The Toronto Star reports that Daylight Savings Time as a conservation measure is not really all that.  In fact, it may be the opposite of all that.  Matthew Kotchen, a University of California-Santa Barbara economics professor, studied  almost 8 million residential meter readings across Indiana to quantify the change in electricity use over three years.  Up until 2006, the vast majority of Indiana counties did not observe DST.  Now that the entire state has joined the rest of us sheep in pushing our clocks forward, what did Kotchen (and his faithful graduate student) find?

Instead of saving electricity and money by adding an extra hour of sunlight to evenings most of the year, it cost Indiana homes an extra $8.6 million in electricity bills – mostly from chugging air conditioners – each year. And since 95 per cent of that extra energy was generated by coal-fired power plants, that meant much more atmosphere-warming carbon dioxide was spewed into the air. …

In Indiana, people might not have been flipping on the lights when they returned home after work. But they were cranking their air conditioners, because that extra hour of evening sunlight meant another hour of “solar build-up on your house,” says Kotchen.

“Take an hour at dawn versus an hour at sunset. When do you think you’re going to run the air conditioner harder?”

Kotchen is now studying the effect of daylight savings on the rest of the country. He figures the air conditioning effect will be even more profound in southern states. And in the north, there is the opposite problem: waking up an hour earlier in the spring and fall means more time roaming around a cold house, rather than dozing under a duvet.

What DST is good for, apparently, is the economy–because with an extra hour of sunlight, people tend to go shopping and run other errands when they get off work in the evening.  The trouble, of course, is that they’re not walking to the stores.  They’re getting in their cars and driving there, which is also bad for the environment.  Tsk tsk.

Now, you all know me.  I’m no friend of the environment.  But DST is my enemy, and if the enemy of my enemy is my friend, I guess that makes me a friend of the environment after all.  At least between March and October. 

My husband, however, is a fan of DST.  He likes coming home from work and having the sun still blazing bright as noonday.  He’s reasonably indifferent to the fact that children don’t want to go to bed at a reasonable hour, when the sun is finally beginning to set so that it shines like a beacon through the slats of the venetian blinds in their bedroom windows.  No, he just enjoys the extra hour of sunlight so he can “play with the kids” and “not succumb to the depressing effects of leaving for work in the dark and coming home in the dark” (although, in the summer, he’d have to leave for work at 3 a.m. and not come home until 10 p.m. in order to miss the daylight altogether–but in March I suppose it does make a difference).  To his credit, he will not get in his car and drive around to stores and junk.  He’ll have us all walk to the park and frolic in a carbon-free manner.  That’s because SD is a friend of the environment.  So will he be conflicted when he learns of this study, or will he just pick apart the “science” and discredit it because, unlike some people, he loves the light more than darkness?

Only time will tell.

Rather, only Daylight Savings Time will tell.

I don’t know what that means.  I just wanted to say it like that.

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