I just finished reading the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. In his recollection of a trip to London around 1751, Mr. Franklin noted how many working people in the city slept in well past dawn and stayed up well past sunset by the light of candles. Then they complained about the cost of candles.
He proposed later in life (1784), in a satirical essay published in the Journal of Paris, that to help the people of Paris save a huge sum of money collectively spent on candles, that through a combination of taxes, fines and church bells, the slovenly habits of Parisians could be changed to rise at a more economical hour.
He had obviously been thinking about this for quite some time.
Ben Franklin was joking, but later Americans adopted the idea, sort of. In 1966 the U.S. Congress passed a law implementing Daylight Saving Time. The arguments for doing this varied from the farmers will get more daylight, to it saves energy, or that it allows people to shop later in the day during the summer months.
Daylight Saving Time was initially implemented during World War I as an energy savings measure. That’s over 100 years ago. It probably did save energy. In 1918 there was no Internet, no television, no air condition and radio transmission of audio was a brand new technology. Most of the energy use at the time was to light up homes at night. So it stands to reason that if people were up less during evening hours, they would use less energy to power their lights.
Today, in the 21st century, we have things like air conditioning, all sorts of entertainment to encourage indoor activity during daylight hours, washing machines, clothes dryers, electric ovens and stove tops (I hope whoever invented the electric stove top is languishing somewhere in the eighth or ninth level of hell) and dozens or hundreds of devices that use electricity.
In other words our electricity usage is different in 2019 than it was in 1919, or even 1966.
It is rare when economists have a natural experiment that allows them to test a theory that would otherwise be unprovable. In 2008, a natural experiment occurred in Indiana.
In the paper, Does Daylight Saving Time Save Energy? Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Indiana, researchers found that when parts of Indiana switched from year round Standard Time to Daylight Savings Time, the cumulative increase cost for electricity bills for Indiana residents would be $9 billion, with most of the cost occurring with the switching of the clocks in the Fall. The researchers speculated that states further south would experience an even greater cost. Here is the money quote from that study,
In conclusion, we find that the longstanding rationale for DST is questionable, and if anything, the policy seems to have the opposite of its intended effect.
They go on to say,
…the evidence here suggests that continued reliance on Benjamin Franklin’s old argument alone is now misleading.
It’s time to end Daylight Saving Time. Call your State Legislator to end this archaic practice.