11 March 2012

Energy Policy -- Or What Passes For It

Last night, all the people in the USA whose lives are governed by a clock set all their clocks to read one hour later than it actually is (by the Sun, at least) and then went to bed.  This morning they pretended they forgot they had done that last night and got up an hour earlier than they ordinarily would have.  That is what passes for federal energy policy these days.

We are now in the Daylight Saving Time mode and will be until next November 4th.  This is part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which was signed into law by George W. Bush.  Now, there are many provisions to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, but mandating the switch to Daylight Saving Time at the times now called for in the law, and calling it an energy conservation measure, is willful ignorance.  It seems to assume that the citizenry of the USA is stupid.

I hear people say every summer that they are glad to have an extra hour of daylight.  Clearly, they are not thinking -- or they are not thinking clearly.  I used to volunteer as a docent at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska.  During the summer months we volunteers gave tours of the zoo grounds.  There is a large sundial there and it is on the tour route.  When we passed the sundial I would ask everyone on the tour to look at their watches and check what the sundial indicated.  It is a pretty accurate sundial, so it invariably showed the time to be an hour earlier than what everybody's watches indicated.  I would ask the tour group why there was an hour difference between their watches and the sundial.  Most could not even hazard a guess.

Daylight Saving Time is an illusion; it only works in the part of the year when there are more hours of daylight over the course of a day than there are hours of darkness.  That part of the year begins, more or less, at the Vernal Equinox and ends at the Autumnal Equinox.  From the first day of Autumn to the first day of Spring, there are more hours of darkness over the course of a day than there are hours of daylight, so Daylight Saving Time is pointless.  Daylight Saving Time appears to work because people -- at least those who live by the clock, and that is most people -- get up an hour earlier than they did the morning before DST went into effect.  It does not even appear to work now because we are still in Winter and there are more hours of darkness that daylight over the course of a day.  People who live by the clock should have noticed that their bedrooms were darker this morning when they got up than they were yesterday morning, but I doubt that anyone did.

The traditional rules for implementing Daylight Saving Time were to start on the first Sunday in April and end on the first Sunday in October.  There is a good reason why that was so:  there are more hours of daylight than darkness in that part of the year.

I would like to ask the true believers in Daylight Saving Time where that extra hour of daylight is right now and next Halloween.  The fact is, it isn't there.  I will also ask the members of the US Congress why they believe that implementing Daylight Saving Time at all saves energy.  I don't expect any rational answers there either.

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