More Ammunition for People Who Hate Daylight Saving Time

Even if you hate daylight saving time, you tell yourself: Hey, I shouldn’t be so selfish, it’s good for the economy, or for the environment, or for farmers, or something. Right?


Well, um, perhaps not. Consider a new working paper, “Does Daylight Saving Time Save Energy? Evidence From a Natural Experiment in Indiana,” by Matthew J. Kotchen and Laura E. Grant:

The history of daylight saving time (D.S.T.) has been long and controversial. Throughout its implementation during World Wars I and II, the oil embargo of the 1970’s, consistent practice today, and recent extensions, the primary rationale for D.S.T. has always been to promote energy conservation.

Nevertheless, there is surprisingly little evidence that D.S.T. actually saves energy. This paper takes advantage of a natural experiment in the state of Indiana to provide the first empirical estimates of D.S.T. effects on electricity consumption in the United States since the mid-1970’s.

Focusing on residential electricity demand, we conduct the first-ever study that uses micro-data on households to estimate an overall D.S.T. effect. The dataset consists of more than 7 million observations on monthly billing data for the vast majority of households in southern Indiana for three years.

Our main finding is that — contrary to the policy’s intent — D.S.T. increases residential electricity demand.

Estimates of the overall increase are approximately 1 percent, but we find that the effect is not constant throughout the D.S.T. period. D.S.T. causes the greatest increase in electricity consumption in the fall, when estimates range between 2 and 4 percent.

These findings are consistent with simulation results that point to a tradeoff between reducing demand for lighting and increasing demand for heating and cooling. We estimate a cost of increased electricity bills to Indiana households of $9 million per year. We also estimate social costs of increased pollution emissions that range from $1.7 to $5.5 million per year. Finally, we argue that the effect is likely to be even stronger in other regions of the United States.

On the bright side, if President-elect Obama is looking for some quick hits on energy conservation, here’s one that’s all teed up and ready to go: Kill D.S.T.!

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  1. Mike Nemecek says:

    A little recognized bright side of the “Fall Back” to Standard Time (from DST) for the perpetually late: A day when you’re early for a change …

    Perhaps noted philospoher Homer (Simpson) said it best:

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  2. IndyGirl says:

    Please make sure the Indiana state legislature never sees this… We’ll go back to debating more about DST than how we’re going to pay for the state’s education system, or creating new jobs, or property tax relief and nothing will ever get done again in the state!

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  3. RobertSeattle says:

    I never really gave a darn about DST – either way- until I became a Father. It’s a pain in the arse with young kids – you work hard to get a consistent bed time for them and twice a year it gets all fouled up!

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  4. Grant says:

    A couple of my classes start at 6:20. It is severely depressing to start class when it is already dark.

    I oppose DST strongly.

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  5. Witty Nickname says:

    Ditto RobertSeattle, my 11 month old had a really rough time with the time change. Not only was he fussy all day as we tried to adjust his schedule, but no one gave him the memo about sleeping in an hour!

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  6. MH says:

    I’m with RobertSeattle and Witty. The fall-back isn’t bad, but the spring-ahead is a problem for a toddler.

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  7. UnderstatementJones says:

    I would be cautious about Indiana’s representativeness for this experiment – after all, most of IN is on Eastern time, despite the fact that this is ridiculous because Indiana’s in the middle of the freaking country.

    In other states, where DST is in sync with the actual sun instead of some mass delusion, there might be different results.

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  8. Mother of a 4-year-old says:

    My kids have adjusted their sleep just fine, but my 4-year-old’s bladder hasn’t adjusted. He has been wetting the bed since the time change. Now he’s back in pull-ups, when he had been out of them for months.

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