The pending extension to Daylight Savings Time in Congress is a sad example of government doing the wrong thing for the right cause. Energy conservation comes from tightened fuel economy, recycling, and emissions regulations, not by clinging to the afternoon sun.
Extending DST won’t “save energy” just by keeping the sun up later. Lights will still need to run overnight on highways, city streets, and 24-hour facilities, and most stores won’t change their operating hours. Try as they may, Congress can’t mandate a shorter nightfall.
More importantly, solving one problem (people like when it’s light out later) simply creates another. The shift to a longer DST period means that the sun will rise at extremely uncomfortable hours. For example, under the proposed change, sun-up won’t happen in New York until 7:55 a.m. the night before DST ends, compared with 7:23 a.m. in the existing schedule. In fact, the entire four-week fall extension will put sunrise past 7:30 a.m. I used to get to high school by 7:40—how will students feel when they spend weeks or months in homeroom while the sun is still down?
Representatives Ed Markey (D., Mass.) and Fred Upton (R., Mich.) must be proud of the energy-conscious labels they can wear in their next election cycles, but this is terrible policy. I suppose it’s par for the course in government, though; whatever sounds good on the TV news can get approved. Heck, with all this grandstanding in Washington, perhaps the 28-hour day can get an endorsement someday.