March 7, 2009

Daylight Saving Time

It is a matter of timeAre you ready to 'spring forward'?Are we still getting used to daylight-saving time? South Bend Tribune staff writer Pablo Ros recently spoke with Michael Downing, the author of "Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time." The interview was edited for length. South Bend Tribune

Q: I wonder if here in Indiana we'll ever get used to daylight-saving time.

A: Indiana has had it particularly bad. I think it's very hard to adapt to a policy that has been sold as an energy saver when in fact it does not save energy.

Q: It doesn't?

A: Daylight-saving time, just in electricity, cost Indiana $8 to $10 million per year.

Q: We also live in a state with more than one time zone.

A: You're not the only one. There are 12 states with two time zones. Indiana became particularly well-known because its two time zones are not contiguous. It's an odd setup.

Q: So we have some reason to feel confused. How was this idea sold to us?

A: It was initially sold to Americans as part of the war effort during World War I to save energy for the war. But the first and most persistent supporter of daylight-saving was the Chamber of Commerce for retailers -- all sorts of retailers. There was a tremendous boom to department stores, and to the sports and recreation industry.

Q: Because we have that extra hour of daylight in the evening to be outside.

A: The problem is when Americans go out to the ballpark and the mall, they don't walk -- they get in a car. That's why daylight-saving time increases energy and gas consumption. It'd be great if what Americans did with daylight-saving time was get on a bicycle, but that seems unlikely.

Q: So who benefits?

A: The petroleum industry has known since 1930 that daylight-saving time increases energy consumption. The utilities have never opposed daylight-saving time and neither have the energy companies. If it were costing them money, they would be opposed to it.