Saturday, March 8, 2008

DST actually COSTS energy

So much for saving energy from “springing forward” this weekend.

Up until 2006, only 15 of Indiana’s 92 counties went on Daylight Saving Time in the spring. Then, the state legislature mandated it statewide.

That gave University of California-Santa Barbara economics professor Matthew Kotchen and Ph.D. student Laura Grant a brainstorm: see how the time change affected energy consumption:

Their finding: Having the entire state switch to daylight-saving time each year, rather than stay on standard time, costs Indiana households an additional $8.6 million in electricity bills. They conclude that the reduced cost of lighting in afternoons during daylight-saving time is more than offset by the higher air-conditioning costs on hot afternoons and increased heating costs on cool mornings.

Why, then, in the past, has Congress claimed, and some private studies seemed to show, that DST saved energy?

In a word, or two: air conditioning.

Back in World War I, when the first DST system was implemented, Willis Carrier hadn’t yet introduced America to modern air conditioning. Because of the Depression, then World War II, it wasn’t until the late 1940s that it started becoming a regular residential feature.

Now, you have it in all sorts of places it’s not needed.

Los Angeles? How often does it get that hot there? Albuquerque? Use a swamp cooler instead. Michigan? Please. Not needed. Get box fans for the occasional hot day.

Phoenix? It’s going to keep getting hotter; by 2020, we’ll have nights in Phoenix that never get below 100. Move away, back to Michigan.