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Congress's logic was simple. If there's an extra hour of sunlight in the evening, people will turn on fewer lights.
But Ryan Kellogg and Hendrik Wolff, who are working on their doctorates in economics, say the reduced need for light in the evening will likely be negated by the increased need in the early morning.
The folks in Washington apparently hadn't considered this. The daylight savings shift was a three-paragraph item in a 550-page energy bill in 2005.
Our results show that the extension failed to conserve electricity," they wrote.
"If it's dark enough in the morning that pretty much everyone has to turn on the lights," said co-author Kellogg, "what that means is that that increase in morning electricity consumption is going to be so big that it offsets any benefits we get from the extra light in the evening."
In fact, the two said, shifting Australians' clocks led to a tiny increase in power use
Australia, of course, is not America, but the two researchers say their study is not a good sign. "While we cannot directly apply our results to other countries without adjustment for behavioral and climatic differences, this study raises concern that the U.S. is unlikely to see the anticipated energy conservation benefits from extending DST."