper in a February 27, 2008 Wall Street Journal article titled “Daylight Saving Wastes Energy, Study Says,” and has been spreading like wildfire ever since. A March 7, 2008 posting by the Bren School summarizes the paper and explains its impact as follows:

“The study, which Kotchen presented at the National Bureau of Economic Research earlier in February, tested decades-old conventional wisdom that daylight savings time saves energy and found that, in fact, it increase energy use between 1 and  4 percent.

Kotchen and Grant conducted their study in Indiana, which created an almost ideal, yet unintended, real-world experiment. Until two years ago, only 15 of Indiana’s 92 counties ‘sprang forward’ and ‘fell back’ each year. The rest remained on standard time year round.

In 2006, however, the Indiana state legislature passed a law mandating that the whole state adopt daylight savings time consistent with the rest of the United States. Working with Duke Energy Corp, the researchers were able to obtain more than 7 million meter readings for residential electricity use in Indiana before and after the change.

After crunching the numbers, they concluded that daylight savings time had added an extra $8.6 million to residents’ electricity bills. What is more, they estimate that the social costs of increased pollution emissions in Indiana range from $1.6 to $5.3 million per year.”

I have always been confused by daylight savings time — to me it always seemed we moved the clocks in the wrong direction at the given points in the year.

Kotchen and Grant present some compelling data in their paper — of course it remains to be seen if politicians, who are not known for responding to or even understanding, factual information, will do anything about this important discovery. Clearly it is a topic worth discussing and further researching.

PS: If you are curious about what time it is in different parts of the world check out www.timeanddate.com.