Politics & Economics

Does Daylight Savings Actually Save Anything?

  • March 9, 2015

Daylight Savings Time (DST).

Every year in the Spring we get to perform this ritual where we give up an hour of our precious sleep time – an hour sorely needed to detach from the grid, spend some self-oriented QT pounding our ears, and renew our energies for yet another foray into the productivity war for the sole benefit of the neoliberals who created this cruel insanity of getting billions of hard working peons to surrender more of their precious freedoms in the first place.

But don’t we get that hour back in the Fall so that everything balances out you ask? Well yes, mathematically the time in hours balances out. But if we’re just talking about the math, then saving daylight time by changing the clocks twice a year is pointless. So why institute such a program that on its face is a waste of time? “To save energy” is the most proffered response. But does monkeying with time actually save energy? Ironically studies have shown that Daylight Savings actually might wind up costing more than it potentially “saves” in energy costs.

Opportunity Cost.

Assuming that it takes the average person and/or business 10 minutes to move all of their time pieces forward or backward by two hours each year, the “opportunity cost” of doing so calculates to approximately $2 Billion annually – just in the United States alone. And then there is productivity loss.

If you’re like me, the first few days after “springing forward” are spent in a temporal fog. In a post on Business Insider, contributor Jennifer Welsh states:

The resulting sleepiness leads to a loss of productivity and an increase in “cyberloafing,” in which people muck around more on the computer instead of working. During the first week of DST (in the late winter) there’s a spike in heart attacks, according to a study in the The American Journal of Cardiology (and other previous studies). That’s because losing an hour of sleep increases stress and provides less time to recover overnight.

Energy Savings.

But who benefits most from any energy usage savings? The results, much like those interpreted by physicist Werner Heisenberg in his work on the Uncertainty Principle, depend greatly upon who is doing the calculations, where they live, and what they look at. Energy savings studies on the effects of the DST programs are varied as the Wiki on the subject reports:

DST’s potential to save energy comes primarily from its effects on residential lighting, which consumes about 3.5% of electricity in the United States and Canada. Delaying the nominal time of sunset and sunrise reduces the use of artificial light in the evening and increases it in the morning.

A 2008 study examined billing data in Indiana before and after it adopted DST in 2006, and concluded that DST increased overall residential electricity consumption by 1% to 4%, due mostly to extra afternoon cooling and extra morning heating; the main increases came in the fall. The overall annual cost of DST to Indiana households was estimated to be $9 million, with an additional $1.7–5.5 million for social costs due to increased pollution.

The United States Department of Energy (DOE) concluded in a 2008 report that the 2007 United States extension of DST saved 0.5% of electricity usage during the extended period. This report analyzed only the extension, not the full eight months of DST, and did not examine the use of heating fuels.


Again, we are left with the central question of who stands to benefit most from a program that arguably has mixed results from ostensibly the key reason it was implemented in the first place- energy savings. Ask yourself another admittedly rhetorical question: “who benefits most from neoliberal policies?” Private Enterprise does. This from the Wiki:

Retailers, sporting goods makers, and other businesses benefit from extra afternoon sunlight, as it induces customers to shop and to participate in outdoor afternoon sports. In 1984, Fortune magazine estimated that a seven-week extension of DST would yield an additional $30 million for 7-Eleven stores, and the National Golf Foundation estimated the extension would increase golf industry revenues $200 million to $300 million. A 1999 study estimated that DST increases the revenue of the European Union’s leisure sector by about 3%.

Accept The Exception

So Daylight Savings Time is really all about private enterprise making more money from consumers, by maximizing the hours that companies can do business during daylight hours when their potential customers are either not working or not asleep and/or spending leisure time in the dark or in a dark room watching TV ads telling them to wake up and buy some shit they don’t really need but have to have more than an extra hour’s rest. And this is supposed to an example of American Exceptionalism? More like “Acceptionalism”.  Besides, this is the 21st Century. People don’t really go into stores to shop anymore.  They can shop ’til they drop from the privacy of their own homes day or night on the Web, no matter what time zone they’re in.

We Cant’t Lose What We Never Had.


Then there is the question of whether Time actually exists. A recent book by Adam Frank titled “About Time” features an interview by the author with fellow astrophysicist Julian Barbour whose controversial solution to the problem of time in physics and cosmology is as simply stated as it is radical: there is no such thing as time. Barbour views each individual moment as a whole, complete and existing in its own right in simultaneous coexisting states that he calls Nows, devoid of Time. All the different possible configurations of the universe, every possible location of every atom throughout all of creation, exist simultaneously. Barbour concludes that it is not Time that is a measure of change, but the opposite. It is change that provides the illusion of time. So if Time is an illusion that doesn’t exist, why waste all this energy trying to save it?

Last Week Tonight Video.

Most people believe Daylight Saving Time started as a way to help farmers, but Last Week Tonight’s John Oliver and crew educate us on the real reason for the season. It turns out we have Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II to thank for the twice a year inconvenience. Watch the short segment about the history of the time change.

© Kazkar Babiy ™

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