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Repeal Bush’s Alteration of Time

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"Repeal Bush’s Alteration of Time"

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Barron YoungSmith reminds us that Daylight Savings Time was changed in 2005 as part of a silly political ploy and argues that we should change it back:

Let’s revisit why this act passed. In the summer of 2005, America was facing a full-blown energy crisis, but the Republican Congress was unwilling to do anything that would substantively improve the country’s energy efficiency. They wouldn’t mandate improved lightbulbs. They wouldn’t increase CAFE standards. But, alongside billions of dollars in handouts and tax breaks for dirty energy—and token money for boondoggles like clean coal and hydrogen fuel cells—the Frist-Hastert Congress was willing to “save energy” by shortening the portion of the year when Americans are allowed to sleep late. They did this by shifting the start and end dates for daylight saving time so that the portion of the year when it’s easier to wake up is a full month shorter, and the corresponding good-lord-this-is-painful period a month longer.

There was something unsettling and creepily disproportionate about the idea that Congress couldn’t muster the will to improve energy efficiency, so it voted to change time itself—but leave that aside. The rationale for the new daylight saving calendar was that it would reduce energy use by encouraging people to use less electric light, but that assumption hadn’t been well tested—and a new study by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) reveals that the policy likely encouraged Americans to use more energy by running heaters and air conditioners more than enough to offset the decreased use of light, and to spend more money doing so. Indeed, the primary beneficiaries seem to have been the retail and sporting-goods lobbies, who pushed for the bill because it makes people want to stay out later and shop or hunt. (Lobbies who opposed the bill included the Conference of Catholic Bishops and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, presumably because fewer people want to attend services before dawn, as well as the National Parent-Teacher Association.) In other words, like many other laws passed during the Bush administration, it was a sop to business that left ordinary folks holding the bag—in this case a bag lunch packed during pitch-dark late October mornings.

Strikingly enough, this wasn’t even the Bush administration’s only effort to change time, but their plan to eliminate leap seconds was defeated at the international level. Also note that the long-suffering people of Canada were ultimately forced to switch to the new Bush Savings Time in order to stay in sync with their hegemonic neighbor. My personal interest in this subject stems from the fact that the clock radio I purchased in 2003 automatically adjusts for DST but does so on the old schedule, which is very inconvenient for me. And, yes, I could solve this by buying a new clock.

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