Last fall when the New!Improved! Daylight Savings Time debuted I was skeptical; I couldn’t understand how the change in time could possibly result in any energy savings at all, considering that lights are on regardless of the time of day in offices, etc.
But now, it makes sense:
After President Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which extended daylight-saving time by a month, the Department of Energy touted the benefits of energy savings, but Michael Downing, who detailed the history of daylight-saving time in a 2005 book, says the U.S. government has misled Americans on the economic benefits of the time switch. The biggest beneficiaries of the spring clock change aren’t consumers but retailers. People shop more when there’s more light at night.
“There’s a reason that the first and most persistent lobby for daylight-saving was the Chamber of Commerce on behalf of retailers and merchants,” says Downing, a lecturer at Tufts University outside Boston. “People really bought more goods after work when they were given light. And that effect persists. As recently as 1986, when we went from six months of daylight saving to seven, that extra month, according to industry estimates, was worth $200 million-$400 million to the golf industry alone, and $150 million to the barbecue industry.”
Oil companies also lobbied for daylight-saving time because they predicted – correctly – that it would lead to more leisure driving, Downing said. [SF Gate]