Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Politics of the Clock: Daylight Saving Time is a Bad Idea

I am not a daylight saving time skeptic, but rather a full out atheist on the topic. That’s right, I don’t believe in daylight saving time. To paraphrase some dead hillbilly: “I’m agin it.”
I have lived in places that practice this ritual and places where the twice-yearly ritual of changing the clocks is not practiced. I preferred the latter.

Each Spring, the government has deemed we all go through the ritual of setting the clocks ahead. For most of us, that meant losing an hour of sleep, getting up the following day a bit more tired than usual and still driving around as normal, just with less sleep. I had to wonder if anyone has looked at the traffic accident rate for the day following the loss of one hour of sleep in order to placate the gods of time, also known as slime-sucking, pocket-picking, war-mongering politicians.
Well, a little research shows that the Journal of Applied Psychology published a study entitled: “Changing Daylight Saving Time Cuts Into Sleep and Increases Workplace Injuries.” This isn’t a study of traffic accidents, but I would suspect the same cause and effect applies there. This study found that “on Mondays directly following the switch to Daylight Saving Time—in which 1 hr is lost—workers sustain more workplace injuries and injuries of greater severity.”  And it doesn’t even out when we go the other way. “On Mondays directly following the switch to Standard Time—in which 1 hr is gained—there are no significant differences in sleep, injury quantity, or injury severity.” So, once a year, to placate our gods of time, we increase the number of people injured and we make their injuries worse than normal. Apparently these gods of time require blood offerings.
If you read the JAP article it seems the increased accident rate in workplaces should be duplicated by increased traffic accidents as well. The paper in question actually says that studies done into traffic accidents “generally found a great risk of traffic accidents” as a result of DST. Stanley Cohen told the New England Journal of Medicine that his study of traffic accident patterns in Canada showed “that small changes in the amount sleep that people get can have major consequences in everyday activities. The loss of merely one hour of sleep can increase the risk of traffic accidents.”

Studies in Australia noted that disrupting sleep patterns with Daylight Savings Time also impacts mental health. One study to determine "the impact on the number of suicides of a 1-h time shift due to daylight saving" found "small changes" could destabilize vulnerable individuals. They found that "male suicide rates rise in the weeks following the commencement of daylight saving time." A Swedish study of daylight saving time found, "These transitions can disrupt chornobiologic rhythms and influence the duration and quality of sleep, and the effect lasts for several days after the shifts." They found that each Spring "the incidence of acute myocardial infraction was significantly increased for the first 3 weekdays after the transition to daylight saving time" In the Fall, "only the first weekday was affected significantly."
The Monday after DST is implemented is one of the least safe days of the year. Apparently, centrally planning people’s sleep schedules has negative consequences.
Of course, the gods of time come up with many excuses to justify forcing this ritual on the public. They claim it saves energy.  Some counties in Indiana refused to join the rest of the state in this ritual, but eventually the petty gods of time in the state legislature decided to force them to do so due to a federal mandate laid down by their masters, the gods of time in Congress. An economist and environmental scientist studied the impact of the change in Indiana for the National Bureau of Economic Research. What they found, was that electricity consumption increased  by $9 million because of the law.
UC Berkley’s Center for the Study of Energy Markets explored the issues as well in 2007, when the gods of time extended DST an extra four weeks, claiming it would cut electricity consumption by 1%. This study found most claims regarding electricity savings “rely on simulation models and extrapolation rather than empirical evidence.” And, we all know, that means making assumptions and adjusting data based on those assumptions. That introduces bias into the issue, unless of course, the issue in question is global warming, in which case only deniers worry about “simulation models and extrapolation.” The UC Berkley paper, in contrast, looked at a “detailed panel data on half-hourly electricity consumption, prices, and weather conditions” and showed “the extension failed to reduce electricity demand.” Then for fun, they took the simulation models that were used, applied them against actual data that now existed and found the models “significantly” overstate electricity savings.
This isn’t to say that DST didn’t save some electricity on Summer evenings. They found that it actually did so. But what was saved, and then some, was used up by “the increased demand in the morning.”
In addition, the extra hour of daylight we get in the summer does encourage more driving around. This increase in gas consumption doesn’t seem to get factored in, it runs contrary to the theology of the gods of time. This is one reason they don’t talk about energy consumption, but electricity consumption only. They need to ignore increased consumption of gasoline in order to even sound plausible. The UC Berkley study says that while they only tested the theory that DST saves electricity, when it comes to energy as a whole, their study probably makes DST look better than it is, even though they show it wastes electricity. They warned: “Including gasoline demand in the analysis may increase the estimate of DST’s effect on energy consumption, as longer and warmer evening hours drive an increase in evening leisure travel.”
The only argument that really made any sense was the one that said the change prevents kids from walking to school in the dark. With DST, the only time kids are in the dark now is in science class, sex ed class, history class, and so on. Personally, I thought the whole purpose of public education was to keep kids in the dark as long as possible.  But we don’t want the little ankle biters to cross streets in the dark. Instead, we change their schedules so that they play in the dark after school. They are more likely to run into the darkened street playing, than going to school; few kids are in a hurry to get to that state institution for the criminal insane—to which I mean the teacher’s unions and bureaucrats that run those educational prisons not the students, whose disdain is fully rational.
Given the permanent panic-mode of many parents, fed the drivel and hysteria spewed out by American media about molesters, kidnappers, school shootings, rapists in the bushes, not to mention the fears pushed by conservatives—gays and Mexicans—it appears many parents are too terrified to allow their little delinquents to actually walk to school. At the end of the day the schools around here get surrounded by anxious parents in cars, waiting to chauffeur their child home safely, to lock them away from imaginary monsters that the Lords of Information have spoon-fed them
Now, if we really think these kiddies would be better off walking to school—the few who do walk—when it is lighter, then why not just change the starting time of school by one hour come the Autumn? Why must every clock change, when all we need do is change the starting time for the educational inmates?
Of course, there is much political lobbying regarding DST and its “benefits.”  Golf clubs got together to lobby for an extension of DST in 2007, saying that it would increase their revenues by $200 million to $300 million, as more people would golf in the evenings. The Sporting Good Manufacturers Association lobbied as well. On the other hand the television industry saw reduced viewership and as did movie theaters. All these changes do is redistribute spending patterns, it doesn’t make people richer and increase overall spending, it only changes spending patterns. But that is precisely the reason politicians love such laws, redistributing wealth enhancea their own well-being because various lobbies donate to their campaigns to try and secure an audience with the gods of time.
 In reality, we have bogus claims about energy consumption and the desire of some businesses to redirect consumer spending, fueling the desire for DST. Urban legends and wealth redistribution are the real reasons behind this bad concept today.

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