Energy Concerns Push Clocks Forward this Weekend The annual ritual of resetting our clocks to spring forward one hour usually starts on the first Sunday in April. This year, daylight-saving time starts three weeks early. Some say the move will save oil; others worry it will cause a mini-Y2K.
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Energy Concerns Push Clocks Forward this Weekend

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Energy Concerns Push Clocks Forward this Weekend

Energy Concerns Push Clocks Forward this Weekend

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Get ready. It's time to spring forward. Yup, this is the weekend to turn your clocks ahead one hour, now that daylight-saving time begins three weeks earlier than it used to.

And as NPR's Nell Boyce reports, this early start on saving the sun could affect everything from computer systems to golf courses.

NELL BOYCE: To get a preview of what it will mean to have daylight-saving time in March, I recently reset my alarm clock.

(Soundbite of alarm setting off)

BOYCE: Okay, it's an hour earlier than I usually get up and it's really dark. Right now, this idea is seeming like a very bad one. But two years ago, when Congress was passing an energy bill, it seemed like a great idea.

Representative FRED UPTON (Republican, Michigan): The bottom line is that it's going to save energy.

BOYCE: That's Fred Upton, a congressman from Michigan who pushed the change.

Rep. UPTON: For every single day that we extend daylight-savings time, we would save the energy equivalent of 100,000 barrels of oil.

BOYCE: Those numbers come from a previous extension of daylight-saving, in the 1970s. But the U.S. Department of Energy recently estimated that overall, this year's measure will save very little energy, far less than one percent of the nation's annual consumption. Another recent study by the California Energy Commission came to a similar conclusion. Bob Aldrich works for the commission. He says the nation now uses energy differently than it did decades ago.

Mr. BOB ALDRICH (Webmaster, California Energy Commission): We've become much more electronically configured, if you will. More computers, larger televisions, cable modems, satellite dishes.

BOYCE: He says we'll just have to wait and see how much energy actually gets saved. Some effects of the daylight extension will be immediately obvious. Many old electronic devices have clocks that are programmed to spring forward in April, not March. That has raised fears of a mini Y2K-type problem. It's why Congress gave the public two years notice before making the switch.

David Prerau wrote a book called "Seize the Daylight." He says there is still time to get ready.

Mr. DAVID PRERAU (Author, "Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight-Saving Time"): If you have software programs or electronic devices that are pre-programmed to the old daylight-saving time system, you should contact the manufacturers and see if they have patches to upgrade them to the new system.

BOYCE: He says to keep an eye on things like electronic calendars. But other than that, just change your clocks and enjoy.

Mr. PRERAU: Most people, given the choice, prefer to have an extra hour of light in the evening, after work or after school, than in the morning. And I'm personally looking forward to maybe playing some outdoor tennis.

BOYCE: He's not the only one who will be getting out of the house. Longer afternoons mean that people spend more money after work - especially on sports like softball and golf.

Michael Downing is the author of "Spring Forward." He says it's not clear that golf courses will benefit as much in wintry March.

Mr. MICHAEL DOWNING (Author, "Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time"): Because it's obviously true that in Boulder, or in Bangor, Maine, people are going to have to shovel off their greens if they want to tee up.

BOYCE: Downing says there are other problems, too. International airlines have had to change schedules, since many other countries won't spring forward until next month. Orthodox Jews who pray after sunrise may have to wait until 8:30 a.m. or even later.

Plus, darker mornings could simply depress millions of people who have seasonal affective disorder, or the wintertime blues. David Avery is a professor of psychiatry at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Professor DAVID AVERY (Psychiatry, University of Washington, Seattle): One of the main factors involved in the genesis of seasonal affective disorder is the lack of morning light.

BOYCE: Avery actually wrote to Congress to oppose the extension in March, but the measure passed, and it's the law.

Nell Boyce, NPR News.

MONTAGNE: It was Ben Franklin who first pushed it to save candles. And you can see a time change timeline at

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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