I’ve ranted and raved about this before, but now that the day has arrived, I’d like to talk about it a little more. I hope this comes off as a reasoned position in a debate, rather than as a rant from Get Off My Lawn Guy. Having spent 18 years working for the country’s largest electric utility, I think I have a unique perspective. Let’s examine 3 major points around Daylight Saving Time – safety, health and electricity usage.
The #1 point used to promote DST is that it allows people to drastically reduce their electricity use. We’ll dive into that a little later, but here, I pose this question: Would you go ahead with any money-saving plan that increased the odds of you getting injured? I’m guessing you would not. To me, this is the top reason why DST should go away. A study by The Journal of Applied Psychology found that workplace injuries increase in number and severity on the Monday after DST begins. The study authors suggested modifications including scheduling more dangerous work for later in the week, or adjusting workers’ schedules on Monday and Tuesday. That’s fine, but there will be dangerous work that cannot be postponed – repair to damaged power lines that have resulted in an outage immediately leaps to mind. Try being a spokesperson for an electric utility that has to tell customers with no electricity that they’ll just have to grin and bear it until Wednesday or Thursday because they don’t want to send their workers to repair the lines because DST has left them too tired. Yeah, good luck with that.
You all know the feeling the week after DST. You need an extra cup of coffee or energy drink to get going. You are exhausted much earlier in the day. You just feel, “blah” for a few days. There’s a reason for this. Each person’s body has a certain rhythm to it. Everyone is a little different – some people can survive just fine on 5 hours sleep, others really need 8 hours. Some people just cannot close their eyes and cease activity before midnight, some people consider it a major world event if they are still awake after Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy are over. Whatever your sleep and wake-up pattern is, forcibly changing it throws everything off. Several studies show an increase in heart attacks after DST begins.
I usually have to ensure I have a supply of OTC sleeping pills on hand, and take them before going to bed on Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights of DST weekend, so I can properly function on Monday and Tuesday. When you run your own business, you simply can’t write off 2 days of no production just because your sleep pattern is off. There’s the other thing – I haven’t even brought up workplace productivity, since I’m keeping the number of discussion points at the sermon-friendly number of 3, but that is another area that screams out against the concept of DST. But we can leave that for another day while we look at the top argument in favor of DST – and the gigantic holes therein.
The story goes like this: “When the sun sets later, people are outdoors more, which means they are using much less energy.” There are several holes in this theory. It assumes that extra hour of sunlight means people are turning lights in the house on an hour later, which supposedly saves tons of energy. Even if that is the case, remember that a lot of people have CFL or LED lights in their houses now, which use far less energy than the old incandescent bulbs. Even if the use of the new lights is exaggerated and there are actually legions of people still burning incandescent bulbs, this is not going to result in drastically lower electric bills. Another hole in this theory is that even if people are outside more, the blistering summer heat means everyone’s HVAC unit is running harder to keep the house cool. Almost no one – including absolutely zero people that I personally know – turn the A/C off when they take the kids out for an evening playing in the park. It keeps running so they are cool when they get back. Even if you did do this, you’re going to burn through that savings when you get home and turn the A/C back on – it’s going to have to run hard to get the internal temperature down from nearly 90 to whatever meets your comfort level, even if you keep it at 78 (most people use 70-72, which adds to the usage). The HVAC unit dwarfs the light bulbs (especially the new ones) in electric usage. I’m sure this is nothing new to anyone. Where I live in Charlotte, NC, the summers are getting more brutal every year (dadgum global warming). The summer months, right in the middle of DST, are the months when my electricity usage is the highest. My winter usage is far lower. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Actually, I know I’m not – The California Energy Commission did a study, and found out the energy savings are negligible during DST.
Here’s where I can inject some prospective of working for an electric utility for as long as I did. Utilities, like every other company in the world, advocates for an environment where they can make the most money. When a utility believes it could make more money, it advocates for changes to the setup, mainly by going before the regulatory body to ask for a rate increase. If something in the business environment threatens the ability to make maximum money, they will fight it, primarily through lobbying the appropriate legislature to either reject or accept new legislation, whichever way will result in more profits. Have you noticed that you never hear utility executives or PR people whining this time of year? If DST was such a big relief to utility bills, don’t you think the providers would be front and center, arguing that the loss of revenue is killing their business and forcing them into pay freezes, staff reductions, and a need for more rate increases? The rate increases going on right now are focused on recovering costs incurred when repairing infrastructure damage during natural disasters. “The drastic reduction in revenue during Daylight Saving Time threatens our ability to ____” is never part of a rate case argument. This should make everyone question this long-touted benefit of DST.
Daylight Saving Time was first suggested by Benjamin Franklin. After just being an idea, DST, like the Federal Income Tax, was put in place at the time of World War I. We were told after the war, the income tax would go away. I sure hope World War I ends soon, and maybe while the politicians are revoking the tax, they can stop the DST madness at the same time. Of course, that would require the politicians to do some actual work. Of course, there’s no time for that, as there is too much camera-mugging and too many people that disagree that must be exterminated to be bothered with that legislation and stuff….