A little over a month ago, with a great deal of fuss and to-do, the start of Daylight Savings Time was moved up by three weeks from April 1 to March 11, a change was brought about by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. On signing the bill into law, President George W. Bush stated: "The bill will strengthen our economy and it will improve our environment, and it's going to make this country more secure. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 is going to help every American who drives to work, every family that pays a power bill and every small business owner hoping to expand."
We appreciate the president's aspirations for the bill, but according to some sources, instituting Daylight Savings Time appears to have had little impact on power usage. Last year the federal Energy Department predicted only modest energy savings because the benefits of the later daylight hour would be offset. The department seems to have been on the mark- households might have used less electricity for lights at night, but waking to darker, chillier mornings probably brought about more power usage earlier in the day. In any case, the issue is academic- air conditioners, heaters, refrigerators, washers, dryers and plasma televisions consume much more power than residential lighting, which accounts for only about 10 percent of the electricity used by the average homeowner. A spokesman for Southern Co., one of the nation's largest power companies, echoed comments from several large utilities, saying, "We haven't seen any measurable impact." A spokeswoman at Public Service Enterprise Group Inc., a New Jersey utility, agreed, noting that a small increase in morning lighting and a slightly larger decline in evening lighting usage would have no impact on the utility's overall sales or earnings.
Millions of drowsy American workers and school children were forced into dark, wintry weather three weeks early and computer users and Blackberry addicts had to find software patches to keep their digital devices on the right time. Some computers with older operating systems simply refused to keep their clocks set an hour later and only adjusted themselves early in the morning of Sunday, April 2, previously the Daylight Savings Time start date. Others were updated manually and then again on April 2 automatically set themselves an hour ahead, occasioning consternation among the unwary.
Six years ago in this space we commented on the futility of setting clocks an hour ahead every spring and back an hour every fall. We have seen nothing in the time intervening to make us change our opinion, and the views expressed by the utility spokespeople we have cited here bear us out.
The days will get longer, the temperatures warmer and summer will march inexorably on in spite of the man-made constraints we place on the movement of the earth around the sun. We may cause Daylight Savings Time to begin on the second Sunday in March and end on the first Sunday in November, rather than the traditional first Sunday in April and last Sunday in October, but nothing will alter the fact that the earth tilts on its axis so that on or about December 20 nights in the Northern Hemisphere will get shorter and days longer when the winter solstice occurs, and beginning with the summer solstice on or about June 20 the situation reverses itself-nights get longer and days shorter during the six months to come. The seasons have continued to follow each other long before any feeble attempts by humankind to control the length of a day were even thought of. We can enact laws, reset our clocks and do anything else we like, but the solstices and the equinoxes, when day and night are an equal number of hours in length, will fall in March and September regardless of what time we say it is.
All the shift in Daylight Savings Time has accomplished was to create more confusion than already exists at an instance when fewer complications in schedules and lives are clearly called for. If we would truly do ourselves a favor we would abolish Daylight Savings Time altogether and let nature take its course, as it has for millennia in spite of us.
We cannot control time or seasons. All we can do is use the time we have wisely and enjoy each day and each season as it comes.