JACKI LYDEN, host:
Okay, here's some good news. Spring may be two weeks away, but tonight's the night to make our clocks spring forward. Sure, this ritual costs us an hour of sleep, but there's got to be an upside to that, right?
Daylight Saving Time was extended several years back. It now spans from March to November. The argument then: energy savings. The real difference, says NPR's Yuki Noguchi's report, is a bonanza for businesses.
Mr. TAKNA NOGUCHI (Yuki Noguchi's Brother): There we go. I'm just going to let it heat up a little bit so you get a good, first sear on the meat.
YUKI NOGUCHI: That is my brother, Takna Noguchi(ph), home grill master specializing in slow-roasted baby back ribs. But lately, he's been experimenting.
Mr. NOGUCHI: I like meat-stuffed meat. So, I guess the more meat, the better.
NOGUCHI: My brother will grill under almost environmental circumstance, but most people get fired up, so to speak, when they gain an extra hour of daylight at the end of the day. Kingsford Charcoal, maker of those black briquettes, is certainly banking on this.
(Soundbite of advertisement)
Unidentified Man #1: No yard, no grill.
NOGUCHI: In the ad, which started airing this weekend, a man emerges from apparent hibernation and is resuscitated by his buddies.
(Soundbite of advertisement)
Unidentified Man #2: Somebody get this man a burger.
Unidentified Man #3: Winter's over. It's time to come out and grill.
NOGUCHI: We have the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to thank for the extra hour coming before the first day of spring. The saving part of daylight saving, it was thought, would come from fitting more human activity in the daylight hours, thus saving energy.
During World War I, many countries, including the U.S., started using it as part of the war effort. But Michael Downing, who wrote a book on daylight saving, says in fact, studies show we tend to drive more and thus actually use more energy.
Mr. MICHAEL DOWNING (Author, "Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time): It has never been shown to save any real energy, but it has been a fantastically effective retail-spending plan
NOGUCHI: Which is maybe what we need this year.
Mr. DOWNING: Well, you know, there is good reason to think maybe we will get a little daylight saving boost in a number of industries that need it.
NOGUCHI: Industries like golf, where sales of goods and services typically double because of the extra hour. Retailers lobbied hard for longer days because people tend to shop on their way home. Downing himself says he hits the home and garden stores hard when the clocks turn back.
Mr. DOWNING: I do get a sense of what's wrong with, let's say, my yard or why I might buy a rake sooner than otherwise, if I'm outside and coming back in, and it's light out, and I get a look at what my neighbors have been staring at for the past three months.
NOGUCHI: And despite the disruption to sleep cycles and the nuisance of reconciling clocks with the rest of the world, people generally love it.
Mr. DOWNING: We read light as a reward, and darkness as punishment. And so, when we have an excess amount of light, as we do in the longer days of summer, we do seem to feel that the world is somehow a more benign place.
NOGUCHI: The weather, however, has not exactly been benign.
Mr. JOE CARMACK (Owner, Garden District): Joe Carmack. Hi, nice to meet you.
NOGUCHI: At Carmack's Garden District store in Washington, D.C., earlier this week, a fresh load of snow was just starting to melt and drip. Carmack said this empty garden store would soon be filled with fresh flowers and plants.
Mr. CARMACK: We're into the shade-type section right now, where we keep all of our shade perennials. On this other side, we'll have our sun perennials.
NOGUCHI: It all must be in place, he says, in advance of the daylight saving rush.
Do you usually see like a boost around daylight saving?
Mr. CARMACK: Oh, yeah, definitely. We can stay open all the way to 9, 9:30. And like I said, I think a lot of people want to garden after work, and it's a great way just to change gears.
NOGUCHI: Change clocks and change gears, and you only have to lose sleep for one night. Yuki Noguchi, NPR News.