Congress Seize the Light

AP is reporting (CNN link) that Congress may extend daylight-saving time.

I’ll bet a thrill ran down your spine when you heard this (Emphasis mine):

Lawmakers crafting energy legislation approved an amendment Wednesday to extend daylight-saving time by two months, having it start on the first Sunday in March and end on the last Sunday in November.

“Extending daylight-saving time makes sense, especially with skyrocketing energy costs,” said Rep. Fred Upton, R-Michigan, who along with Rep. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, co-sponsored the measure.

The amendment was approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee that is putting together major parts of energy legislation likely to come up for a vote in the full House in the coming weeks.

The more daylight we have, the less electricity we use,” said Markey, who cited Transportation Department estimates that showed the two-month extension would save the equivalent of 10,000 barrels of oil a day.

The country uses about 20 million barrels of oil a day

Doesn’t this make you nostalgic for Jimmy Carter’s “malaise” speech?

The idea is that we won’t have to turn on our lights when we get home. I guess that means the lights that are on in my office don’t count.

It also means our esteemed Congressmen are not initiates in the mystery of the daily sidereal miracle.

Daylight actually expands and contracts between the Winter and Summer solstices. The sun comes up a little earlier and sets a little later, then reverses that pattern. They could arbitrarily apply “daylight spending time” and achieve the same effect.

To really take advantage of DST we should implement VDST. This could be either “virtual” or “variable” DST. It would mean small time changes take place every day.

Maximal application of the theory would imply a daily 5 minute “spring-ette forward” or “fall-sie back”. Consider the cost of people’s time spent resetting their alarm clocks every day as just another unfunded federal mandate.

Actually, what we should do is scrap DST altogether, if for no other reason than to keep these people in the dark and out of the “news.”

In any case, it is pretty obvious that any saving such as the Congressmen imagine does not apply to house air conditioners. Last I heard they use a lot more electricity than lights, and they would tend to be powered up more often in the heat of the “earlier” afternoon.

I suppose we’ll also see more use of car air conditioning for the same reasons, further eroding the “lights out” savings.

And, if saving 10,000 barrels of crude oil by not having to turn our lights on so soon (regulation of bedtime is coming at the other end) is a major legislative issue, then why did the Department of Transportation not tell us how much oil could be saved if we all used flashlights, or whale-oil, instead of the grid?

This is just to say that, in typical congressional fashion, the costs of this silliness haven’t been calculated. That would get in the way of petty moral-grandstanding by Republicrats whose objective is to get their name in the paper.

For full realization of the purported, if also minuscule benefits, we have to presume that states where daylight savings time is not observed will have to be forced to comply.

Since Janet Reno has retired, this will probably have to be accomplished by the withholding of federal funds; otherwise we might only save 8,793 barrels a day.

The constitutional basis for withholding the money is a bit hard to figure out quickly, but I’m sure the Commerce Clause can be bent to the task. Electricity does cross state lines.

In any event, we could certainly start by withholding Punxsutawney Phil’s recent $100,000 grant: That he can’t see his shadow without daylight is sufficient connection.

Finally, if Rep. Markey is correct in supposing his bill will actually result in “more daylight”, then he should go all the way and force everyone to set their clocks to noon – and keep them there. We could call it the Equinox Opportunity Act.