In four or five hours, as I write, I’ll get to find out if the tiny little gnomes inside my computer have managed to handle the three-weeks-early switchover to Daylight Saving Time. If – in a Pynchonesque twist – actual daylight were somehow being stored in secret caverns underground, to be accessed in case of emergency shortages, it would be wonderful (and great, too, if you could withdraw small amounts of daylight to use in looking for small objects batted by cats into dark corners beneath couches), but as it is, it strikes me as a thoroughly outmoded notion, and the extra four weeks added this year (three now, one at the end of the season) are typical Bush, a cheap, dim flashlight shone against the full glare of opposing sunlight.
The argument is that DST will save energy by shifting daylight consumption of energy forward an hour to take advantage of longer summer days. That might have worked in the nineteenth century, when the solar day was pretty much the workday – but it makes almost zero sense now. Presumably, the chief energy consumed during dark hours rather than light hours would be energy for lighting – but in order for that one hour to make a difference, the amount of lighting used would have to vary with the available light – as if we used electric light variably to make up the deficit of daylight, more during twilit hours and less at noon. But of course, except for extremely sophisticated lighting systems, that’s not true: lights are either on or off. And few buildings are designed to take advantage of daylight – so in most homes and offices, lights are on when anyone’s occupying them, full noon sun or not.
The other potential energy source whose usage varies with light levels (but only indirectly) might be air conditioning – but DST does nothing to reduce a/c usage during the hottest hours of the day.
Offsetting the purported benefits of DST are clear costs associated with changing its beginning and ending dates: how many hours, and how much money, have been and will be spent by IT and other personnel making sure that computer and other systems are compliant with the new dates? Some studies suggest that people’s difficulty in dealing with the time shift (in any year, not just this one) accounts for several billion dollars in lost economic efficiency, as people groggily adjust to the sleep deficit and that feeling of being slightly “off” as clock time no longer corresponds with their biological sense of time. All the joys of jet lag with none of the rewards of travel.
Finally, starting DST three weeks early may also cost more energy in northerly climates, because we’re still in a heating season. So rather than beginning work, or waking hours at home, after the sun has warmed temperatures a bit, heat is cranked up earlier, using more energy than if standard time were kept.