Congress Extends Daylight-Saving Time

Congress agrees to an extension of daylight-saving time, as negotiators finalized the energy bill. Backers of the extension pushed it as way to save energy. Mayer Hillman, of The Policy Studies Institute in London, discusses the effects of extending daylight saving time.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

It looks like Americans will be getting a couple of extra months of daylight-saving time starting in 2007. Congress agreed to the extension last night as negotiators finalized the energy bill. A version of the energy bill is expected to pass both houses of Congress later this week. To understand just what the change will mean, we've called Mayer Hillman. He's a senior fellow emeritus at the Policy Studies Institute in London, and he spent the last two decades studying the effects of extending daylight-saving time.

Hello. Thanks for joining us.

Mr. MAYER HILLMAN (Senior Fellow Emeritus, Policy Studies Institute): Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Backers of the extension to daylight-saving time pushed it as a way to save energy. How will it do that?

Mr. HILLMAN: Well, the fact is that most people do not get up early in the morning and therefore, in effect, waste daylight hours before they get up out of bed. And putting the clocks forward by an additional month or two will, of course, achieve a better matching of daylight and the waking hours. The benefit of that can be expressed both in terms of energy savings, because there'll be less need for lighting in the later parts of the day because it will be under conditions of daylight rather than darkness, but there are wider benefits, principally in terms of quality of life. One is prevented from enjoying daylight-dependent activities out of doors when it gets dark, so if one keeps the clocks forward for an additional two months, that means an extra hour of daylight when you--people come home from work or come home from school, and can therefore engage in sports or other activities which are beneficial for health.

MONTAGNE: Now your country, the United Kingdom, adjusted daylight-saving time for a while back in the late 1960s. How did that go over?

Mr. HILLMAN: Well, that went extremely well. We kept one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. That was the equivalent of what we call the summertime clock. We kept that throughout the year. The effect of that was a very significant improvement in quality of life, a reduction in casualties on the roads and so on, simply because there are far more people about on the roads, whether it's drivers or pedestrians, in the later part of the day than there are the first thing in the morning. Moreover, people are more alert later in the day than they are first thing in the morning, and as a result, there were, by virtue of the fact that the mornings were darker for an hour in the winter months, more accidents and more casualties then. There was a much bigger reduction in casualties in the later part of the day. The problem was that these figures weren't available when the decision was made to abandon that all-year-round summertime clock.

MONTAGNE: So you continue to push for this extension in Europe, but people have resisted. Why? How do you think it'll go over here in the United States?

Mr. HILLMAN: Any better matching of daylight and the waking hours is to be welcomed, on balance. My studies over a couple of years to look at the consequences of this in the UK clearly showed how beneficial it would be to do so, particularly, as I say and stress, in terms of the quality of life of people. That extra hour of daylight in the evenings is far preferable to having that hour of daylight in the early morning.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.

Mr. HILLMAN: Not at all.

MONTAGNE: Mayer Hillman is a senior fellow emeritus at the Policy Studies Institute in London.

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